One vital thing to consider regarding Robert Pattinson’s turn as the Caped Crusader is that he will be the first actor to take on the role who has only known life with Batman as a massive blockbuster film franchise.
For comparison, our two most recent Batmans — Christian Bale and Ben Affleck — were well into their teens when Tim Burton’s Batman was released in 1989. Pattinson, meanwhile, was still a toddler.
(Also, remember “Batman” is a proper name, so it is pluralized as “Batmans.” You don’t say “Sony Walkmen” or “Mickey Mice.” This is the hill I will die on. Although you can always feel free to use the collective noun for multiple Batmans: A chum. A chum of Batmans.)
Getting back to Robert Pattinson — Battinson, even — I think his age in relation to the dawn of Batman’s decades-long big-screen dominance could have a major impact on how he approaches the character. For all the actors who preceded him in the role, Batman was a comic book character first. One that needed to be elevated or adjusted or adapted in some way to fit the big screen. For Pattinson, Batman has always belonged in film. I think this will translate to a much more vulnerable portrayal of the character we all know so well.
The Batman writer and director Matt Reeves has previously said the upcoming film will show us a Batman entering his second year on the job (and hopefully save us from watching the Waynes get gunned down in Crime Alley again). So we know Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne will still be adjusting to life as a vigilante wading through Gotham’s criminal underworld.
Reeves has also named a bit of a surprising comic book inspiration for the movie’s version of Batman: Darwin Cooke’s Ego.
“For me, I think one of the cool deep dive ones was Ego. He’s confronting the beast that is Batman and it’s that kind of duality,” Reeves said during a DC Fandome panel in 2020. “There’s a lot in what it’s trying to do in the story about him confronting the shadow side of himself and the degree to which you have self-knowledge.”
As Cooke explains in his introduction to Ego, the 2000 graphic novel proposes a simple premise: “What if Bruce Wayne and Batman were able to sit down and talk about what it is they do? Are they the same person? Completely different personas? Two sides of the same coin?”
The book opens with a wounded and traumatized Batman ending another killing spree carried out by the Joker. He questions whether he’s grown too numb to all the bloodshed. He has not.
In pursuit of an informant, Batman learns that the man who ratted on the Joker killed his own family rather than allowing them to fall into the hands of a homicidal clown out for revenge. Dazed and guilt-ridden, Batman returns to his cave before entering into a fiery debate with a monstrous version of himself.
If you’re familiar with Pattinson’s previous films, this should sound like a familiar scenario: a unproven young man determined to make it in an unforgiving environment, trapped alone with a beastly companion to debate his weakening grip on sanity.
Yep. It’s The Lighthouse.
Pattinson’s performance is a compelling depiction of a man looking to overcome his own descent into madness through sheer force of will. As an actor, he doesn’t seem concerned with vanity, which is good considering his rise to fame as a Twilight heartthrob. We don’t necessarily need a sparkly Batman.
Instead what we need is a Batman willing to examine just how disturbed and unhealthy his motivations actually are. We need to acknowledge that Batman is vulnerable and fearful and all those horrible bits of humanity that Pattinson expressed in The Lighthouse. Except maybe with less nautically themed chronic masturbation and sea shanties.
Actors portraying Batman have spent so much time building up the character, making him more and more mythical, because it seemed necessary to fit the big screen. But that’s an outdated way of thinking. Batman can be just as personal and intimate as any other character in film.
This time we need a different sort of hero. One who’s in over his head. One who doesn’t know if he’s really making a difference or if he’s even still aware of what right and wrong really are.
Pattinson’s Batman doesn’t need to have all the answers because we want to see him figure it out. It was this level of mystery and self doubt that made The Lighthouse such an intriguing and uncomfortable character study. Now it’s time for the new Batman to turn that same razor-sharp introspection on one of our most tortured and psychologically conflicted heroes.
If you want to go back to Tim Burton’s Batman, Michael Keaton said it best as a performatively unhinged Bruce Wayne: “You wanna get nuts? Come on. Let’s get nuts!”