The actor’s credentials give hints as to what kind of Bruce Wayne filmmaker Matt Reeves is crafting.
“Yes, Matt Reeves. I shall become a bat.” That’s what the director of The Batman is hoping he’ll hear soon. On Thursday it was reported that the shortlist for the next Caped Crusader has been narrowed down, with Robert Pattinson being the frontrunner ahead of X-Men star Nicholas Hoult. While Pattinson has yet to sign the dotted line, it sounds likely that he’ll be donning the cape and cowl. Pattinson, who broke out in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), and became a Hollywood superstar with the Twilight franchise, has come a long way from his days as a YA heartthrob. The actor has shown off his skills with two David Cronenberg films, Cosmopolis (2012) and Maps to the Stars (2014), and made a mark on the indie film circuit with The Lost City of Z (2016), Good Time (2017) and High Life (2018). Still to come are his roles in The Witch director Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, Antonio Campos’ thriller The Devil All the Time, and Christopher Nolan’s untitled event feature. Adding The Batman to the list would only flesh out an already dynamic résumé. Pattinson’s credentials give us a better idea of what Matt Reeves is looking for in his Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Reeves has previously discussed his vision for The Batman, which includes a character-driven mystery that gives deeper insight into the 80-year-old character. Reeves spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the film in January where he said “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 going to allow his character to have an arc so that he can go through a transformation.”
The detective aspect of Batman has been little utilized on film, but based on Reeves’ description, I’m expecting a Batman who lives up to the moniker of World’s Greatest Detective. This notion of a character looking inward while facing an outward mystery seems to fit very well with Pattinson’s recent career choices. He’s built up a repertoire of playing emotionally damaged, highly intelligent characters. And there’s little doubt that the actor can bring an intensity to the role that we’ve come to expect from the character.
At 33, the actor is 13 years younger than previous Batman, Ben Affleck. Preceding and following Affleck’s departure, it was rumored that Reeves was looking to go young with the character, with some sites reporting as low as early 20s. But between film and television, we’ve had enough nascent Batman stories and none could be expected to live up to Nolan’s Year One-inspired Batman Begins (2005). Assuming Reeves’ film sticks with the established status quo of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman in his early to mid-20s, then a Batman in his early 30s puts some experience under the character’s utility belt. While it was unfortunate that we never got to see Affleck’s older Batman face off against a fully established rogues gallery, hopefully Pattinson’s casting will allow for Batman to have already squared off against a number of adversaries. Also, it’s about time Robin got the spotlight in contemporary film, and with a closer adherence to the comics of the past 30 years. It’s easy to believe a Batman in his mid-30s could have a partner in his late teens or early 20s. While I’m not expecting Batman’s sidekick to show up in The Batman, hopefully there’s room for him in the future.
It’s interesting that the shortlist seems to have come down to Pattinson and Hoult, given that the two talented actors have markedly different presences as performers. There’s inarguably a bit more menace and strangeness in Pattinson’s acting choices, a mystique that fits a contemporary Batman always on mental break, while Hoult exhibits a more optimistic and classically heroic look that leans closer to the Batman of the ’70s. While they’re within the same age range, the 29-year-old Hoult has already made his mark on the superhero film landscape as Hank McCoy aka Beast in four X-Men films, including the upcoming Dark Phoenix. Pattinson has yet to break into the costume gig and that novelty, among the aforementioned attributes, may be what’s giving him the edge.
If Pattinson does take the oath to become the Bat, I expect it will be a long-term commitment. While it’s unknown whether The Batman will have any ties to the larger DC film universe, especially now that Warner Bros. is invested in individual franchises, there’s certainly a hope that audiences would eventually see him cross paths with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and other colorful characters. For now, it looks like the long legacy of the Batman is in very capable hands.