To Succeed, Robert Pattinson Needs To Embody Matt Reeves’s Vision of Batman

Batman/Bruce Wayne is one of the most iconic film roles in film history. The role of the millionaire vigilante can catapult (or cement) an actor as an enormous star in eyes of fans and critics across the globe. Michael Keaton, known largely as a comedic actor, redefined his career with his performances in Tim Burton’s Batman films; the actor proved many fans wrong after they had doubted his casting. Christian Bale, a talent actor who was best known for his role as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, became a household name after his incredible performances in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Conversely, the role can also hamper an actor for years to come. George Clooney, an academy award winner/nominee for acting, producing, and director, has spent years haunted by public’s memory of his performance in Batman and Robin, a film that also damaged the careers of several young actors who thought their participation in the film would help develop successful film careers.

Looking at the past forty years, there have been very few roles that have been more scrutinized than Batman (James Bond may be the only more scrutinized role in Hollywood). When Ben Affleck was cast as Batman earlier this decade, fans across the world sent millions of comments and criticisms flying across the internet at warp speed. The reaction was largely negative, though many fans and critics came out to support Affleck who performed admirably in his film appearances, despite being hampered by a confused vision of the DCEU and behind-the-scenes troubles.

Similar reactions have already began to unfold for Robert Pattinson who recently cast as Batman in Matt’s Revees’s The Batman. Pattinson, a thirty three year old English actor, is best known for his role as Edward Cullen in the Twilight series, though the actor has spent the past few years performing admirably in a host of intriguing films like Cosmopolis, The Rover, The Lost City of Z, and 2018’s High Life.

The road ahead for director Matt Reeves and Pattinson is a long one. With the casting of Pattinson, the duo, along with producers, designers, and other actors, can further develop their vision of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City. There will be tremendous expectations for the actors and filmmakers as they debut their vision of Batman, but in order to succeed, Pattinson needs exemplify or embody his and Reeves’s vision of the caped crusader, rather than placating the expectations and desires of fans or following in the footsteps of previous film iterations of the character.

Batman’s Versatility Allows For Iteration and Revision

One reason that Batman has endured for the past eighty years is the character’s versatility. The character is one of the most fluid in popular comics and culture. While the identity and backstory of Batman may remains the largely same, the psychological motivations, fighting styles, morality and ethics of the character have changed or been tweaked from version to version. Throughout Batman’s 80 year history comics writers like Bill Finger, Denny O’ Neil, Frank Miller, Jeph Loeb, Grant Morrison, and Scott Snyder have all created their own version of Batman, all of which are easy to differentiate and tell apart. Similarly, artists like Bob Kane, Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, David Mazzucchelli, Tim Sale, and Greg Capullo have created instantly recognizable visual identities for the Caped Crusader.

Similarly, Batman has incredible versatility within his film and television properties. No one would argue that Adam West and Michael Keaton’s Batman are identical. Throughout more than seventy years on television and film, Batman has been revised and updated with different social and political norms, technology, and film making trends depending on the era. This variety and malleability is what makes Batman such an important and evergreen character. When Tim Burton directed his two Batman films, he also brought his own distinct ideas and influences for the character, which are reflected in the stage design and characters of the films. Additionally, Christopher Nolan re-framed Batman in a post-9/11 world dealing with the fear, paranoia and acts of terrorism that permeated the cultural landscape at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Creating Their Own Vision of Batman Will Be The Key To Pattinson and Reeves’s Success Or Failure

Batman’s versatility and flexibility will give Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson a chance to put their stamp on the Caped Crusader. Together, the cast and crew of The Batman will have the opportunity to create their own vision of the character, one that will be a touchstone for this moment in popular culture. Reeves has already hinted at some of his own influences and inspiration for his upcoming films including the detective oriented Batman seen within several landmark comics. Reeves has previously stated in interviews that this film will be “Batman in his detective mode” as this aspect of the character that has largely been reduced in his previous iterations (Outlaw). It will be exciting to see how much Reeves will draw from iconic detective stories like Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween and Hush, or Scott Snyder’s The Court of Owls storyline, all of which see a more cerebral and analytical Batman unraveling complex mysteries.

There will be plenty of comparisons to other version of Batman in both film and comics, but to succeed, Pattinson needs to embody the version of the character that he and Reeves develop. While many fans will argue for hours on which Batman is the best, Burton and Nolan’s Batman films work because the characters fit within the universe created specifically for them. For example, Tim Burton’s Penguin and Catwoman did not fit the conventions of the characters from the comics, but these characters worked well in Gotham City that Burton and his team had created. Similarly, Tom Hardy’s Bane and Heath Ledger’s Joker were perfect for Nolan’s hyper realistic Batman trilogy. To succeed, Reeves and Pattinson will need make sure that their is a consistent vision for the Batman and Gotham City and executing this will be the key to their success.

