“Two years of nights have turned me into a nocturnal animal,” growls Robert Pattinson’s Batman to no one in particular. The streets of Gotham City are slick with rain and sleaze; defending them is weary work. Nirvana’s dirge-like Something in the Way plays to better illustrate the point. Back at the Batcave, he swaps his cape for a hoodie and dusts off his diary, pushing his greasy, Kurt Cobain-style curtains out of his eyes as he writes down his woes.
And that’s just the opening. Not to worry – there’s no shortage of brooding in Matt Reeves’s bloated three-hour take on the DC Comics superhero. Batman movies are usually goofy or dour; this film is in the latter camp, styled as a neo-noir revolving around rats, moles and the mob. In the run-up to the mayoral elections, the incumbent is brutally murdered by an empowered incel type who broadcasts his crimes on social media. When this killer leaves a perplexing note for the Batman, police lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) enlists the help of the city’s unofficial guardian angel to help solve the riddle. As a standalone police procedural, it works quite well, but as a franchise reboot it’s not enough of a reset.
Zoë Kravitz is a highlight as cocktail waitress turned cat burglar Selina Kyle. Feline with a feral edge, she stomps around in thigh-high PVC boots, bonding with the Batman over their shared daddy issues and penchant for fetishwear. As her character puts it, Gotham’s “white privileged assholes” keep turning up dead. Bruce Wayne, the man behind the Batman’s mask, could be described this way too. R-Patz plays him with an appealing vulnerability, a well-meaning philanthropist buckling under the weight of white guilt.