The Darker Knight

After reinvigorating the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, director Matt Reeves puts the Goth in Gotham City with “The Batman.” Since DC started as Detective Comics, it only makes sense for Reeves to create a dark and dirty detective drama where Batman is a sleuth saving his city.

 “The Batman” brandishes noir niches- a young Bruce Wayne’s (Robert Pattinson) voiceover explains how his creation of the Batman has made Gotham City’s slime afraid of the Bat Signal in the sky and the superhero emerging from the shadows. Director Reeves shows us this with striking visuals as Batman pummels a street gang with fists of fury that would make Bruce Lee blush.

 The opening to Reeves’ three-hour opus, however, sets a tone of terror that erases any comic conventions you may have brought kids to see: a hooded figure reminiscent of the real-life Zodiac serial killer bludgeons and murders Gotham City’s mayor. Also Zodiac-style, he leaves a note for Batman. Each future victim will be a clue for Batman and the clue-crazed serial killer will become known as the Riddler (Paul Dano). What’s the Riddler’s game? Expose the corruption of Gotham City and arrange for a real change.

 The clues the Riddler leaves begin with a female escort pictured at a nightclub with the late mayor. In traditional ‘cherchez la femme’ fashion, Batman’s visit to nightclub yields a nest of vipers- managed by mob henchman Oz (Colin Farrell), he’s Oswald Cobblepot- known as Penguin. Also there is Selena Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), who knows the girl Batman’s looking for and sidelines her mob-connected club activities with caring for stray cats. Kyle’s a nimble safecracker as well and, in a black leather leotard, will aid Batman in his quest to quell the Riddler as Catwoman.

 The actors are all on point, particularly Kravitz who makes for a sleek and sexy Selena. John Turturro also appears as crime boss Carmine Falcone and, wearing darkened glasses like he did playing Sam Giancana in 1995’s “Sugartime,” gives off a similar mob menace. But it’s Pattinson who succeeds in silence. Even when his black eye shadow runs after taking off  Batman’s cowl to resemble the bastard child of Brandon Lee’s Crow and The Cure’s Robert Smith, Pattinson manages to embrace the sullen side of the superhero while showing a crimefighter who cares.   

 There’s a lot to admire with “The Batman” and it’s mainly in Reeves’ visual style. Rainy city streets ablaze with neon are nothing new for detective stories, but it’s a sprawling canvas that Reeves covers. With sets influenced by the look of “Blade Runner” and “Se7en” and a story that seems to mesh “Chinatown’s” drama with “John Wick’s” action, you’re immersed immediately.

 While the running time’s admittedly cringe-worthy, you’ll appreciate the care Reeves takes in his vision and his eye for detail.  If the devil’s in the details, then Reeves has given us a superhero Satan to savor.   

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