For the longest time, Christian Bale’s Batman in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy” was touted as the best live-action iteration of the character. Sure we enjoyed Michael Keaton’s manic performance and Val Kilmer did a decent job. George Clooney though…now that was humiliating. Then out of nowhere, we get “Batman Begins”. A bold, more grounded take on the character. One that explored the mechanics of crime-fighting, the politics of Gotham and the ethos of the character. From there, Nolan began deconstructing the notion comic book films in 2008’s “The Dark Knight”. A film that many (us included) saw at the time as the pinnacle of comic book films.
Next to perhaps Kevin Conroy from the “Batman: The Animated Series”, Bale was our Batman. Ben Affleck did a valiant job but his characterisation was a bit off. Namely the part where he mows people down with machine guns. Truly a morally conflicted character. Oh yes, Bale was the one and only true Dark Knight but after seeing Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” with Robert Pattinson under cowl, we’re not so sure anymore. As much as we love Nolan’s films, they were not without their issues. Issues that director Matt Reeves could address in his future films.
1. Matt Reeves’ Direction
Christopher Nolan’s oeuvre can best be described as thematic and conceptual showcases. The moment the director gets hold of an idea that captures his attention, nothing else matters. Which can be at times a detriment. Controversial, we know but there were moments in “The Dark Knight” in which Batman seemed like a secondary character to the things happening around him. His finale to the trilogy “The Dark Knight Rises” was a disappointment for us in terms of how Nolan concluded Bruce Wayne’s character arc. The romance between Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul was rushed and the romance between Batman and Catwoman was rushed.
Director Matt Reeves too can balance weighty ideas of politics, human nature and even religion except he doesn’t’ have sacrifice character development in pursuit of his v. His “Planet of the Apes” trilogy in our mind is an immaculate masterpiece with a powerful character arc for Caesar. He did that for a bloody ape! Now imagine what he could do with “The Batman”. Moreover, it’s Matt Reeves’ auteur vision for Batman that cements our confidence. He isn’t interested in trying to create the next big blockbuster, he wants to create something intimate and visceral. So do we think Reeves could craft a more rounded and dynamic transformational arc for Robert Pattinson’s Batman than Nolan? His track record seems to imply so.
2. Robert Pattinson’s Performance
There’ll always be people out there who will doubt Pattinson’s calibre as an actor due to his days in the “The Twilight Saga”. To them we say that they clearly have not done their research. The man’s career is impressive to say the least. In films like 2017’s “Good Time” and 2019’s “The Lighthouse”, he’s shown that he’s able to play damaged and downright scary characters. In Netflix’s “The King”, he’s shown to be able to balance menace, charisma and humuor. Seriously, go watch “The King” today because his performance there was amazing! Nolan has a very idealised vision of Bale’s Batman. Even when his Batman is forced to engage with the darker elements of his world, he meets it with near-perfect deontological clarity.
One aspect that director Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson understands about the character, better than Nolan in some regard, is Bruce Wayne’s psychology. Dressing up like an armoured bat and stalking criminals is insane behaviour! The vigilante trope has been so normalised in our culture that we forget that sometimes. This mental nuance is not lost on Pattinson. He describes his Batman as “crazy and perverse”. So if you’re expecting to see the noble, clear-minded dark crusader of Nolan’s films, then you’re in for a shock. This is an unhinged individual battling against other demented criminals. A role that Pattinson is far more tailored to do than actor Christian Bale.
3. The Fight Choreography
Christian Bale had really put in the work to fit the role of Batman. By sheer will and determination, he became the benchmark for what a fit Batman should look like. That being said, there were moments in which Batman’s physicality didn’t quite match the way he fought in battle. Don’t believe us? Go watch 2008’s “The Dark Knight” and tell us you don’t see those awkward jolts in the way Batman throws punches and parries. You don’t really notice this in light of the big picture but it becomes glaring when you pay attention to the way hits and connections are set up. Admittedly, the fight choreography did improve in “The Dark Knight Rises” but there’s a still a sense of constructedness to the melees.
Where’s the raw power? Where’s the fury? Well, we’ve got news for you, Pattinson’s Batman has that and in spades. The recent trailer dropped at DC’s Fandome event revealed a Batman full of wrath and rage. There are scenes in the trailer in which people were genuinely terrified of how far Batman’s willing to beat down on someone. Even Catwoman looked concerned at one point. Pattinson brings a frightening intensity to the way his Batman moves and attacks. Simply put, he fights like a man possessed, which is perfectly in line with Pattinson’s portrayal. A man becoming a monster to fight monsters. It’s time we had a scary Batman.
4. The Batsuit
Christian Bale’s Batsuit is easily one of the most iconic batsuits of all time. The way the plated kevlar is split into individual pieces instead being part of a rubbery whole was an inspired choice. Finally, a live-action Batman that can turn his head around! The jet black colour scheme to match his ninja training in stealth makes tactical sense. The redesign of the Bat symbol from one with garish wings and pointed ears to this sleak, clean emblem also gave the Bat a functional template for a shuriken. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the design. It comes with a few trade-offs though. As Lucius Fox mentioned in “The Dark Knight”, his suit uses kevlar, making him more mobile but also vulnerable to bullets and knives. All in all, it’s a good compromise between the classic rubber suits of the past and modern motorcycle armour.
However, this new Batsuit is magnificent. Reeves has completely ditched the rubbery homage and went full modern. In lieu of separate kevlar pieces, we get sheets of metal plates that fold from the chest to the rest of the torso. The helm is far more stripped down with it only covering the top half of his head instead of wrapping around his cheeks, adding a grizzled edge to the man behind the mask. Then there’s that metal Bat symbol. That worn-out, metallic emblem that barely resembles the icon. As if its still in its early stage of conception, much like our new Dark Knight himself. We’ve yet to see the full arsenal that Pattinson’s suit has on display but one thing we can say is that it is definitely bullet-proof! We love Batsuits that tell a story and we’ve gotta say that Pattinson’s tells an intriguing one.
5. The Voice
Alas, we come to the most memeable part of Nolan’s Batman films: that darn, chain-smoker voice. We get that Bruce Wayne can’t just use his regular voice when he’s out on the prowl. He has to change his pitch and cadence to mask his true identity. The raspy voice that he employs is a bit of a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it sounds intimidating when spoken softly, like a wolf growling in the dark. When Batman has to project his voice, there are moments when it sounds like he’s gargling a bowl of marbles. Again, in the context of the phenomenal writing and plot, it barely registers. On its own though, we can’t help but chuckle a little whenever we hear “swear to me!”.
Pattinson’s Bat-voice sounds like a toned down version of Bale’s hoarsed growl. In the trailers we’ve seen, Pattinson too has a slight growl in his voice. The difference here is that it doesn’t sound strained, it’s a little more natural and therefore allows for Pattinson to be comfortable when he needs to turn up the dramatic intensity. The only surefire way to judge his Bat-voice would be to hear it when he code-switches to his public persona, Bruce Wayne. Nonetheless, you have to admit that “I’m vengeance” line in trailers did light a fire in your heart.
So which Batman are you rooting for? Christian Bale or Robert Pattinson? Maybe you’re an oddball and you think Ben Affleck’s Batman is the best. In any case, be sure to let us know in the comments and to check out “The Batman” when it hits theaters on March 4th 2022!
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