Words: Shane Ramdhany
Matt Reeves’s meditation on the dark knight submerges the viewer in a macabre tale, eliciting feelings of simultaneous horror and thrills throughout the film. This duo of devices often work in sublime rhythm as they are woven through a rich 3-hour plot.
The tone of this film effectively distinguishes itself from its predecessors and is immediately apparent as the opening scene concludes its graphic introduction. As its setting comes into focus and the caped crusader makes his brutal first appearance, its correlation with films such as “Seven,” and, “Zodiac,” are all too evident. It is clear that Reeves is utilizing a (David) Fincher-esque lens to tell this story, which effectively yields the intended result. Its story weaves its plot threads with a bravado that successfully interlinks its characters and persistently captivates the viewer throughout its epic runtime.
The story leans on several of the caped crusader’s rogues gallery, which intelligently implements them in such a way that it never truly feels engorged with their presence. Its plot effortlessly pivots from Batman’s encounters with sinister villains, intimate moments with Kravitz’s seductive feline, and thrilling action sequences that remind us that the terror of this setting rivals, but never supplants, our lead vigilante. By the end of this tale, we are left with a yearning for more insight into both its nightmare aesthetic as well as all of its players. Reeves has effectively crafted a world which the viewer’s intrigue is paralleled only by their dread.
Pattinson delivers a solid performance of our lead hero, often depicting a raw, broken Bruce Wayne in correlation with a confident, fearless Batman. As we digest our lead’s dual identity, it becomes increasingly clear that Pattinson’s and Reeves’s goal is present a hero that exudes comfort with the batsuit that is juxtaposed with a painful vulnerability when the cowl is away. This Bruce Wayne is a far cry from a rich playboy often depicted in prior iterations. The decision to present Bruce in such a manner effectively brings a fresh perspective to a character who is still struggling to reconcile his parents’ death. Paul Dano also delivers a captivating performance that often elevates himself beyond that of Pattinson’s already impressive turn.
Dano gives us a Riddler that is a significant course correction to Jim Carrey’s slap-stick portrayal, which resulted in nothing more than a sorely missed opportunity. Dano brings a soulful performance choc-full of raw passion that flawlessly realizes the Riddler as a formidable Bat Villain. He enthralls the viewer with every minute of screen time, leaving little to no waste.
Zoe Kravitz presents us with a Catwoman that elicits more vengeance than her previous depictions on screen. While this character is often associated with being a calculating seductress, the one we are served with here permeates the barrier of this persona to reveal a woman attempting to reconcile her identity outside of the cat. It is at this point that the common theme sets in where the protagonists’ (Bruce and Selina) storylines are intended to serve as an exploration of these characters’ vulnerabilities. The intention here is to have the viewer develop knowledge of these icons that extend beyond stylish swagger. While this works effectively with Bruce Wayne/Batman, it loses traction with Selina Kyle/Catwoman. This is due to the notion that Catwoman simply has not been depicted enough on screen to tire us of her manipulative methods. Batman’s presence, however, has indeed worn on us at this point due to his countless depictions in all forms of media. This new raw and vulnerable perspective is far more necessary and welcome in his case in order to maintain his relevance.
Ultimately, we are given a Catwoman portrayal that would have been inevitable at some point, but we simply aren’t there yet. As a result, the script has served a missed opportunity for Kravitz to shine as the Catwoman we all expect her to be. However, this does not deter from the fact that Kravitz’s performance is nothing short of a powerful display of seething emotion to contribute to her story. It is also worth mentioning that Colin Farrell’s Penguin is also depicted in such a manner that he is less calculating and more volatile then we are used to. However, Farrell’s depiction through such a lens has effectively generated more overall appeal to this villain.
Reeves has orchestrated a film that is immensely greater than the sum of its parts. We are given a Batman for a new era that lays the foundation for a both a sinister and intriguing setting, characters that are ripe for further exploration, and action sequences that are simply unparalleled (The introduction of the latest model of Batmobile sets a new bar for a white-knuckle car chase). A sequel, that is almost certain, already has us begging for the bat signal to be relit.