Review: ‘The Batman’: Pulpy, stylised, formulaic serial killer drama

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) Film:
‘The Batman’ (Running in Theatres). Duration: 176 minutes.
Director: Matt Reeves. Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, Jayme Lawson, Peter McDonald, Con O’Neill, Alex Ferns and Rupert Penry-Jones.
IANS Rating: ***

Intriguingly designed and far from a modern comic book adaptation, this film is not Batman’s origin story, but instead, two years of Bruce Wayne being Batman. Clocking at nearly three hours, the film comes across like a modern-day police procedural crossed with a 1970s-style neo-noir action thriller.
The film begins in a poetic tone telling us how corrupt Gotham City has turned. It tells us how hidden in the chaos are the elements waiting to strike like the snakes, and taking up the mantle of the vigilante is the Batman (Robert Pattison), whose name has become synonymous with the word “vengeance,” and every time he strikes, he sends the hardened criminals into pits of fiery damnation.
But when the city is on the verge of a new mayoral election, there is a spate of killing sprees beginning with the brutal killing of Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones). A masked man identifying himself as the Riddler (Paul Dano) is targeting the elites of the city, and he attaches cryptic notes on his victim, addressed specifically towards Batman to decipher.
Needless to say, the Riddler is a sparkplug, overflowing in rage toward a corrupt political status quo and the citizenry at large, who he feels have been negligent in doing anything to change this. He says, “I’m nobody, just here to unmask the truth.”
While Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) is open to getting assistance from the vigilante, others in his department aren’t happy with his decision of allowing Batman the freedom to investigate freely.
The key to Riddler’s riddles ends up being Selena Kyle (Zoe Kravtiz), a waitress at Gotham’s grungy club that also happens to be a popular hang-out for the big crime bosses. How Batman enlists the help of Selena to put together the clues to predict the Riddler’s next target and uncover decades of corruption infesting the city, and unravele some personal home-truths, forms the crux of the narrative.
Existing in its specific cinematic universe, ‘The Batman’ is a pulpy, stylised film, very methodical in taking its sweet time dwelling in the decrepit details. The plot is very formulaic of the detective procedural serial killer genre: Finding that first alarming murder and clue which leads to the next, where you learn more from each additional target, then try and discern a pattern of connectivity, and finally learning that the grand scheme goes deeper than imagined, and is usually personal.
The introduction scene of Batman is intense and dramatic, and Pattinson impresses, delivering pain by bashing his opponents with abandon.
Delivering a performance dripped in grimy, unwashed vindictiveness, Paul Dano is menacing and effortlessly creep as Riddler.
Among others, Zoe Kravitz as Selena is impressive. Colin Farrel as Oz, The Penguin, is nearly unrecognisable.
Overall, ‘The Batman’ is a dark and serious film, but it does not feel too chocking. You can enjoy the film, on its terms, and be satisfied from the building momentum, seeing how its world incorporates familiar faces and Batman elements, deepening the lore of the city’s complicated history.

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