Fans Need To Reserve Judgement On The Casting Until The Film Is Out

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway remarked that “reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope”, a statement that fits well with the casting of any actor as Batman. While some may grumble about the choice of an actor (like Michale Keaton or Ben Affleck) as Batman, we will not know if the choice is successful until the film is released.

With this in mind, I urge fans to keep an open mind. As fans or critics, we are not in the rooms with actors as they audition, nor do we hear the conversations the actors had with Matt Reeves as they discussed the role. It is often forgotten but Heath Ledger faced an enormous amount of skepticism in the month leading up to the release of The Dark Knight. This was an instance of fan expectations getting in the way of the potential that a performer has. When discussing the casting and performance of Ledger, Nolan revealed that Ledger and Nolan discussed and shared “common reference points” for the character and the direction of the character overall. Similarly, Reeves seems to believe that Pattinson in the best to bring their vision of Batman to life. It is unknown if this is the right choice or wrong choice, but audiences will have to wait to see if the casting is correct or incorrect.

It is exciting to see a new vision of the Dark Knight take shape as the pre-production process continues. It is unknown what character or villains will be used in the film, though there are plenty of rumors circulating. Regardless of casting, it will be exciting to see a new Batman take flight, one that has the chance to define Batman for new and old fans alike.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Hugely underrated actor. Watch The Rover or Good Time if your only reference point if Twilight’s your only frame of reference. Whether he’ll make a good Batman is hard to say. But with Matt Reeves directing and the story said to focus on the detective side of Batman’s workings he stands a pretty good shot.

    • Good time is one of my favourite recent films, and Pattinson was brilliant in it.

    • I recently watched him in The Childhood of a Leader, he was brilliant in that too, both charming and sinister.

  2. I love Batman. I grew up on repeats of the Adam West show, then The Tim Burton movies and the the 90s Animated Series. I read the Frank Miller and Alan Moore comics and enjoyed the Nolan trilogy immensely. I was even prepared to defend Batfleck whom I thought was fine but let down by shoddy scripts.

    But the character now needs a good long rest. No disrespect to Pattinson, whom I don’t really dislike but the Character has been done to death over the last decade. Constantly being re-cast and rebooted.

    Come back to him in another 10 years or so.

    • In the meantime they could always recast/reboot Batman’s spiritual ancestor. A wealthy, upper-class man by day, who by night puts on a mask and Cape, names himself after an animal and rides out to defend the helpless.

  3. Katharine

    They should make it a musical.

  4. Batman is meant to be the worlds greatest detective but I have yet to see any evidence of this in any of the movies that I have watched.

    • Ashmore

      In the TV series, as a kid, I thought he was the worlds greatest detective. He gets an accurate address of where the villain is going to be with such tenuous clues. I realised later as an adult that this element was deliberately ridiculous for the sake of the laughs. I remember the episode where he finds the cowboy villain ‘Shame’ by the quality of the guacamole he leaves behind. Robin helped him track down the exact cafe where the guacamole was made. And yes…Robin did say ‘Holy guacamole!!!’.

    • Linwood

      To be fair to the Nolan movies, batman spends the first half of batman begins researching the mob and their power structures, and then tracing drug distribution routes.

      In the second one he traces mob money via specially irradiated bills to discover their safe houses and banks, he uses a highly complex ballistic analysis method to get a finger print from a fractured bullet to identify one of the joker’s henchmen and track him down, and he determines the joker’s location at the climax by tracing him via the cell network.

      In the 3rd one he quickly determines that cat woman has stolen his finger print at the start, which leads him to the greater conspiracy.

      So there is a fair amount of detective work.

      • Thanks. I need to re watch these movies. I can only really remember the parts where he is kicking the shit out of people.

        When I think of great detectives I think of someone like Columbo where he kinda of knows who the bad guy is right from the off, but actually uses his great detective powers to prove that the bad guys is guilty beyond a shadow of doubt.

        To be fair to Batman, he is not trying to secure a conviction in a court of law, he just enough of an excuse to go full ninja on someones face.

      • LUNATIC

        I bet its already been binned. Hence the stand alone type stuff with the Joker movie and this new Batman.

  5. It’s not so much about the actor as it is about the movie. It needs to not be shit in order for the movie to do well.

    Nolan’s Batman movies were one of a kind, and though very successful at the box office and with critics, it is silly to think the latest Batman rehash can reach those heights.

    What Warner Brothers should do is study how their competitor Disney managed to turn the production of formulaic superhero movies into such an incredible money making machine. They need to identify how to do crowd-pleasing right. Aquaman was a good start

    • Aquaman is a terrible superhero. He can talk to fish, yeah wow that’s useful if the First Bank of Under the Fucking Sea is getting robbed. By fish.

