When we think of famous British actors today, most of us will think of Robert Pattinson – after all, he was the heart throbbing young man who stole our hearts in the Harry Potter films. Since then he has gone on to become one of the most popular and in-demand leading men in Hollywood, starring in a string of blockbusters and famous literary adaptations. Now aged 33, he is undoubtedly an established name in the world of acting; however, his latest film, High Life, marks a turning point in his career. Not only is it his first Hollywood film in four years, but it is also the first time he stars in a Batman movie.
The Dark Knight Returns
If you’ve been anywhere near a cinema recently, you will undoubtedly know about the great success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The first of the films, The Dark Knight, was released in 2008 and remains the third highest-grossing movie of all time, with a worldwide total of nearly $2 billion in gross sales. The second part, The Dark Knight Rises, was released a year later and concluded the trilogy of films following the exploits of Batman (played by Christian Bale) as he fights against various nefarious threats to Gotham. It was followed by the hugely popular and critical acclaimed The Dark Knight Part 3 – the ultimate fan-pleaser Joker episode – which was released this year.
The films’ success was undoubtedly helped by the fact that they were based on the great comic books by legendary US author and illustrator, Frank Miller. Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns is considered to be the inspiration for the movies, and it was actually turned into a TV series last year.
This year also saw the premiere of the highly anticipated Suicide Squad film, which sees all of the main players from the comics – Joker (Jared Leto), Harley Quinn (Harley Quarters), Deadshot (Will Smith), Captain America (Chris Evans) and the rest – reuniting on the big screen for the first time in years.
The Grand Tour
While we are on the subject of comic books and their influence on pop culture, let’s not forget about the great British comic book series, The Grand Tour. Described by some critics as ‘the British Harry Potter’, the comic was first published in 2011 and written by Neil Gaiman with art by British artists, Brian Bolland and Steve Dillon. It follows the adventures of Harry Potter as he travels around the world in search of magical creatures and ancient creatures.
The success of the comic saw the publication of two more books in the series, with the most recent instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, being released in July this year. One of the interesting things about this series is how it echoes real-life events that surrounded the author, Neil Gaiman, during the making of the first film. The book was released on the same day as the fifth and final film in the Deathly Hallows series, which was also directed by Michael Goldenberg and written by Jerry Taylor. The novel was released to tie in with the films’ premieres and act as a companion piece to the story, continuing the adventures of Harry Potter on his travels with the help of his friends.
On a more serious note, the Harry Potter films have undoubtedly raised the profile of both Neil Gaiman and the whole of the fantasy genre, as well as that of British cinema. The success of the films saw the author become a well-known and in-demand writer, with his work being adapted into major feature films such as The Hobbit and the upcoming, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Gaiman even wrote the screenplay for Tim Burton’s latest film, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid Legend.
Now we come to the crux of the matter: Robert Pattinson’s decision to appear in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The director had initially approached Alan Moore, who had written the graphic novel The Killing Joke and directed its theatrical adaptation, as he was the original author of the Joker character. Moore turned down the offer due to his commitments to the television series, The Later Years of Doctor Doom. It was only after this that Nolan approached Pattinson about playing the iconic villain. Moore has since stated that he would have taken the role if Pattinson had turned it down.
Pattinson was the first actor to be cast in the role of Batman, which he took on in a briefcase-wearing cameo. He later reprised the role for one scene in The Dark Knight, in which Batman and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) square off against each other in a fight to the death. The scene is one of the most memorable in the entire trilogy.
This was followed by a conspicuous absence in the sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, in which a visibly aged and gravelly-voiced Batman makes only cameo appearances. We later learn that he had suffered a devastating injury in a motorcycle accident during the making of the film. Despite this, the Dark Knight still managed to show up for work every day, often working through the night to complete his assignments. In fact, the image of Batman in his trademark gear, with his unblemished white skin and gleaming, intelligent eyes, remains one of the most iconic portrayals of the character. This is all thanks to the great performance of actor Christian Bale, who not only embodied the physicality of the character but successfully passed on his intensity and magnetism to viewers worldwide.
Rumours persist that a prequel to the film is in the works, with The Dark Knight leading lady, Anne Hathaway, being eyed to star in the film. If this is true, it will be the first time that the character of Catwoman – Val Kilmer’s famed flying feline – has been seen on screen in over 20 years.