Director Matt Reeves brings this serial killer, crime detective story into the dark and stormy realm of Gotham City. This gritty DC film contrasts the commercial Marvel superhero universe that legendary directors such as Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola have despised. How fitting then, that Reeves cites Scorcese’s Taxi Driver and Coppola’s The Godfather as direct inspiration for The Batman. Furthermore Reeves has gone on record stating his vision of The Batman was also inspired by more 1970s greats, such as William Friedkin’s The French Connectionand Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.
We are in good hands with this director, whose previous work includes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, War for the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In and his breakout film in 2008, Cloverfield. Reeves wisely allows the film to untangle slowly as answers to Batman’s initial riddles begin to reveal a bigger plot than just a serial killer on the loose. Teaming up with Batman, played superbly by Robert Pattinson, is Detective Jim Gordon. Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar yet subtle performance as Gordon, who is not yet the Chief of Police he later becomes in subsequent stories. In fact, we don’t quite find out how Batman and Gordon meet but we understand it is possibly in their second year of working together. And in this story, Batman and Gordon work brilliantly off each other, while still making rookie mistakes similar to the 1970 duo Woodward and Bernstein in All the President’s Men, another reference Reeves admired and harnessed.
Zoë Kravitz portrays a relateable Selina Kyle who in future stories will become Catwoman. Kravitz's smoldering angst and impoverished charm entices Batman throughout the story and it's not hard to see why. She is everything that the Batman is; except for the billions of dollars to her name. She is even hard set on revenge, one thing that Batman can relate to, above all else. Although Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, makes a few appearances in this film, Pattinson owns this film with his brilliant character choices for the Batman.
Equal to the task, Batman’s antagonist is played by Paul Dano. Embodying some of our past real world’s creepiest serial killers, Dano plays the Riddler with an immature temperament that rapidly changes into a brutal and sadistic psychopath at a moment's notice, all the while following his master plan.
Finally, almost unrecognizable, is Colin Farrell as The Penguin. The Batman decisively provides Farrell a film where he can once again show us his exceptional talent that may not have been seen since 2000’s Tigerland. The actor went through three to four hours of makeup every day to put on the elaborate prosthetics which allowed him to use his natural facial muscles while performing. Farrell loved the experience of The Batman, stating “I will say, it was one of the most exciting, jubilant, celebratory experiences I’ve had in making pictures in 20 years.” This ends a final reference to Reeve’s film as Farrell’s The Penguin was modeled loosely on Fredo in The Godfather. As Oswald Cobblepot, the real name for The Penguin, is depicted as a man in waiting, not yet receiving the respect he feels he deserves.
The Batman, however, gets the respect of Indiefilmcritics, as this homage to the 1970’s auteurs and indie filmmakers is a near perfect punch of 5 Stars.