      What else, oh right, he’s a bit strong, just not as strong as the others, and he has a big fork that he throws at things. God yeah, that fork is really up there with Green Lantern’s ring or Captain America’s shield for sure, oh no hang on, it’s shit.

      D-list superhero at best.

      It doesn’t help that he’s played by that witless (albeit ripped and beautiful) galoot (with the lovely hair). I preferred him in Game of Thrones where he a) could’t speak and was b) dead.

    • They had an 11 year plan split into 3 phases, consisting of 22 movies with interconnected plots and characters. They spent a fortune and years plotting it all out before a foot of film had been shot and they hired film makers who could work under a single top executive producer.

  6. I don’t think we’re living in an era where a proper Batman movie can be made. It has to be subversive, dark and maybe a bit nasty. Successful superhero movies (i.e. the Marvel movies or WW) have to be super up-beat, super PC and very light on story telling.

    Ben Affleck would not have been my choice, but Snyder was riffing on ‘The Dark Night Returns’ with him, which is perhaps the greatest ever Batman comic. Hence his bulking appearance and the metal suit.

  7. ThyWines

    Its not just Batman that needs casting properly – you need excellent baddies as well as they make the film. This has happened twice for the Bane baddies for example.

    Javier Bardem might make a good baddie, wouldn’t mind seeing Idris Elba as he could make a good baddie?

  8. With this film they need to simultaneously keep it it’s own self-contained movie and have a vision for the long term. Many of the Snyder DC movies failed on both of these things. Too many references to the movies that were coming next (at the expense of telling a good story) and then rushing these movies out without properly mapping out how they should fit together. I think this Batman movie is going to be an extreme uphill battle. If this movie isn’t great, people are going to be asking why it was even made.

  9. Joseph Cernik
    Joseph Cernik

    A good essay. Hopefully, Pattinson does a good job, I’ve always enjoyed the Batman movies regardless of who plays the lead.

  10. Pattinson would be interesting, but it’ll depend totally on the lines he’s given and the story he’ll be a part of! Plus, part of being Batman (if not most of it) is being a convincing Bruce Wayne, which Bale certainly was the best at, and Keaton wasn’t that far behind him! So he’ll really need to pull that off from the get go.

    I thought Affleck was ok and would have been better if he was handed decent scripts and was part of a decent storyline. He stills holds the title of ‘best fight sequence’ in a Batman movie (though ripped off from the Arkham series) when he rescued Martha. Plus, he got in great shape for it.

    If Pattison, who is (bar the Twilight series) a great actor, ends up being part of a p*ss poor storyline, then he’ll get panned, and like Clooney, who I’m pretty sure didn’t choose to have nipples on his Bat suit, will get a lot of stick for it.

    • Affleck did have a bit of practice in getting the bad material out of the way with Daredevil, so that could be a factor. Just a thought.

  11. I think most folk regarded Christian Bale pretty well as an actor before Batman. He was just better exposed afterwards.

    The Val Kilmer and George Clooney movies seemed to try a balance of the Burton movies with a return to the camp 60’s take.

    I didn’t have a problem with Ben Affleck as Batman personally. I see the problem as too many attempts to resurrect a character by way of a new actor way too often to try and keep the superhero momentum going.

  12. Here’s a good idea: Stop making Batman flicks. We reached peak Batman with Nolan. I like Pattinson, but he’s no action figure. Let Batman remain in the shadows please.

    • Brigitte

      Yes. It’s a symptom of a lack of creative confidence that Hollywood continues to churn out reboots and franchises, mining the comic universes at the expense of somebody taking a chance on something new.

      • It isn’t a lack of creativity, it is a lack of confidence in the market.

        Why pour millions into a untested movie that might fail at the box office regardless of quality when you can make a movie that has a near guaranteed audience.

  13. Ben Affleck wasn’t bad as Batman, but the films themselves have been sketchy. It would be great to see a Batman film pared back to Batman v one of the many villains in the back catalogue, or even a new one created for these times, rather than the comic book versions of Penguin and Riddler that have been served up. Having said that the new Joaquin Phoenix Joker film looks like it could be good, maybe there’s room for another Batman v Joker? Ultimately, Batman is too good a character to be allowed to leave alone.

  14. It could work, I read up on how Michael Keaton got so much crap when he was announced as Batman and as far as I’m concerned he’s the best live action Batman ever

    • Sean Gadus

      I absolutely agree with you. Michael Keaton was a victim of massive backlash (through fan mail complaints, it was the 1980s…) but he was excellent in the role. Right now, we just have to wait and see what the final product will end up being.

  15. Glennie

    The Nolan/Bale movies cannot be topped. I pity anyone that tries.

