I didn’t expect to be okay with Robert Pattinson playing Batman.
Up until recently, the combination of DC Comics’ Dark Knight and the sparkling vampires of the Twilight franchise seemed best represented by a Venn diagram with two distinct circles that never overlap. And yet, here we are, and I can’t help thinking Pattinson-as-Batman is actually some pretty clever casting.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m approaching the news that Warner Bros. Pictures has chosen the former Twilight star to be the new face of Bruce Wayne with more than a little caution. Still, the more I ponder the potential of Pattinson starring in The Batman, though, the more I like it.
When you look at the roles Pattinson has played up to this point — yes, even including the Twilight films — there’s actually more in his resume that suggests he’d make a good Batman than a bad one.
In the time since the Twilight franchise ended, Pattinson has had an impressively wide-ranging resume.
Batman is DC Comics’ greatest detective, but he also makes a strong case for being DC’s most angsty high-profile hero. Being dark and brooding is (and has always been, despite what the Adam West television series suggests) the closest thing to a superpower Batman wields.
Similarly, while Pattinson’s Twilight vampire Edward Cullen had fantastic strength, speed, and baseball-playing abilities, it was his ability to metaphorically darken a room — even while sparkling — that made him the hottest thing in Hollywood.
To his credit, a lesser actor might have been able to pull it off for just a film or two, but Pattinson managed to keep Edward’s moping game on point across five films that grossed more than $3 billion collectively worldwide.
That’s some superhero-level brooding, my friends.
So he’s got the “dark” aspect of DC’s Dark Knight down, but what about his other acting chops — or maybe more importantly, his action chops?
In the time since the Twilight franchise ended, Pattinson has had an impressively wide-ranging resume. The characters Pattinson has played since his vampire days cover a colorful spectrum from wealthy playboys and globe-trotting adventurers to deadbeat thugs and space travelers, offering him a wealth of elements from which to draw and a very Batman-esque quality of being a man capable of wearing many faces.
The disaffected billionaire Pattinson portrayed in David Cronenberg’s 2012 drama Cosmopolis offered some hint of what he might bring to Bruce Wayne, for example, while impressively nuanced performances in recent films such as Good Time and High Life have earned him high praise from critics.
If director Matt Reeves’ The Batman is indeed focused on the early days of the Bruce Wayne’s costumed adventures, with a focus on how the man became the vigilante, the intense introspection and other-ness that Pattinson has brought to some of his best roles is a surprisingly good fit. Batman has always maintained a level of managed detachment from the people around him — even when he’s Bruce Wayne — and that plays well with the roles for which Pattinson has delivered his best performances.
— Matt Reeves (@mattreevesLA) June 3, 2019
So he can act, but can he throw a punch and strike terror into the hearts of Gotham’s criminals?
The Twilight franchise wasn’t exactly known for its action sequences, despite having some decent opportunities for vampire (and werewolf) brawls. There’s some missed potential there, but fortunately, well-established action chops aren’t exactly a prerequisite for being a good Batman.
Batman’s big-screen history is filled with actors who did just fine despite not having an action-movie background. Before he got nuts as Batman, Michael Keaton was better known for wacky comedy than superhero fare, and neither Val Kilmer nor George Clooney were generally regarded as action heroes before donning the cowl.
Christian Bale had some action experience, certainly, but Ben Affleck was still better known for being Matt Damon’s pal in Good Will Hunting before he became the most recent Batman. Affleck’s grizzled Batman is widely regarded as one of the best parts of the much-maligned Batman V. Superman and Justice League films — particularly due to his action scenes — which just goes to show that even a silly nickname like “Batfleck” (or “RBattz,” in Pattinson’s case) can’t keep a good Bat down.
All of that just goes to show that a wealth of brilliantly choreographed fight scenes aren’t exactly a necessity for getting the best out of a Batman.
In the end, it’s director and co-writer Matt Reeves’ screenplay that will likely be the deciding factor in whether Pattinson lives up to his Bat-potential. All the pieces are there for a great Batman, but the script can mean all the difference between The Dark Knight and a Batman & Robin fever dream full of corny lines and Bat-nipples.
Sure, I wasn’t prepared to accept Pattinson as Batman, but if this Twilight-ridiculing comics fan can learn to like the idea, so can you.
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