Robert Pattinson turned up onto Tenet under strict instructions that he wasn’t to tell anyone he had been cast as Batman. He walked onto the stage, only for director Christopher Nolan to congratulate him. “Christopher has the scoop on every Batman project,” Pattinson laughed, recalling the story to Zoë Kravitz. But imagine Pattinson’s horror at that moment when he realised that someone knew when no one in the world was supposed to. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Nolan directed The Dark Knight trilogy, a triumvirate of features that brought the Caped Crusader back from the camp fodder of the Joel Schumacher years. Batman Begins dismantled the mythos; The Dark Knight carried the narrative to harder-edged territories; The Dark Knight Rises offered Bruce Wayne the exit he had spent a lifetime searching for. Nolan cast Welsh actor Christian Bale in the title role, inadvertently starting a trend where British men played these larger than life American heroes. In Bale’s wake, Henry Cavill, Andrew Garfield, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Holland each got to perform comic book characters, abandoning their original accents for clipped American vowels.
Pattinson is the latest British ex-pat to inhabit an American character, although he was understandably anxious, considering that the cowl has been worn by Oscar-winning luminaries Ben Affleck and George Clooney — it wasn’t one he took lightly. “The level of anticipation drives your adrenaline, especially when we have a really long shoot like this that we’re shooting for over a year,” Pattinson recalled.”It seems like Batman is one of the only movies that you just randomly see on Twitter, I just saw yesterday that it was suddenly trending online for absolutely no reason. There is a fan base that is very, very live & very vocal. It’s exciting, in some ways, it’s scary in some ways, but it’s not the conventional way of having to really sell people something”
Clearly, Nolan saw a spark in Pattinson, much as director Matt Reeves did. Reeves was determined not to go over old ground, feeling that the world had seen more than enough films about the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. “We’ve seen a lot of great stories about Bruce Wayne witnessing his parents’ murder,” Reeves said, “and then trying to find a way to cope with that by perfecting himself into Batman. But I wanted to do a story where he’s already been through the origins and does not yet really know exactly how to be Batman”.
The final result, The Batman, is a work of tremendous ambition, invoking the gangster films of the 1930s, with a central lead that recalls Al Pacino’s performance in The Godfather. By the time Batman has completed his mission, there is no celebration, there is no contemplation. There’s only fatigue.
But rather than let the noir wash over the film, like the rain pedalling down on the characters in mid-flow, the film also boasts a stirring use of Nirvana’s favourite ‘Something In The Way’, punctuating the beats with a collection of chiming arpeggios. Pattinson plays the most goth-like Batman to wear the costume. This isn’t someone wearing the facade in an effort to rid himself of the memories of his parents’ murder but on that utilises the memories of their murder to help guide him through the cold, rain-laden nights. The closest the Batman franchise has had to this level of introspection was in The Dark Knight Rises when Alfred (Michael Caine) warns Wayne of the perils of seeking a foe he cannot beat.
Nolan’s trilogy was heavier than the films that came before it, happily breaking many of the rules that had come beforehand. Wayne was forced to watch the woman he loved perish in a fiery building. He showed a hero re-piecing himself together after his back was broken. And he also presented the murder of the Wayne family with little fanfare.
Zack Snyder chose not to ape Nolan with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice or Justice League, but Reeves’ effort returned the central character in the brooding noir milieu that had soaked into the comics. This was less of an escapist feature, as it was an entry into the ascent of darkness.
Only time will tell if Pattinson will be remembered as the greatest Batman of them all, but there’s no denying the commitment he brought to the role, a bravura that was comparable to the performance he gave in Tenet.
Pattinson gave everything to the project, whether it was throwing himself into the den, or absolving himself of the sins that had grown up in his mind. Maybe Nolan could see the potential that Reeves could see when he congratulated Pattinson at a time when Pattinson had yet to reveal his secret identity to the rest of the world.
Stream the interview between Pattinson and Kravitz below.