  16. This will definitely result in the expected Twilight/Batman mashup memes. I agree with the position entirely. Roles like this are the fun of Hollywood because they keep old fandoms alive with new life in our favourite characters. I wasn’t even aware this casting was planned before reading, but now that you mention it, Pattinson, having mastered the brood as Edward Cullen, might be able to pull this off. I’d watch the film, and I’m sure the casting in itself will attract both 20 somethings and 40 somethings who were Team Edward. Definitely a flick to look forward to.

  17. Linwood

    Any clues on whether he’ll play the Batman in the Justice League films too, if they bother to make any more? Would be annoying to lose the continuity, but if he’s going to be a younger Batman (which is good) then they sort of already have.

    Get him teamed up with Margot Robbie (in a proper HQ costume please).

  18. Esta Beckham

    Michael Keaton was excellent for that film noir comedy tragedy style.

    Bale was incredible for the serious batman dealing with moral issues and something everyone could relate to.

    The rest of them were basically tongue in cheek. Even Affleck was just a joke really – you could tell he tried to do Christian Bale instead of making the character his own and totally flopped.

    The character needs ZERO reboots. If anything they peaked and now are ruining the image.

  19. Pattinson is a fantastic choice for Batman – he’s a top, top actor, and comes with a ready-made darkness to his person and thus the character – ála Bale. Hopefully WB won’t bugger it up from the get go!

  20. Adam West was the best Batman.

  21. I’m not adverse to this project, seems a decent choice of actor and the focus on a younger Batman/Bruce Wayne is a fresh take – BUT – there needs to be at least a ten year break from any further Batman films. Nolan and Bale smashed it out of the park (apart from Rises) and the less said about the Affleck era the better

  22. Anamaria

    Pattinson was excellent in Good Time, High Life, and The Lost City of Z among other things.

    I’m sure he’ll be good in this, and then use the (I’m assuming) obscene amount of money he makes to work with a few more interesting directors.

  23. Since it was announced, the idea of a Matt Reeves-directed Batman movie has always interested me. Looking at the two ‘Planet of the Apes’ films that he directed as well as a film like ‘Cloverfield’, I found the way that Reeves is able to maintain the feel of a character drama in a setting as outlandish as, say, apes taking over the world has always impressed me. When Robert Pattison was announced as the lead, this, at least in my mind, further solidified that once again Reeves is focusing more on the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne than the icon and extravagance. Robert Pattison has made long strides in his acting career with projects like ‘The Lost City of Z’, ‘High Life’, and ‘Good Time’, where he was able to portray flawed and complex characters, a skill I think will be heavily utilized in his portrayal of Batman.

    My one concern, like yours, is the fan perception. I thought it was an interesting choice for Pattison, who started off in two huge franchise films (Harry Potter and Twilight) and saw the wild nature that fans of such properties can possess, entered a period of smaller, character-driven indie films, gaining acclaim in those roles, to once again return to a franchise with ravenous fans. And in this time of social media where bad perception can greatly hamper the overall promotional-narrative of a project, creatives have to be extremely careful to maintain interest and “virality” around their work. My only hope is that Reeves, Pattison, and the rest of the cast/crew of this film can deliver something that will suffice new and old fans of the dark knight.

  24. Affleck was fine as Batman. The DCXU is a bit of a mess, but that’s hardly his fault any more than its Henry Cavill’s.

    Personally I find the Nolan/Bale films overrated. Bale is a very fine actor, without question, but the trilogy was a long, humourless, one-note dirge.

  25. how doe the new joker franchise impact the future of the character?

  26. Sean Gadus

    My understanding is that currently the Joker film is being presented as a stand alone film, not necessarily connected to the Pattinson Batman in any way. Like a one shot, out of continuity miniseries for comics. That could change if the film is successful but I don’t think the joker film will impact Matt reeves batman film or films. Excellent question though!

  27. Strongly believe Pattinson’s Batman is gonna be great. I think he’s got the acting chops and the look, all that’s needed is the story and proper tone.

  28. This is something I’ve always thought and said when it comes to filmmaking in general, especially in regards to adapting beloved properties. Regardless of how well it ends up turning out, the vision of the director should come first; appeasing fans is a plus, yes, but it shouldn’t be the main focus of making a fictional piece. With so many people that have different ideas and expectations of what something should be, you only risk making even more people unhappy by trying to cater specifically to what certain viewers want.

    That said, I’m really excited to see what Reeves has in store for this iteration of the character. Loved his work on the last two movies in the rebooted Planet of the Apes series- especially Dawn, and am confident that his take on the Batman mythos will be a deeply interesting one.

  29. I really don’t believe Pattisnson can pull it off, and putting Colin Farrell as the Riddler is also a bad call. To me, we got lucky when Christian Bale took on the role of the Dark Knight and Heath Ledger as the Joker. However, it seems the more Hollywood tries to recreate the Batman perosnas, it just gets worse and worse. It’s a shame that the DC universe cannot find an actor who can stay on to do these characters.

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