‘The Batman’ takes risks that pay off

New movie is a dark reinvention of the caped crusader  

Pattinson's moody performance carries the film.
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The Batman is the dark antithesis to contemporary superhero movies. 
 
Directed by Matt Reeves, the film is unburdened by cinematic universes and stale tropes, and features Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader, Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, and Paul Dano as The Riddler. While none of these characters are new to the big screen, they’ve never been portrayed as they are in The Batman. 
 
It’s safe to say Robert Pattinson’s Twilight days are firmly in the past. 
 
Having proven himself as a great actor in Good Time and The Lighthouse, he shines as a young, disturbed Batman struggling to find the line between Bruce Wayne and his pointy-eared alter-ego. 
 
His moody performance carries the film for much of its three-hour runtime. He doesn’t talk much, but communicates nuanced emotions using his eyes and body language. 
 
His portrayal—scowling, sad, somber—is drastically different than those who came before him. 
 
While Michael Keaton and Christian Bale were excellent in their respective films, Pattinson makes the audience feel the trauma that haunts and drives Bruce Wayne. 
 
This sense of darkness extends beyond the titular character.
 
The film opens with the brutal murder of one of Gotham City’s most powerful public figures at the hands of Dano’s Riddler. He leaves a note at the crime scene addressed to Batman, which kickstarts a game of cat and mouse between villain and The World’s Greatest Detective. 
 
In many respects, The Batman plays out more like a David Fincher thriller than a superhero romp; Reeves clearly took inspiration from Se7en and Zodiac. 
 
This version of Gotham is grimy, miserable, and stuck in a perpetual rainstorm. Shadows encroach on every corner, allowing criminals to run wild. The décor inside Wayne manor is borderline gothic, more akin to Dracula’s castle than a billionaire’s mansion. 
 
Beyond its excellent atmosphere, the film also has all the twists and turns of those Fincher classics. This version of The Riddler works more like the Jigsaw killer than Jim Carey in green spandex. 
 
Dano turns in a demented performance. There are moments when he occasionally veers a bit too far into Joker-esque wackiness, but his portrayal is deeply unsettling. 
 
Kravitz is also great as Catwoman, AKA Selina Kyle. Her energetic and seductive performance is much truer to the comic-book character than past on-screen iterations. However, her chemistry with Batman would have benefitted from additional screen time.
 
The film’s supporting cast is also excellent. Colin Farrell offers some levity as The Penguin, John Tuturro is suave and menacing as mobster Carmine Falcone, and Jeffrey Wright turns a predictably rock-solid performance as Commissioner Gordon. 
 
With all that said, taking risks is what really makes The Batman stand out. 
 
In a world where Disney makes billions pumping out formulaic and family-friendly Marvel movies every year, Reeves decided to make the darkest PG-13 rated movie of all time. 
 
The film has several scenes designed to challenge viewers, toy with their expectations, and make them downright uncomfortable. It doesn’t have heavy-handed emotional moments with clear, rewarding payoffs. It’s not a happy-go-lucky time at the movies. 
 
Except for a short scene hinting at a sequel, the film is generally free to tell its own story without shoehorning in elements of a broader cinematic universe. It’s refreshing to see a blockbuster that cares more about its own story than setting up other movies. 
 
The Batman isn’t trying to be fun—that’s why it’s so great.  

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