Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

In defence of Robert Pattinson as Batman: why this might not be such a terrible idea

Online petitions are already circulating to remove Pattinson from the role, but we think this could be the 'Twilight' star's Heath Ledger moment

Robert Pattinson in Maps to the Stars. Photo by Daniel McFadden
Robert Pattinson in Maps to the Stars. Photo by Daniel McFadden

There’s been quite a reaction to the announcement that Robert Pattinson could be about to take on the role of Batman, and not all of it has been positive.

Pattinson is best known for his role as the heart throb vampire Edward Cullen in the teen romance Twilight trilogy, and DC fans have not universally warmed to the idea of the sparkly vampire taking on the mantle of the Dark Knight.

Already, multiple petitions have been launched against the casting, including this one which urges Warner Bros not to make the “Batfleck mistake” again, referring to Ben Affleck’s equally unpopular casting as Batman in the Batman v Superman and Justice League films. Affleck had been due to star in and direct the forthcoming The Batman, due in 2021. Affleck instead hung up his cape at the beginning of this year, claiming that he couldn’t “come up with a vision” for the film.

With that decision, writing and directing duties passed on to Cloverfield and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves, who is now seeking his leading man – which is apparently where Pattinson comes in.

Ben Affleck, left, and Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Warner Bros Pictures.
Ben Affleck, left, and Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Warner Bros Pictures.

It should be noted that this news has not yet been confirmed, with other names including Dark Phoenix star Nicholas Hoult and Call Me by Your Name’s Armie Hammer also reportedly in the running, but it is the Pattinson rumours that have fans frothing at the mouth.

Are they being a little harsh though? Of course, Pattinson is best-known for Twilight, but that’s over 10 years ago now, and the actor has used the fame and box-office draw those films gave him as a stepping stone to cherry pick roles in some of the finest indie films of the following decade.

He’s starred in two David Cronenberg films, Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars, co-starred with Charlie Hunnam in the excellent The Lost City of Z, starred in the Palme d’Or-nominated Good Time, and is returning to Cannes this week with Robert Eggers’ follow up to The Witch, The Lighthouse, which premieres today (Sunday 19 May).

He’s also been cast in Christopher Nolan’s top-secret upcoming project. So in essence, Pattinson has essentially gone from sparkly vampire dreamboat to indie darling with minimal fuss.

Robert Pattinson in 'Twilight' as vampire Edward Cullen. Kristen Stewart starred opposite him as Bella.
Robert Pattinson in 'Twilight' as vampire Edward Cullen. Kristen Stewart starred opposite him as Bella.

Furthermore, Pattinson has the box office appeal that DC and Warners are probably likely to require for the role. Tom Holland may have successfully taken on the role of Spiderman as an unknown, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe was already an undeniable success by that point. The jury is still out on the DC equivalent after a couple of disappointing films, and the producers are likely to want to maximise the new Batman’s chances of success.

It’s easy to assume that Twilight had few fans outside of its teenage girl demographic, but the films still pulled in over $3 billion at the box office.

Also, although Pattinson’s best-known role is decidedly “mainstream,” it does at least come with a bit of an edge. Yes, Edward is a teen heart throb, but he also stalked a schoolgirl and constantly fantasised about killing her and drinking her blood. It’s not all rose petals and sparkle, as befits someone stepping into the role of DC’s best-loved split personality. His upcoming work with Christopher Nolan also means he’s well-placed to take top tips from the director of the most successful Batman films to date.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that this fan uproar has happened before – first of all when Nolan cast Heath Ledger as The Joker in his trilogy, and that didn’t seem to go too badly. Ledger’s performance was hugely critically acclaimed and won him a posthumous Oscar.

Then there was the previously noted “Batfleck” incident. In fact, though, although Affleck’s casting was not universally celebrated, his performance was actually one of the highlights of the films he appeared in, despite the mixed reviews of the movies themselves, and brought an unexpected darkness to the character.

Perhaps the petitioners should be a little less harsh? Of course, the news isn’t even news yet, just rumours, albeit from sources close to the usually reliable Variety. There’s still time for the film’s producers to throw a curveball and cast, say Macauley Culkin in the role, so let’s wait and see. Ultimately, whoever lands the role, a new Batman film is always something to look forward to.

Updated: May 19, 2019 04:57 PM

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