Let’s get this out of the way immediately. I absolutely loved Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman, and I adored Christian Bale’s portrayal through that trilogy. For me, it demonstrated what could be done with a comic book hero. That was about as far removed from Tim Burton’s Batman as Tim Burton’s Batman was from Adam West’s. It can do no wrong. So there’s a bar set for me before the house lights went down, and it was pretty high.

Matt Reeves’ version, starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne and his caped alter ego, gives it a damned good try and starts very strongly. We land right in the middle of things, on Halloween, as Batman reflects on his two years as Gotham City’s masked vigilante while we see Paul Dano’s The Riddler stand in the shadows of the mayor’s home as he watches election coverage on the news.

Moments later, and the mayor is dead, with some clues left behind for Batman and Lt Gordon, played by Jeffrey Wright, suggesting a conspiracy of corruption within the great and good of the city. Those people should be very worried but thankfully for the purposes of the story, they do very little to up their security and so begins a race against time to discover the identity of The Riddler before too many of them are killed in an inventive manner. All the while, we have Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman on a mission to investigate the disappearance of her roommate and girlfriend which may be tied into all this.

It’s a movie that reminded me an awful lot of Se7en. Gotham is dark, gloomy, and sitting under a perpetual cloud of precipitation, and there are thematic similarities as our heroes home in on the killer on a mission. Towards the end, there’s a sequence where I wouldn’t have been surprised if Kevin Spacey suddenly appeared, although I would have been very disappointed.

I’ve enjoyed Robert Pattinson in everything I’ve seen him in where he wasn’t a vampire and he makes a very good Batman. It has to be said, though, that he brings a bit of an Edward Cullin vibe to proceedings, but in a better, more interesting way. I very much appreciated the little touches, such as when he’s demasked, Bruce Wayne still has black make-up around his eyes, making him look a bit like the singer out of Placebo. But it’s Colin Farrell in a role and under some magical make-up who you would never guess was Colin Farrell even if you were told beforehand that Colin Farrell was in the movie. Let’s not investigate too much how I can say that with such confidence.

Visually, Reeves and his cinematographer, Greig Fraser, do a remarkable job. In his opening voiceover, Batman says that the bad guys think he’s in the shadows, but he is the shadows. Well, this movie is also the shadows but despite its darkness — an hour after getting home and I can’t honestly remember a scene set during the day — the lighting is exquisite, making colors pop out like they were added post-production to black and white stock. The downside to this, though, is a few scenes where it felt impossible to tell where we were in the shot. The upside is the setpiece from the trailer when the only thing illuminating the scene is the flash from the muzzle of automatic weapons. The sound design is a bit whispery and growly, to be expected in a Batman movie to some degree, and plays second fiddle to Michael Giacchino’s booming score.

The storyline is maybe a little too simplistic to be entirely satisfying, with some of The Riddler’s riddles not exactly being cryptic, and at nearly three hours long, on paper it at least appears a bit self-indulgent but it doesn’t feel like it’s three hours. That said, it also doesn’t feel like it’s 90 minutes, and it’s probably about as long as it could feasibly get away with, especially when it decides to be a bit of a disaster movie in the final act.

Messrs Nolan and Bale can rest easy. They’ve still made my favorite Batman movies, but I enjoyed this immensely and would happily sit through it again, although maybe next time I’ll take a cushion with me. In this case, there’s no shame in second place.