Channelling the spirit of the past few years, Robert Pattinson has returned to the big screen to give us his take on the Dark Knight in The Batman or ’emo Batman,’ as his iteration is quickly becoming known.
Featuring Zoe Kravitz, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell, the film sees a fully-established Batman fighting crime and corruption in an almost war-torn Gotham City. A new threat emerges above it all however, with the mysterious and lethal plans of the Riddler bringing Batman into question with his own identity.
The film debuted in London on 23 February and has since opened to Australian cinemas to positive reviews.
If you’re keen to catch this one in theatres, and you should be, here’s everything you need to know before stepping into the world of The Batman.
Is The Batman a Reboot?
First and foremost, this is a long film, with a runtime of just under three hours. It’s dark, brooding, and throws the viewer straight into the bleak reality of emo Batman, assuming a lot when it comes to the background and mythology of the caped crusader.
It is, in fact, a reboot, although not in the traditional sense. While the film was originally intended to star Ben Affleck and follow on from the outings of his own Batman interpretation, the film was reshuffled and cut from the extended DC Comics universe.
That doesn’t mean we’re treated to another lengthy origin story a la Batman Begins, but it is the first outing of a new Batman unrelated to other films.
Writer and Producer Matt Reeves has said that he wanted to use this opportunity to explore Batman’s detective side, which doesn’t typically feature as heavily in other adaptations. Instead, he’s drawn on darker Batman comics like Frank Miller’s Year One as well as Bond films and hardboiled, LA Noire style detective stories.
We meet Batman in this film in his second year of fighting crime after adopting the shadowy alter ego. Reeves has said that he styled his dark knight on Nirvana’s tragic frontman Kurt Cobain to explore the psychology and mental anguish of the pressure of justice and responsibility.
As we’ve said, the film assumes a fairly high level of understanding of the Batman universe. We’ve got classic characters like Catwoman, the Riddler, and the Penguin making an appearance, alongside Batman’s confidantes Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.
At the centre of it all is, of course, the reclusive billionaire and reluctant hero Bruce Wayne. Bruce is the head of the Wayne family fortune, inheriting vast wealth from his parents after they tragically died in a mugging outside a theatre when Bruce was just a child. This act is what inspires Bruce to develop a passion for fighting crime and is largely his motivation in life.
Bruce was placed in the care of Alfred Pennyworth, the family butler, and essentially raised by him until he came of age to direct and control the family affairs himself. The Wayne’s are Gotham royalty, an elite and powerful family in this parody of New York, a city riddled with corruption and dirty dealings. The Wayne’s are generally thought of as philanthropic, kind individuals, making their deaths all the more shocking. Bruce grows up however to resent his associations with the trappings of wealth and disregards much of it.
The whole bat thing comes from Bruce falling into a cave full of bats when he was younger and being terrified of the incident. Bruce associates bats with fear and later adopts this identity to strike fear into others, using his family’s fortune to build himself a personal arsenal of crime-fighting gear.
In The Batman, Bruce is around 30 years old, but not yet the fully-formed crime fighter we imagine him to be. He’s still coming to terms with his new identity, something that is further complicated when he meets Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman.
Catwoman is a much less black-and-white character, both a thief and an aide to Batman in times of trouble. In the comics, and various other adaptations, they frequently have a turbulent on-again-off-again relationship, with Catwoman using her gymnastic abilities and sexual prowess to both entice Bruce and take down bad guys.
Elsewhere we have the Riddler, the film’s antagonist. The Riddler is often one of the more derided Batman villains, using puns and wordplay to trick Batman as he terrorises the city. He’s a bit like a sillier version of the Joker. In this adaptation, however, he’s a far darker villain, almost evoking Saw-like horror in his quest to take out the city’s corrupt elite.
The Batman also deals heavily with Gotham’s crime world and, as such, features the Penguin, another throwback to the camp, 70s era Batman. The Penguin, in this film, is a disfigured crime lord on the rise who hates the nickname he’s been given. Shady underworld dealings are a big part of the theme of the film so watch closely for details around the Penguin and his associates as they’re relevant later on.
If you’ve noticed a pattern yet of Batman-but-darker, you’re not wrong. While some of the comics, particularly during the Frank Miller era, were incredibly dark, no Batman film has taken the character to such lows before. Be on the lookout for double-crossing, extreme violence, and emo musings from R Patz as you witness the rise of this new, gritty era of Batman (yes there will be sequels).
The Batman is now showing in HOYTS cinemas.