We Have a New Best Batman


Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures

Robert Pattinson stars at Batman in the new “The Batman”

Thomas Rice, Editor

When Robert Pattinson was announced as the new Batman, I was unexcited by the prospect. That isn’t to say I necessarily doubted Pattinson’s skills as an actor, as the “Twilight” ridicule had died down by that point, but I just wasn’t sure Pattinson could be convincing as the Dark Knight, considering the last thing I’d really seen him do on the screen was lie on the ground as Jeff Rawle scream-cries “THAT’S MY BOY” at the end of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

So, I was intrigued after Pattinson starred in “Tenet” and probably ended up playing my favorite character in that movie. (To be fair, “Tenet” was directed by Christopher Nolan, who usually views characters less like characters and more as machines to make the plot move and tell the audience a lot of complicated stuff very quickly, and “Tenet” very much epitomizes that concept.)

Then, I watched “The Batman.” And I am wholeheartedly convinced that Pattinson now sits atop the pyramid of live-action Bat-actors, which is an impressive title; there hasn’t really ever been a bad performance of Batman. Even George Clooney did a halfway decent job given that he was impeded by Bat-nipples the entire movie. (Has the impact of those nipples been overblown? Yes. Do I care? No. They had to have made it through several focus groups, and that’s a testament to the utter failure that is humanity.)

I specify “Batman” in this case because of how much time Bruce Wayne spends as his alter ego in “The Batman.” This is probably the biggest strength of the movie, and a huge reason I think it profiles as probably the best “Batman movie” ever, even if it isn’t the best movie featuring Batman, meaning it’s the best adaptation of the character and franchise, even if it doesn’t measure up to the pure cinematic heights of “The Dark Knight.”

The keys to Pattinson’s brilliance as the Caped Crusader lie mostly in subtle details, things that I didn’t necessarily notice immediately, but my impressions of which grew as the movie went on.

Pattinson’s gait is incredibly deliberate in a way no other actor has quite nailed, and you always get the feeling that Batman is an immovable object. There’s a scene that’s shot perfectly as a detective almost walks into Batman, and the camera’s panning completely halts as Batman remains completely resolute.

Pattinson’s voice as Batman, or lack thereof, is another positive. He doesn’t try to create some raspy growl, but he just lowers his voice slightly and adds a little edge to his tone. If there is one issue with Christian Bale’s take, it’s that his voice is like if Tom Waits smoked a lot more. Pattinson’s doesn’t give me sympathy sore throat.

Pattinson can’t get all the credit, though. The writing does him a lot of favors, making Batman truly the central and most engaging character in the movie, as well as providing him a character arc, that of becoming not just a symbol of fear but of hope. Not to rag on Nolan again (to be clear, “The Dark Knight” remains my favorite movie of all time), but his Batman, just like almost all his main characters, is simply hypercompetent, cold, calculating, and utterly lacking in humanity. Matt Reeves’ shows much more humanity, down to the fact that he doesn’t fight all that much, considering he’s in a three-hour-long movie, and mostly uses his investigative skills to take down the Riddler.

Speaking of fighting, I think the movie gave Batman the exact right level of strength relative to his opponents. I like my Batman to be exactly good enough to take down six fully-armed opponents head-on without getting injured. Seven is stretching it, and eight means Batman should be sustaining some serious damage. To Nolan’s credit, Bale had a similar level of strength. Ben Affleck’s Batman had too much ability; he could take out forty goons without breaking a sweat. It would take a ten kiloton nuke to kill Adam West’s Caped Crusader. (That’s a joke, obviously. Nothing could kill the originator of the Batusi.) Pattinson’s Batman takes hits while beating destitute gang members senseless, and that’s key. He is only a man, but he possesses the strength and willpower to get the better of anyone else.

Then there’s everything else, which I will go through in rapid succession.

The Batsuit: Very DIY and utilitarian-looking; rad.

The Batmobile: Insanely rad.

Alfred (he counts as part of Batman, too, because I want him to): Different, but interesting and well-acted.

Wayne Manor: Nonexistent, this is sad, even though the tower is rather cool.

Gadgets: I like the spy-type equipment used, though I am slightly dismayed that the grapnel gun is basically just used as a gun.

Relationship with Gordon: Oh man, absolutely better than ever.

Ability to solve riddles: Borderline superhuman, he is unreasonably quick at several of these, so much so that I think he might have found a Quizlet online with all the answers or something.

Moodiness: Turned up way past 11, this guy must have The Cure and Joy Division playing at all times when he isn’t listening to “Something in the Way.”

“The Batman” will almost certainly print money like every Batman movie before it, so we’re bound to see at least a couple of sequels, and I’m ecstatic to see Pattinson continue to excel. I hope he’s Batman forever, and also that the movies are better than “Batman Forever.”