TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "The Batman" runs for three hours, and by the end of it you feel as battered, bruised and weighed-down as Batman must feel while romping around the Gotham City rooftops in his cowl, bulletproof chest plating and cape getup.
A punishing and grim affair, the film takes itself so seriously that it's tempting to make fun of it. But it's so skilfully executed that you just step back and respect the grand vision for what it is. "The Batman" is a Ph.D. dissertation on what it means to be the iconic hero. This is less Caped Crusader and more Dark Knight. Even Christopher Nolan's sullen take on the hero comes off a little light by comparison.
Director Matt Reeves does an excellent job of establishing his despair-ridden take on Gotham City but falls too much in love with his lingering asides and subplots that don't go anywhere. A ruthless edit could have chopped this unwieldy beast of a movie into a svelte, impactful story.
Building off of the mid-1990s comic book storyline "The Long Halloween," the plot centers around a young, yet fully-realized version of the character as he ruthlessly hammers away at criminal elements, unafraid to use his newfound powers to render devastating immediate justice. A man of few words, he spits out spine-chilling things like "I am vengeance" and "I am the shadows,"
I had reservations with Robert Pattinson as Batman, but he proves to be a ferocious and confident hero, with smoldering expressions and a fierce persona. If anything, he's tougher to buy as a high-society type as Bruce Wayne.
He faces off with an unorthodox take on the Riddler. The character sheds the villain's cartoonish background and embraces aspects of other Batman nemeses, particularly the Red Hood and Bane. Paul Dano is an imposing presence that rivals the likes of Heath Ledger's Joker and Tommy Lee Jones's Two-Face.
Also along for the ride are criminal overlord Penguin (Colin Farrell), slinking femme fatale Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), Jeffrey Wright as steadfast top cop James Gordon and Andy Serkis as Batman's gruff assistant, Alfred Pennyworth.
The casting could not have been more inspired, with Pattinson leading the charge in a performance that sheds any lingering hints of Edward Cullen.
The plot unfolds with purpose and force, building up toward grand conclusions and bittersweet resolutions. The theme of the film is that it's the spirit of fighting against overwhelming odds, rather than the endgame, that matters most. Unintended parallels to the Russia-Ukraine conflict fortuitously emerge.
A rock-solid building block that re-establishes the hero for its next decade or so of direction, "The Batman" is a rich reboot that taxes your patience but grants you a bevy of hard-fought rewards.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
This story was originally reported by Phil Villarreal on kgun9.com.
Phil Villarreal is the senior real-time editor for KGUN 9. He is also a digital producer and host of "Phil on Film" seen weekly on Good Morning Tucson, Phil moved to KGUN after 17 years with the Arizona Daily Star, where he was a movie critic, columnist, and reporter. He has penned three books: Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, Stormin' Mormon and Zeta Male. A University of Arizona business graduate, he has four children. Share your story ideas and important issues with Phil by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.