Robert Pattinson’s new film, The Lighthouse, co-stars Christian Bale as the titular character’s uncle. What was once an “opposites attract” scenario is now a battle of co-stars, as Bale and Pattinson vie for screen time and draw crowds to cinemas across the world.
The question is: Does The Lighthouse mark the beginning of the end for Bale and Pattinson, or is it a bump in the road?
Here, we’ll explore the tumultuous history between these two Hollywood legends, as well as the unique dynamics of their latest collaboration.
Robert Pattinson’s Road to Fame
Let’s fast-forward to the present day. After years of struggling to establish himself in Hollywood, Robert Pattinson achieved major movie stardom with the 2014 release of The Rover. The film, based on the bestselling novel by John James, centres on a man who must overcome his own demons to protect a vulnerable young woman (played by Rooney Mara). The film went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time, not adjusted for inflation.
It was a landmark film, not just because of its unprecedented success at the box office – it became the highest-grossing film up to that point that wasn’t based on a video game – but because it broke Hollywood’s long-held “video game movie taboo.” The game industry had been struggling to gain respect in Hollywood ever since the release of Tomb Raider in 2012, and now it had a major event to look back upon.
Pattinson’s film success was soon followed by a slate of blockbuster projects. He currently stars in X-Men: Apocalypse and will appear in the forthcoming superhero film Dark Phoenix alongside his The Rover co-star Jennifer Lawrence.
Christian Bale’s Road to Redemption
While Pattinson was enjoying the spoils of Hollywood, Christian Bale was struggling to make it as an actor. After several smaller films and TV appearances, Bale finally established himself in Hollywood alongside his co-stars in 2005’s Batman Begins. This was the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between Bale and director Christopher Nolan, who would go on to make a number of critically-acclaimed and box-office successful films together. As Bale’s Hollywood profile rose, so did his status as a leading man – he now regularly plays the baddie in blockbusters.
In 2018 alone, Bale starred in films such as Vice, American Sniper, Black or White, and The Farewell. He’ll next be seen in Bright, which is set for a 10 June 2019 release.
Although they’ve worked together for more than a decade, it wasn’t until The Lighthouse that we got to see how much of a dynamic duo Bale and Pattinson could be. The film is the English actor’s third collaboration with Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese – their previous films, Killing Pablo and the Netflix special The Irishman, have both been hit movies, with many critics hailing Scorsese’s work as one of the greatest directorial debuts in film history. In The Lighthouse, Bale plays an embezzling businessman who befriends a talented young lighthouse-keeper (Pattinson). Despite their very different upbringings – Bale’s character is an ex-boxer, while Pattinson’s is the product of a privileged education – they discover they have a lot in common and become companions on the road to redemption.
What’s fascinating about The Lighthouse is the way it humanises these two Hollywood heavyweights. One of the defining elements of Martin Scorsese’s previous films is his interest in showcasing the struggles of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. With The Lighthouse, we see that fascination translated into an ensemble drama about the friendship between a man and a boy, as well as the unique bonds that exist between men and women – the film also prominently features the talents of Willem Dafoe and Kaya Uchida, who play the other lighthouse-keepers.
It’s always fascinating when Hollywood greats go head to head. Even when they’re on the same team (such as Bale and Pattinson in The Lighthouse), it’s still a fight for screen time. As we’ve established, Robert Pattinson is no stranger to stardom. He’s been in the limelight for years, and he now has the opportunity to go head to head with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Christian Bale, in a number of high-profile films.
How much screen time will Bale get? Well, it’s not like he hasn’t been asking for it. Despite his success, Bale is still regularly typecast as the baddie in blockbusters. Even in this pivotal role in The Lighthouse, Bale is more often than not the one who instigates the action. It’s no surprise that the English actor is so frequently cast as the antagonist – given his work as an actor, it’s clear that he would relish the chance to embody the role of the baddie.
The Lighthouse: A Tale of Two Cities
As with most Scorsese films, the plot of The Lighthouse is rather rudimentary. Two men, one older, the other younger, form an unlikely friendship after they both end up at the same remote lighthouse in Ireland. It’s there that they discover that they have more in common than friendship, and from that point on, the story takes a rather predictable turn.
What’s interesting about The Lighthouse is that it explores the concept of friendship, not just between men, but also between men and women. It’s a theme that Scorsese has explored in lesser detail throughout his previous works, but never in such grandiose fashion. It’s a film that’s as much about the power of male camaraderie as it is about the redemption of two lead characters.
One of the most prominent and touching sequences in The Lighthouse involves Bale and Pattinson playing ping pong with their bare hands. Yes, it’s absurd, but also extremely charming and something that both men obviously have a lot of fun doing. Even when they’re facing off with each other with their paddles, there’s still a bond of friendship between the two leading men. They may be on different paths to redemption, but even when they’re at their lowest points, they’re still able to see the humour in the situation – and each other’s company on the journey back.
What’s more, throughout the film, Scorsese subtly pushes the audience to consider the question of what constitutes friendship and the qualities that make for a meaningful connection. For example, a major theme of The Lighthouse is loyalty – both men have these qualities in abundance, but being loyal to someone isn’t always easy. Scorsese wants us to question what we consider to be “fair” competition, and encourages us to ask if there are any strings attached to the friendship that forms between Bale and Pattinson.
Let’s fast-forward a little further than we did before. After The Lighthouse, Robert Pattinson became an overnight sensation, and his newfound celebrity attracted the attention of the press. It was a case of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” as the actor famously said about his newfound fame. Even today, we’re only just beginning to see the benefits of Pattinson’s decision to embrace his sudden notoriety – his upcoming projects include not only Scorsese, but also the thriller Una Noche Más, the period piece The Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the family drama The Way Back. Most recently, Pattinson lent his voice to the role of Dr. Doom in 2019’s Skullduggery, an animated take on Doctor Strange set for release on November 7th, 2019.