The darkness in “The Batman” is pervasive and literal. Gotham Metropolis within the week after Halloween, when this lengthy chapter unfolds, sees about as a lot sunshine as northern Finland in mid-December. The atmosphere of city demoralization extends to the sunshine bulbs, which flicker weakly within the gloom. Bats, cats, penguins and different resident creatures are principally nocturnal. The relentless rain isn’t the sort that washes the scum off the streets, however the form that makes a foul temper worse.
The Batman — not simply any Batman! — is much less the enemy of this state of issues than its avatar. On tv within the Nineteen Sixties, Batman was playful. Later, within the Keaton-Clooney-Kilmer period of the ’80s and ’90s, he was a little bit of a playboy. Within the twenty first century, by Christopher Nolan’s “Darkish Knight” trilogy and after, onscreen incarnations of the character have been purged of any hint of pleasure, mischief or camp. We all know him as a brooding avenger, although not an Avenger, which is an entire totally different model of company I.P.
However a contemporary superhero is simply as genuine as his newest identification disaster. Each the Batman (Robert Pattinson) and “The Batman” itself wrestle with the vigilante legacy that has dominated the post-Nolan DC cinematic universe. “I’m vengeance,” our hero intones as he swoops right down to take care of some minor unhealthy guys. He doesn’t appear blissful about it. He’s grouchy and dyspeptic in his costume, and mopey and floppy in his Bruce Wayne mufti. Having ate up Gotham’s violence and cruelty for years, he now finds that the weight-reduction plan could not agree with him.
For almost three hours, “The Batman,” directed by Matt Reeves from a script he wrote with Peter Craig, navigates a well-known atmosphere of crime, corruption and demoralization seeking one thing totally different. Batman’s frustration arises most clearly from the intractability of Gotham’s dysfunction. Two years after town’s greatest crime boss was introduced down, the streets are nonetheless seething and the social material is filled with holes. Drug addicts (often known as “dropheads”) and gangs of hooligans roam the alleys and prepare platforms, whereas predatory gangsters and crooked politicians social gathering within the V.I.P. rooms.
This isn’t solely a bum deal for the residents of Gotham. It’s an indication of imaginative exhaustion. Fourteen years after “The Darkish Knight,” the franchise and its satellites (together with “Joker”) have been mired in a stance of authoritarian self-pity that feels much less like an allegorical response to the actual world than a lazy aesthetic behavior.
That’s the place “The Batman” begins, however — thank goodness — it isn’t essentially Reeves’s consolation zone. In his contributions to the “Planet of the Apes” cycle (he directed the second and third installments, “Daybreak” and “Battle”), he demonstrated a watch for moral nuance and political complexity uncommon in modern-day blockbuster filmmaking.
Glimmers of that humanism are seen within the murk (the low-light cinematography is by Greig Fraser), however for Reeves the trail out of nihilism is thru it. A masked serial killer (ultimately revealed as Paul Dano) is stalking Gotham’s leaders — together with the mayor and the district legal professional (Peter Sarsgaard) — abandoning encoded messages and greeting playing cards for Batman. His signature is a query mark, which even an informal comic-book fan is aware of is the signal of the Riddler.
Upholding a style cliché, he sees himself much less as Batman’s nemesis than as his secret sharer, utilizing extra excessive means to perform comparable ends arising from parallel motives. The Riddler exposes the connections between Gotham’s energy construction and its underworld, hyperlinks that appear to have eluded the Caped Crusader and Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), his ally within the police division. The mythology of the Wayne household — specifically the martyrdom of younger Bruce’s mother and father — is held as much as revisionist scrutiny. What if we’re improper about Batman? What if he’s improper about himself?
These are doubtlessly attention-grabbing questions, but it surely takes “The Batman” a really very long time to reach at them. Fortunately, there are some diversions within the meantime, most notably the arrival of Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman, also called Selina Kyle. Just like the Riddler, Catwoman is Batman’s self-appointed vigilante colleague, searching for payback on behalf of girls who’ve been exploited, abused and killed by members of Gotham’s legal and official elite. The prickly alliance that arises between these masked, pointy-eared cosplayers provides a much-needed component of romance with a just-perceptible trace of kink. Possibly there will probably be a spot for enjoyable within the DC universe.
However not simply but. Don’t get me improper. There are issues to take pleasure in right here, along with Kravitz’s nimble work: John Turturro, hammy and slimy as a high mobster; Colin Farrell, nearly unrecognizable because the oleaginous Penguin; Andy Serkis as Alfred; a crackerjack automobile chase; Michael Giacchino’s eerie rating.
The issue isn’t simply that the motion pauses for lengthy bouts of exposition, as long-past occasions are chewed over by one character after one other. Or that Pattinson, out and in of the Batsuit, is nearly as a lot of a cipher as any of the Riddler’s scribblings. It’s the ponderous seriousness that hangs over the film like final week’s climate — the fog of white-savior grievance that has shrouded Gotham and the Batman for so long as many people can bear in mind.
“The Batman” tries to shake that off — or quite, as I’ve prompt, to work by it. Possibly it shouldn’t have been so troublesome, and perhaps the slog of this movie will serve a therapeutic or liberatory finish. Let’s hope. I can’t say I had fun, however I did find yourself someplace I didn’t count on to be: trying ahead to the subsequent chapter.
Rated PG-13. Grim and sometimes grotesque. Operating time: 2 hours 55 minutes. In theaters.