After much speculation and reporting, the world finally knows who is playing the legendary Dark Knight in the upcoming film adaptation. And, although many are happy to see the end of another Batman film drought, others feel that the casting decisions reveal a problematic trend in Hollywood.
The actor who will portray Batman in the upcoming movie adaptation is Robert Pattinson, best known for his role as the conflicted and bookish Edward Cullen in the Twilight series. Fans of the popular book series will recognize the similarities between the two character’s personalities, as they are both described as being reserved, intellectual, and extremely private in nature. While it’s never been a problem for the actor to play multiple characters, his role as the titular bat will put his acting skills to the test, as well as his willingness to push his boundaries and showcase new sides of his personality.
Is It Just a Case of Box-Office Trends?
In recent years, Hollywood has shifted its focus to providing more nuanced and interesting characters, rather than just starring in blockbusters or comedy films. Take 2017’s Crazy Rich Asians, for example, which was a surprise success not just because of the story’s popularity but also due to the fact that it was the first major Hollywood film to feature a mostly Asian cast in a leading role for almost 70 years.
It’s a similar story with 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which saw the return of Sir Freddie to the big screen. The biopic tells the story of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the iconic band, with Lucy Boynton portraying the frontwoman’s most challenging role to date. While Mercury is certainly one of the most interesting characters in rock ‘n’ roll history, the film was not only critically acclaimed but also became one of the highest-grossing biopics of all time, earning more than $600 million worldwide.
These kinds of films don’t just cater to audiences but also to critics, who are often more willing to give nuanced and interesting characters the benefit of the doubt. It’s a marked shift from the kind of roles actors like Pattinson are used to playing, which are mostly grounded in either humor or action.
No Laughing Matter
But it’s not just in the realm of film where this trend has manifested itself. Television has seen a similar evolution, with shows like The Crown and its predecessor, King George, providing compelling and interesting leads in period dramas and costume dramas, respectively. And it’s not just limited to lead characters either. The Handmaid’s Tale, Outer Banks, and many more all feature fascinating and complex supporting characters whose stories are just as compelling as those of the lead characters.
This evolution in television and film has largely been a product of changing viewing habits, with audiences more inclined to spend their time and energy on content they find valuable rather than content that is solely driven by box-office results. These changes in favor of more interesting characters and storylines have certainly benefited Hollywood, which has seen a rise in the number of high-profile films and television shows that receive critical and popular acclaim.
Batman’s Past and Future Films
Even films that don’t quite fit the more serious and interesting trend still tend to feature memorable and complex characters and scenes that speak to a wider audience. Take 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, for example. The stand-alone film in the Star Wars universe features Alden Ehrenreich playing the young Han Solo, and while the material is certainly tongue-in-cheek, there is an underlying seriousness to the story, which is the journey of one man and his struggle at finding his place in the world. The film is littered with quotable one-liners and exciting action scenes, but its greatest strength is in its portrayal of Alden Ehrenreich’s character, who is very much a modern day Steve Jobs.
Indeed, if you talk to a film fan, they will almost certainly tell you that the greatest joy in seeing a film is when two or more worlds collide and unexpected connections are made. Be it through comedy, action, or drama, the best films give you a feeling of awe and delight because of their unique storytelling and vibrant characters.
Problems With Bat-Crazy?
While Hollywood has seen this trend towards more interesting and nuanced characters and storylines, it’s important to remember that there are issues that surround this newfound focus on character. Namely, because these are the kind of roles that Pattinson is used to playing, he may not always be able to bring the same level of gravitas to Batman that he did in his role as Edward Cullen. Indeed, this may end up being more of a problem than it is a solution, particularly if Batman consistently ends up being the most interesting and complex character, which seems likely considering the actor’s previous roles.
An Actor’s Actor?
Of course, being the central figure in a cinematic universe doesn’t just belong to one person. With Marvel Studios now owning the film rights to almost all of DC’s major characters, there will be plenty more opportunities for actors to shine as iconic heroes and villains.
While it is always desirable to have an actor play multiple characters, it’s not always easy. Take Robert Downey Jr., who has played both Ironman and the Incredible Hulk over the course of his acting career. While Downey Jr. has an innate ability to play multiple characters, he has also admitted that it’s not always an easy task. “Sometimes you have to pull a mask over your head to play a part,” he once said, as quoted in Vanity Fair. “It’s not always fun to have to play a part, but it’s better than not acting at all.”
Similarly, while we would all love to see Pattinson tackle the dual role of Batman and Bruce Wayne, it may be too much to ask. After all, he has admitted that it’s a role that he finds extremely taxing. “I tried to do a good job but physically…it’s exhausting just being Batman,” he said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I need a vacation.”
With all this in mind, it’s important to keep in mind that we don’t yet know how the upcoming Batman movie will turn out. After all, we’ve never had an actor play the Dark Knight before, so we don’t really have any idea how he will behave or what kind of performance we can expect from him. While it would be wonderful to have an actor of any stature play a character as complex and interesting as Batman, it may not always be possible, and when it doesn’t work out well, we must remember that it’s not always the actor’s fault.