Batman is BACK folks, and this time, he’s emo. Very emo.

The pithy voiceover by Robert Pattinson that saturates the opening of the film is enough to signal that writer/director Matt Reeves’ take on the titular superhero is much darker than previous iterations, but the voiceover dialogue is nothing compared to what is revealed soon after.  This Batman listens to Nirvana. 

Okay, we don’t actually know if Pattinson’s Batman–complete with dark eye makeup–listens to Nirvana himself, but the use of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” twice in the film is a perfect representation of what this film tries to do with the classic character.  This Batman is dark.  He’s emo. 

Sounds pretty self-serious, right?  Actually, no.  From Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” to Zack Snyder’s grim interpretations in films like “Batman v. Superman” and “Justice League,” the central concept of “Batman: But Dark” has been fairly overused recently in the film industry.  Thankfully, Reeves’ “The Batman” is a surprisingly quite enjoyable ride to take part in, and a fresh reboot for a character that has desperately needed one. 

“The Batman” takes place two years into Bruce Wayne’s career as Batman (eschewing the origin story that everyone knows by now) as he unravels a criminal conspiracy in Gotham City involving crime lords, government figures, cops, his parents, etc..  It’s messy in concept, but Reeves’ and co-writer Peter Craig’s script, and William Hoy’s and Tyler Nelson’s editing organizes the information quite well, keeping a steady pace throughout the film’s gargantuan three-hour runtime.  It’s a slower pace, but it works well with the central interpretation of Batman, who has more in common with a magnifying-glass-using detective more than a guy who just fights for a living. 

That’s not to say that there isn’t any action in “The Batman.”  There is, although it is employed much more sparsely than in the Nolan trilogy or Snyder’s DC Comics films.  The action in Reeves’ film appears only a handful of times and feels heavier, more brutal, and more realistic –at least for a superhero film – than previous iterations, thanks in part to Reeves’ steady direction and the fact that he allows Bruce Wayne to get hurt during the fights. Quite a bit, actually. 

That same heaviness rolls over into the cinematography and score.  The visuals, framed by cinematographer Greig Fraser, range from large sweeping cityscapes, to grimy and dark alleyways, to intense closeups of the characters.  The shots feel much more subjective than the “realism” of Nolan’s films, but they retain the same sense of weight.  The score by Michael Giacchino also feels heavy and intense, almost to a comedic degree.  The main theme, which basically consists of slow low-end orchestra hits, feels like how Pattinson must have felt stomping around in the bulky and knowingly silly suit that Wayne wears when doing his detective work.  It mostly works, though it is a bit overused. 

All this heaviness aside, “The Batman” is a totally enjoyable watch.  The filmmakers and writers are self-aware enough to joke and have fun, and the actors are too.  Pattinson’s portrayal of Wayne as a sad guy who journals is so intense that it’s almost funny, but his commitment to the bit is admirable, and it works as a central grounding piece to the vibe of the film.  Paul Dano as the Riddler and Colin Farrell as the Penguin are also simultaneously incredibly intense and perfectly over-the-top, with Farrell doing a good riff on Robert De Niro under a ridiculous amount of makeup–it looks great–and Dano going all in on incendiary dark Reddit types, as well as the Zodiac killer, during his brief screen time.  Dano’s final scenes are so over-the-top that I did laugh, but not out of cringe or anything like that, but purely out of having a good time.  Also, it’s always nice to see Jeffrey Wright, that’s good stuff too. 

Zoe Kravitz does a good job of sowing some pathos into this universe’s Selina Kyle, better known by Catwoman, although the subplots surrounding her character could have been trimmed down a bit in the script. The few moments in which the long runtime was felt were during scenes where Batman and Catwoman are standing around and talking for prolonged periods of time.  Otherwise, the film flies by, making it easy to recommend for even the most restless viewers, myself included. 

“The Batman” doesn’t break new ground, but it is a great start to a fresh reboot for the titular character.  Outside of one obnoxious scene near the end, there isn’t much sequel-baiting here, giving the filmmakers effective carte-blanche to take the franchise in a bold new direction.  Obviously, from a pure craft perspective, this doesn’t completely match up to Nolan’s trilogy, but reader, I would be lying if I didn’t say I had a better time watching this film than any of the “Dark Knight” trilogy. It’s a blast, and great populist filmmaking.  Just…don’t bring your children to this one. Watching scenes that have blunt references to the Zodiac killer with a theater full of children was kind of weird in that respect.  But whatever, at least those kids will find out who Nirvana is!