The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) from his script co-written with Peter Craig (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), and despite some hit-and-miss moments in both the story and the acting, the film is macabre but good, solid entertainment.
The Batman (Robert Pattinson) watches over Gotham, using fear to keep the pervasive criminal element under some control. But when a criminal mastermind starts killing corrupt civil servants and leaving clues behind for Batman, the fear flips to the other side of the coin. Working intermittently with Selena Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), who has her personal vengeance to extract as well, the two must solve the riddles and stop the killing before the entire city collapses beneath the weight of its own corruption.
The story is a good one, and if anything, the 175-minute running time is a bit short for what Reeves and Craig needed to convey. The slow start tries too hard to provide a flood of information despite quality acting. As the tale progresses and finally begins to come together, there is a dip in the acting quality. However, in the final hour, everything melds into an account that becomes fully engaging through solid writing, strong acting, and exceptional camera work. Pattinson's first turn as the vigilante is somewhat different from prior films, but he demonstrates the potential to develop his performances into a unique, iconic portrayal. Jeffrey Wright's Jim Gordon is just what this Batman needs. Kravitz is underused as Selena, but she is sure to develop more in future installments. The star moment of the acting is Paul Dano's soliloquy as The Riddler. He's sublime until that moment, which only adds to the brilliance of these few screen minutes. The most disappointing portrayal is Colin Farrell's Penguin, but that has nothing to do with the actor. The look and acting are fantastic, but they've pigeonholed him into a mostly generic Italian mobster stereotype, which becomes distracting.
As with any superhero film, there are fight scenes. But in this particular case, not as many as audiences expect to see from Batman. Instead, the script spends a good deal of time demonstrating how thoughtful the character can be when he isn't devastatingly angry. This is good for the development and because these battles are sometimes jerkily filmed and challenging to follow. The moody music plays along with the combat and the tale to accentuate just how dark the character and the film are.
The Batman is a good film in general and a great film in the superhero genre, despite its flaws. It is clearly setting itself up to be the next DC franchise, particularly demonstrated by the closing scenes. How audiences will feel about Pattinson's portrayal based on his first outing is anybody's guess.