So, Robert Pattison as Batman.
By far the single biggest news announcement of the month. Yes, even beyond the recent resignation of Theresa May. This initially innocuous announcement – as broken by Variety on May the 16th – has since transformed into a water-cooler-dominating-pitchfork-raising-behemoth of a story. Wherever you were on May the 16th, on whatever social media platform, the announcement was unavoidable. Venomous vitriol quickly saw to flood social media, by way of the thousands upon thousands of comments from the angry hordes, all directed at the 33-year-old British actor at the centre of it all.
So, just who is Robert Pattison anyway?
If you’re response is simply – “that sparkly guy from Twilight” – then I’ve got some bad news for you. In the seven years since the last instalment of the franchise was released, Pattison has made a marked attempt to distance himself from the series, and from the roles that would be expected from him, as a young, attractive star. This meant no more straight-to-DVD (if that is still even a thing) romcoms, and instead, a different approach. A shift toward lower-budgeted independent films, starting properly with 2012’s ‘Cosmopolis’, released months before the infamous final instalment of the ‘Twilight’ series, was the first indication of Pattinson’s long-term attempt to insure himself from the inevitable Hollywood ostracisation that was to come.
‘Cosmopolis’ was directed by none other than the legendary David Cronenberg, responsible for such body-horror staples as 1981’s ‘Scanners’, 1983’s ‘Videodrome’ and 1986’s ‘The Fly’, along with similarly acclaimed crime-thrillers ‘A History of Violence’ and ‘Eastern Promises’, both led by Viggo Mortensen. While perhaps not the critical success that Pattison may have been hoping for (though still not quite so maligned as that may suggest) ‘Cosmopolis’ was the first sign that Pattison was willing to take risks, and to pursue roles that were not expected of him. Pattinson would once again go on to reunite with Cronenberg in 2014’s ‘Maps to the Stars’, which also starred comparative veterans of the industry, Julianne Moore and Robert Cusack.
Later in 2014, Pattinson would give an electric performance in David Michôd’s (Animal Kingdom, War Machine) ‘The Rover’ – a performance that has since been quoted years later by supporters as being one of his best. This standard continued well into the next few years, thanks to smaller-yet-still-acclaimed films such as 2016’s ‘The Lost City of Z’, directed by James Grey, 2017’s ‘Good Time’ (cover image) directed by brothers Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, and most recently ‘High Life’, by director Claire Denis, which released in May 2018 here in the UK.
Pattinson’s performance as Connie Nikas in The Safdie Brothers’ ‘Good Time’ was the moment when it all clicked for me. I no longer saw Robert Pattinson. I only saw Connie Nikas, and when an actor dissolves into a role, and when you can only see their character, is when you come to learn to appreciate their talent.
But now, onto the complaints.
One of the most hilarious criticisms that I have seen levelled at Pattison’s casting is that he is far too “pretty” to play Bruce Wayne. Too pretty? To play the stereotypically square-chiselled billionaire playboy? In all fairness, this argument does have some footing – especially since Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck were all quite so horrifyingly ugly under the cowl. Another complaint raised is as equally laughable: “He isn’t fit enough to be Batman!”
How can people still believe this? Or at the very least, type it out with a straight face? Haven’t you learned anything from the so-called ‘Marvel’ diet? From Chris Pratt? From Chris Evans? Pattinson isn’t exactly in terrible shape to begin with, either. In regards to the curse of Edward Cullen, Pattison himself has recognised it, and has moved on. He is at peace with his role within the series – which almost a full decade later is causing legions of bitter 20-30 year old men – who are now well outside the series’ target demographic to begin with – to shake their fists in unjustified anger. They say history repeats itself, and the endless words from those unable to give Pattinson a chance echo the thousands upon thousands of detractors that responded to the casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker on July the 31st, 2006.
Almost word for word, unwarranted, tasteless jokes, including that Ledger was far too ‘pretty’ for the character, followed. Relentless homophobia, following Ledger’s role in ‘Brokeback Mountain’, the year before, fuelled fan campaigns to recast the actor. Even the studio behind the film (Warner Brothers) didn’t fully agree with director Christopher Nolan’s decision to cast the then 25-year-old Australian as the Clown Prince of Crime, as ‘Dark Knight’ co-writer Jonathan Nolan explained to The Hollywood Reporter at a special roundtable event in July 2018:
“When I wrote The Dark Knight, Chris (Nolan) had to figure out how we’d tackle the Joker. Chris had a good meeting with Heath Ledger. And no one got it — I didn’t get it, the studio didn’t get it. And the fan community was … we were fucking pilloried for it. “Disaster, worst casting decision ever!” Chris just stuck to his guns. It was a question of not giving the fans what they’re asking for but what they want — which is, “Let’s find a really fuckin’ serious actor, somebody who’s going to come in and just tear this role to pieces.”
In almost all mediums, Bruce Wayne – the man – is as much the mask as the pointy-eared cowl is. A hollow facade, with the sole intent of driving prying eyes far from suspicion. Ironically, in one particular story, in a medium that I won’t specify (to avoid spoilers) Batman is publicly unmasked for the world to see, and the criminals of Gotham simply can’t seem to believe it. Bruce Wayne? That guy is a sissy, he couldn’t scare anyone! Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Alright, so you’ve got this far into the article and you still aren’t convinced. So, who is the director behind the lens of Pattinson’s first foray into the superhero genre? Matt Reeves.
If you aren’t familiar, Reeves is behind two of the films from the recent ‘Planet of the Apes’ trilogy – both of which are highly critically acclaimed and commercially successful. The first of which – ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ – just so happens to be one of my favourite films. He also directed ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ – another commercial and critical darling – which deftly managed to maintain tension with both an extremely limited cast of characters, and just one central location. Reeves is also clearly a fan of the character, with an excerpt from a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter showcasing how Reeves wants nothing more than to return the Caped Crusader to his detective-serial roots:
“It’s very much a point of view-driven, noir Batman tale. It’s told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional. It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films. The comics have a history of that. He’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and that’s not necessarily been a part of what the movies have been. I’d love this to be one where when we go on that journey of tracking down the criminals and trying to solve a crime, it’s going to allow his character to have an arc so that he can go through a transformation.”
If you still remain unconvinced by Pattinson’s casting, then at the very least, reserve some hope for Reeves, who already has a fair number of critical darlings under his utility belt. But, let’s be honest – who actually cares? Why bother looking into something? Why bother reading this? Why look into anything? Why not just take everything at face value? It sure is easier! The principle is important here.
“Chris Pratt? You mean the fat guy from Parks and Recreation?! How the hell is that guy going to lead the Guardians of the Galaxy?! He isn’t nearly fit enough to play him! Starlord in the comics is… he’s… he’s muscular… and blonde!”
“You seen him recently? He was in Moneyball… lost a whole ton of weight… he can really act!”
“Nah… I don’t buy it. Chris Pratt is a (insert cheap, unwarranted insult here) – this film is ruined. Ruined!”