Batman does it again in the latest Caped Crusader reboot. Starring Robert Pattinson and directed by Matt Reeves, best known for the last two Planet of the Apes films, The Batman isn’t quite the radical reinvention promised by the definite article in the Nirvana soundtrack title and cuts. Covering similar ground to Christopher Nolan’s 2005 version, the film kicks off as a darker, darker riff on Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s 1986 comic book series Batman: Year One, albeit set a little longer. a year or so into Bruce Wayne’s night war against Gotham City’s criminal element as he still finds his feet as a revenge-seeking psychopath with a penchant for capes, cowls and gang shit kicks marauding maniacs.
Like Miller and Mazzuchelli, the film is partly inspired by Taxi Driver, with a voiceover by Pattinson delivering Travis Bickle-style journal entries recounting his nightly excursions through a crime-infested cesspool. It’s a cinematic influence that’s immediately reminiscent of Todd Philips’ drastic redirection from the king of comedy in 2019’s Batman-adjacent Joker. It’s not just another Martin Scorsese ersatz movie, though. It’s also an ersatz David Fincher movie as Reeves reconfigures the classic Batman villain, the Riddler, as a cross between the Zodiac killer and Seven’s John Doe. Played by Paul Dano – riffing on his own chilling turn in Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners – the Riddler is introduced in the film’s unsettling opening sequence overseeing a politician whose progressive public persona masks personal and professional failures. It’s a great way to open, with restrained POV shots that let you know if it’s going to be his introduction or Batman’s – a bit of deliberate obfuscation and thematically relevant at the end of the day. .
But after Batman’s first proper appearance, the air slowly begins to come out of the film as his attempts to suck us into dark and gritty serial killer proceedings are hampered by the fact that a bat-eared guy works at crime scenes. Batman is supposed to be a great detective of course, and this is the first film to give his detective skills priority over all those wonderful toys normally found in the billionaire’s arsenal. Alas, in the maze-like plot that ensues, the script forces him to actively solve some of the not-so-difficult clues the Riddler taunts him with, purely, it seems, to spin the drama of municipal corruption. which unfolds like any other. A power grab between the criminal elements of Gotham City breaks out.
Here, Colin Farrell’s penguin emerges, covered in layers of prosthetics to make him look like Robert De Niro’s version of Al Capone in The Untouchables. He’s all set to burst in – and all set for the sequel the film inevitably sets up as Batman drives his motorbike through the Glasgow Necropolis (doubling for a Gotham City graveyard) in the film’s final minutes. The movie also spends a lot of time introducing us to Zoe Kravitz as future Catwoman Selina Kyle. His origins approximate the darker backstory found in the Year One comic, but with some added parenting issues to further his bond with Batman, whose own tragically orphaned status is repeatedly circled, but with new ones. intriguing details that force him to reassess morality. of his individualistic mission to work violently through his grief for the betterment of Gotham.
Kravitz is good in the role and generates heat with Pattinson, who has proven himself to be a fascinating actor in recent years. So it’s ironic that his return to franchise cinema gives him his most limiting role since Twilight. Not everything in the costume stands out as Christian Bale’s Batman; but his Bruce Wayne has a Twilight-style “sullen Cullen” vibe, just with emo bangs instead of a headboard pompadour. He’s Gotham City’s goth, though given Batman’s vampire existence, that’s a more apt comparison than the whimsical Kurt Cobain references Reeves has dropped in interviews. Unfortunately, what’s really missing is any kind of original cachet. Reeves is one of the most thoughtful successful filmmakers, but here he never quite manages to transcend his influences. Trying to disrupt the superhero format by pretending this isn’t a superhero movie, Reeves gives us a greatest hits collection of scenes from other films that now feature Batman.
Clio Barnard’s novelties, Ali and Ava is a rare thing in cinema: a middle-aged love story that’s romantic and realistic rather than forced and condescending. Set in Bradford, it draws on Barnard’s own affinity for the work of the late Andrea Dunbar (the subject of his experimental documentary The Arbor), but with a continued recognition that even in marginalized towns with limited opportunities there are has warmth and humor and things to strive for to make life a rewarding experience, regardless of how people perceive you. It also treats the interracial relationship between British Asian Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Irish-born Ava (Claire Rushbrook) with factual candor, barely making a plot point, but acknowledging the tensions that exist in as well as their respective families. situations complicate matters. Barnard, who knows very well how to find beauty in the banal, raises the stakes without resorting to melodrama; it’s a film that understands how all-consuming and difficult love forged quickly can be, but also understands that its hurdles are worth overcoming.
The Batman and Ali & Ava are in theaters from March 4
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