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Is Robert Pattinson's 'The Batman' The Best Take on the Caped Crusader Yet?

Robert Pattinson's 'Batman' is starkly different from the other portrayals.

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Cinema
4 min read
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There have been plenty of Batman films in recent times, too many, if you ask me, but there is something magnetic about this masked vigilante, who painstakingly keeps his morality in check, while we keep coming back for more. Never mind that he often gets the definitions of vengeance and justice all botched up in his head.

And this stands especially true for Matt Reeves’ more recent instalment, The Batman (2022). Reeves’ Batman, portrayed by Robert Pattinson, is a much younger but nevertheless broody dark knight who plods through the corrupt streets of Gotham city, figuring his way around. Unlike his predecessors, who were more self-assured, Pattinson’s Batman glowers but, more often than not, staggers while he doggedly searches for his inner purpose.

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This is not to say that Christopher Nolan's Batman did not falter- his moral compass was all over the place at the beginning of Batman Begins (2005). But he became more ideologically sound after the first half of the film. In other words, he knew the difference between vengeance and justice.

Ben Affleck's take on Batman, unfortunately or fortunately, was more of a long-drawn exposition for the Justice League who hopefully knew the difference between the two words. Yet Affleck’s Batman failed to have any pronounced impression because his films were bowed down by the weight of crossovers and cosmic chaos.

Interestingly, Pattinson’s Batman also saw a shift in characterisation. He was more of a detective than a rich man with snazzy gadgets. A man who is astute while simultaneously ready for combat. On the other end, Christian Bale’s Batman had a team that enabled him to become the symbol he desired to be. He was primarily the muscle – using the gadgets Fox creates while Gordan found the leads. But he was also a fascinatingly resilient caped crusader – who could not only take on criminals but also morph into whatever Gotham needed him to be.

Robert Pattinson's 'Batman' is starkly different from the other portrayals.

Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale in the sets of Dark Knight Rises.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

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Affleck, unfortunately, was too busy being sidelined by Superman to have any noticeable impact. And with good reason. Henry Cavil’s Superman had previously helmed Man of Steel (2013) and had a sliver of a connection with the audience before he was pitted against Batman.

To that end, Affleck’s Batman fought Superman in his introductory film and then revived him in the next. He was a much older man with a past. Most of which we were unaware of except for the basics. Snyder made certain that we were tangentially aware of his origin story – anything more and we’d take away screen time from Superman – or any other superhero for that matter.

Robert Pattinson's 'Batman' is starkly different from the other portrayals.

Still from 'Batman v/s Superman: Dawn of Justice' 

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

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Reeves’ film also marked a change in tonality. By tapping into Batman's private-eye roots, the treatment of the film became more neo-noir. The shadows, the darkness and the existential core – made the film horrific rather than heroic.

Yet Batman has seldom been dubbed a hero – he was always anything but. Pattinson’s Batman is even less so with his chalk-white skinny figure and emo get up. Although it’s Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne that comes across as a befuddled boy in search of guidance – his Batman is generally busy crime-solving. But they are the same people – no matter how disarmingly different.

Robert Pattinson's 'Batman' is starkly different from the other portrayals.

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne 

(Photo: Twitter)

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On the other end, Bale’s Bruce Wayne was always busy performing the role of a dumb playboy. A ruse that he stuck to till the very end. And it's difficult to ascertain who he was when he didn’t don a mask or wasn’t play-acting as a philanderer.

Nolan’s films were triumphs because of his stellar villains. And Bale’s character was so sure-footed in each film that he needed supervillains to throw him off course – Nolan managed that superbly.

Pattinson was bubbling with emotional turmoil, and although astute, he was still testing the waters. But his take is so starkly different from the rest – from his eyeliner to his vigorous journal writing – he comes off as moody rather than threatening. Especially for the audience who are well aware of his billionaire-recluse roots.

But does a different take on Batman make it better? The 1997 Batman and Robin had also attempted to make a different, breezier version of Batman – and that film was a travesty. Reeves choose to go back to Batman’s neo-noir origins, with Gotham’s grime and dinginess – making the city into a character – which feels like a true win for the film. It’s a gnarly take with an unsure protagonist.

Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman is more sure of what she is doing than Batman. And yet his creepy-crawly characterization with ambiguous morals is endearing. His incessant pouting and scowling almost seem like a throwback to his Twilight days – and that makes the 13-year-old in me very proud.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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