Unless you’ve been living under a rock, which is sounding more attractive as the news cycles go on, you’ve heard the news. While it is not 100% official just yet, it looks like our next Batman is none other than Robert Pattinson. Yes, I hear the cries of the Internet, not to mention Nicholas Hoult’s agents, but I really want to toss in my two cents on this topic. Can Pattinson pull off the role? Is Batman cancelled forever? Should fans really stop writing petitions over things that don’t matter? Well I didn’t write that clickbait headline for nothing, so let’s dive right in.
Back in 2008, a little movie called Twilight released in theaters, with then-22 year old Robert Pattinson as one of the leads. To be very, very kind to those films, they targeted a difference audience than me. To be honest about those films, they are abjectly terrible in just about every way. They are boring, they are poorly directed, most of the action is lame (the third one has some cool moments), and the “romance” is so poorly written that it’s laughable. And, to be fully honest, Pattinson was terrible in them. There was just no life to his character, and I’ll be kind and say he was sleepwalking through them.
The attention brought to these films meant that Robert Pattinson became an object of equal parts obsession and ridicule for years, marked forevermore as “that dude from Twilight.” I know I personally got a lot of juice mocking him, and most of the time the jokes about his staring or the constipated look he had the whole time were winners. Couple that with his drama off-screen with Kristen Stewart and he was a ripe target for jokes. Eventually I wrote him off as someone who’d made their money and would just disappear, never to stick their brushed-up eyelashes into the public eye again.
A couple years ago I watched this movie called The Rover, an Australian post-apocalyptic Western with Guy Pearce. I’d heard some good things about it and was down to watch, but it wasn’t until I rented the film that I saw who his co-star was. Yes, it was none other than Mr. Pattinson himself, all set and ready for me to mock. I got my popcorn, put in the DVD in and got ready to have a hate watch for the ages. Then something weird happened. Pattinson was not bad at all. In fact, he was good. Like, really good.
Curious about this development, I looked up some other movies he was in besides Twilight. Little Ashes, Water for Elephants, Cosmopolis, and a couple more passed through my hands in the intervening weeks. While some are misfires (Remember Me is offensively bad and Cosmopolis is a snore fest) I was consistently impressed by his talent. In the last three years he has floored me with the one-two-three punch of The Lost City of Z, Good Time, and High Rise, playing three completely different characters and nailing them all. We are talking about a drunk 1900’s explorer, a dangerous and buffoonish street tough, and a future criminal in space, respectively. That is quite a show of range for a guy who only used to be known for the amount of mousse in his hair!
While working with the likes of David Cronenberg and Claire Denis might seem like ploys to appeal to stuffy critics, I have to admit that his career has fascinated me. If you had told me Edward Cullen would be an actor worthy of accolades besides the MTV Movie Awards, I would’ve said you were crazy. But he’s really been on fire ever since Twilight ended, and has done nothing but impress me at almost every turn. Now when I see headlines about Christopher Nolan choosing him for his next film I don’t say, “Oh God, seriously?” It’s more of a “Wow, that’s a great choice!” kind of reaction. And now I find myself defending his casting as Batman of all things!
Look, you might not buy that indie movies means he is a good choice for Batman, so let me say this. What did everyone say when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman? “Oh, it’s him? He was in Daredevil, he’s gonna suck!” Then he jumped on screen and was the brightest spot in the mess that was Batman v. Superman. How about Heath Ledger as the Joker? “What? That fruity little gay cowboy movie guy is the Joker? Screw that!” He won an Oscar for it, though it was sadly a posthumous win, and became one of the best villains in cinematic history. Michael Keaton as Batman? “Mr. Mom? Seriously?” I dare you to find someone who thinks there’s a better on-screen Batman than Michael F’ing Keaton.
To further the point, let’s look at the people who were supposed to be slam dunk casting. Val Kilmer and George Clooney were picture perfect for the role, both handsome and suave and super talented. However, Kilmer was stiff and awkward as Batman, though given how bad the suit was for him, it’s not all that surprising. Clooney has the suave and the grit yet still gave a terrible performance in one of the worst movies ever, almost killing the franchise and his career. Oscar winner Jared Leto as the Joker? How could it go wrong? Well, you saw Suicide Squad, didn’t you? Shouldn’t we finally drop our expectations and give the odd choice an honest chance for once?
Finally, Robert Pattinson’s interest in doing The Batman should build confidence for one good reason: he absolutely does not have to do this movie. He has all the money he’ll ever need, he’s already been dragged through the mud in the media, and he’s seemingly uninterested in pursuing safe and franchise-y roles. So for him to willingly leave the world of indies for one of the most popular characters in existence, putting himself in the line of fire yet again when he doesn’t need to, shows me that there is something in Matt Reeves’ script that really is special. Plus, having the confidence of Matt Reeves should also make us feel better about the idea of Pattinson as the Caped Crusader, because Reeves is a true talent.
I say all of this with one giant caveat: he could absolutely suck in the role and the movie could be terrible. However, with the time Reeves has put into this film already, I can’t believe he chose Pattinson for no good reason. And Robert Pattinson has spent the last ten years putting in the work and paying his dues in the indie world, and has more than shown himself to be a very capable and talented actor. Yes, I’m a Robert Pattinson fan, and an unabashed one at that. I think he can be a terrific Batman, and I can’t wait to see where Reeves and Pattinson take us.