Fans will grumble over the news that Robert Pattinson has been cast as the new Batman. They always do. They wrote letters to the Los Angeles Times when Michael Keaton was announced as Tim Burton’s Batman, insisting the man behind Beetlejuice could never bring the required gravitas. They had the same complaints about Heath Ledger, when Christopher Nolan picked him to be The Dark Knight’s Joker. 7,000 fans signed a petition asking Warner Bros to reverse their decision to cast Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader back in 2013, when he was announced as the DC Extended Universe (DCEU)’s version of the character, fronting the series of interconnected films that followed 2013’s Man of Steel. All three of those actors went on to prove their critics wrong. Pattinson will undoubtedly do the same.
The casting of comic book characters almost always causes some kind of backlash with fans, who are so wrapped up in the source material, that no one of flesh and blood could possibly live up to what’s been created out of ink and paint. But that’s especially true of Batman who, over the course of his 80-year history, has taken on so many guises and personas, that he’s become the stuff of pure legend. Everyone has their own Batman. From the comics, it could be the Golden Age version, Frank Miller’s darker iteration, or the New 52 take from earlier this decade. There’s no satisfying everyone, which inevitably means there’s no safe choice for the role.
Enter Pattinson. He’s the risky, but inspired option. The actor, inevitably, comes with the same baggage of many a Batman before him. Anyone who hasn’t tracked his career over the past decade will probably still see him as the fresh-faced youth who came to a tragic end in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and sparkled his way through five Twilight films, as broody vampire babe Edward Cullen. But Pattinson has been very busy since then.
Retreating from the Hollywood mainstream, much like his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart, he’s instead invested his time in building up one of the most impressive filmographies of any actor of his generation. He’s worked with directors David Cronenberg, Werner Herzog, and Claire Denis. He’s embraced challenging work and impressed critics time and time again. Whether in the sombre, reflective mood of James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, about the men who risked everything to explore the depths of the Amazon in the early 20th century, or in the manic energy of the Safdie brothers’s unconventional crime drama Good Time, Pattinson has proven he can roll with the punches. He’s shown his range. Playing a moody billionaire who likes to dress up as a bat and punch criminals in the face should be no challenge at all for him.
In truth, although Warner Bros’ handling of the DCEU has been shaky in the past, its roster of actors has always been one of its strong suits. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman brought an inner strength and purity of conviction that made her 2017 solo film feel so empowering to women. Jason Momoa is so inherently cool that he reversed decades of put-downs about the superhero who talks to fish when he was first cast as Aquaman. Both of these actors, alongside Ezra Miller and his charismatic take on The Flash, brought much-needed energy to an otherwise sluggish Justice League. Though Suicide Squad proved disastrous with critics, most were in agreement that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a scene-stealer. Her character has not only kept the Suicide Squad films alive, with James Gunn set to direct a sequel, but also warranted her own spin-off – Birds of Prey is set to land in cinemas next year.
Pattinson, however, will play Batman in a solo film that’s entirely unconnected to the existing DCEU. Much like the forthcoming Joker, which sees Joaquin Phoenix star in a King of Comedy-esque, stylised take on the villain’s backstory, The Batman is intended as a standalone project that will offer its own spin on the character. Its director, Matt Reeves, has described the film as a “point of view-driven, noir Batman tale” that will focus on the character’s history in the comics as “the world’s greatest detective”. The unconvinced need only to watch Pattinson’s latest film, Denis’s High Life, to see him play introspective and taciturn. Plus, there’s no doubting that he has the chin for the job.
The Batman is set for release on 25 June 2021
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