Darkest Knight

The Batman (15, 176 minutes)

The year’s first big blockbuster release has been a lo-o-o-ng time coming thanks to COVID lockdowns, so is it worth the wait?

If you like your dark knight truly dark, then my goodness, yes it is.

There’s not an ounce of levity here, no primary colour garbed cartoonish villains, no comedy magic pencil trick, wisecracks or banter of any kind. It’s a bleak portrait of a fledgling caped crusader who is far from the super hero he will eventually become in a city overrun by organised crime and police corruption.

Two years in as the masked vigilante, this Batman is driven by rage and insecurity. He is mistrusted by all in the Gotham City PD with the exception of Lt Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who values his detective skills as much as his penchant for mercilessly punching bad guys.

For most of the film, in may ways, the connection he has with Gordon is more fulfilling than the relationship he has with butler/ersatz father figure Alfred (Andy Serkis).

The costume provides a violent outlet for his daddy issues and out of it, Bruce Wayne is a sullen recluse who wears his vast fortune uneasily (the only sign of his billionaire status being the late 1950s Corvette with split rear window that he arrives to the mayor’s funeral in) and has seriou doubts about his career choice (“If I’m not having an effect, what’s the point?”)

The classic “who are you?” setup used in many of the previous movies yields a much different result this time around and that’s fitting because this is a very different Batman.

To say that Robert Pattinson sulks his way through three hours like Edward Cullen in a cape with a slightly (very slightly) healthier complexion would do a great injustice to his portrayal here because he and director Matt Reeves have managed to set a tone that can inject new vitality to a character that has accommodated half a dozen actors in the past 30 years. It takes a lot to surpass Christian Bale when it comes to intensity, but he’s done it here and long may he continue, although we can probably do without the Rorschach’s diary-style narration.

A key ingredient to the film working is some inspired casting in Zoe Kravitz as cat burglar and love interest Selina Kyle, an unrecognisable Colin Farrell as Penguin, who is a menacing mob enforcer rather than the squat, top-hatted Burgess Meredith/Danny DeVito figure of the past, and Paul Dano, one of the finest actors of his generation, as Riddler.

No unsanctioned Jim Carrey buffoonery here. The Riddler is a serial killer – violent, menacing and completely insane yet to anyone unaware a complete nonentity.

Hidden depths doesn’t even begin to cover Dano’s performace and that can also be said for a storyline in which unexpected connections are revealed and the Bat comes to realise what actually makes a hero.

176 minutes of awesomeness that owes as much to David Fincher’s Se7en as it does a costumed hero romp.

RATING: 9/10


Mick Ferris

Editor Email: mickferris@yellowad.co.uk