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George At 

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The Batman

When I first heard they were making another Batman movie, my reactions went from an eye-rolling “Already? Too Soon!” to “who cares?”.

Then it was announced that we’d be spared another doughy, dull performance by Ben Affleck and I put that in the plus column. Having never seen a “Twilight” movie by choice, my only exposure to Robert Pattinson was his strong performance in the bizarre indie “The Lighthouse” and his brief but strong role in Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”.

The previews were dark and seemed to be trying too hard.

I entered the theatre for THE BATMAN with more curiosity than expectation.

After the first 15-minute, Halloween night sequence, I turned jaw dropped to my buddy Mark and said, “This is kind of brilliant”. That opinion didn’t change over the next three hours.

Pattinson is a young, dark, and moody Bruce Wayne. With no use for the Wayne fortune other than to use it to battle street crime, Pattinson carries a huge chip on his shoulder.

The Gotham these characters live in is a near perfect meld of Tim Burton’s atmosphere and Nolan’s epic, jet black perspective on the material.

Part Chicago, part New York City and all Gotham, we’re lowered into its recesses with a montage of crime, petty and grand. Pattinson narrates over the scenes, questioning how effective his Batman can be after two years of battling evil. He can’t be everywhere.

Evil seems to be taking over the city.

The Riddler (Paul Dano, fantastically twisted) is murdering political figures and leaving clues addressed to The Batman. Lt. Gordon (Jeffrey Wright, dependably great and picking up with Batman where he left off as Felix Leiter to OO7) is the lone lawman to see Batman as an ally, bringing him into the investigation.

With a feel akin to David Fincher’s “Se7en”, the Riddler’s murders weave a twisted path to wrongs of the past. I won’t spill any of its mysteries here.

An unrecognizable Colin Farrell stars as Oz/The Penguin, without a shred of humor but dripping in underworld violence.

Zoe Kravitz is a fine Selina Kyle/Catwoman, delivering plenty of kickass antics that leave you guessing until the final scene.

John Turturro is excellent (when isn’t he?) as Gotham’s mob boss Carmine Falcone, whose slimy past wraps around every character in the film.

Andy Serkis is good as Alfred, who plays a key role here without evolving into the ridiculous crime fighter that Jeremy Irons’ Alfred did in Zack Snyder’s hack Batman films.

Writer/Director Matt Reeves created the latest “Planet of the Apes” trilogy (2014-present) that batted cleanup from Tim Burton’s goofball one-off film and Reeves does similar service for Snyder here. Snyder’s DC films seemed to mistake pathos and death for drama and his efforts at Batman were, for me, unlikable and unenjoyable.

Reeves creates a true, epic Batman movie his first time out with the character.

There are so many things he and his team get right.

At first glance, the new Batmobile looks kind of dull. Then Reeves stages a fantastic car chase with Batman in pursuit of The Penguin. Huge scale, edge-of-your-seat and excellent, it reminded me of the legendary Steve McQueen “Bullitt” scene, no greater compliment available.

Pattinson’s Batman doesn’t have a million magic CGI effects or a magic wand. He’s got every physical weapon, batsuit trick and gadget that the Wayne fortune can buy. We never get the scenes of glamorous charity balls that Keaton and Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne enjoyed. Pattinson’s Batman is 100% reclusive, pissed off and vengeful. He executes the hell out of it.

Michael Giacchino’s music score is excellent and nearly wall-to-wall. Epic.

The finale in Gotham’s Madison Square Garden is spectacular and suspenseful but well-staged.

The soon-to-be-famous “Batman with a red flare” shot is a hell of a payoff after all the action.

This is Paul Dano’s first mainstream big-budget action film. He’s completely unhinged. Dano said that he based his Riddler on the infamous Zodiac killer. His mad, cackling anger at his victims is all too real and haunts you long after the credits roll.

Part film noir, part action epic and flawlessly executed, THE BATMAN is every bit the equal of Nolan’s trilogy. I can’t wait to see what Reeves has up his sleeve for the next two installments.

With over $300 million at the box office in its first ten days, it’s a massive, well-deserved hit that gets an A+.

Too soon? Nope, turns out THE BATMAN arrived just in time.

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