It was only a matter of time before celebrities in Hollywood began to make their way to the big screen in an attempt to cash in on the success of the current superhero movie craze. Following in the footsteps of Will Smith, who first adapted his role as a rapper to join forces with director Christopher Nolan on a new generation of superhero films, is none other than the enigmatic and talented Robert Pattinson, fresh on the heels of his role as Cedric Diggory in the recent mega-hit Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Based on the graphic novel series of the same name by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’ charts the exploits of the Dark Knight as he navigates a universe of super-villains and deadly traps set by the infamous gangster, Ra’s Al Ghul (Al Paciński).
Taking inspiration from the grandiose entrance set by the Joker in the 1989 classic, Joker, the film opens with a beautifully shot, action-packed battle between Batman (Pattinson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Paciński). The former is played by the English actor in a full-body wetsuit, while the latter is dressed in a classic trench coat and sporting a luxuriously thick head of hair designed by Gucci.
Biting back at the suggestion that he takes his superhero persona lightly, Batman states: “I don’t get surprised at anything anymore. I’ve seen too many bad things”. A bleak outlook on life, perhaps, but a fitting one for a man who has seen far worse during his years of patrolling the streets of Gotham City.
The Dark Knight has always been known for his impeccable taste in weaponry, and this trend continues in Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’. From the classic Batsuit with utility belt to his trusty firearm, this character is seemingly well-equipped for any situation.
The Making Of A Legend
The idea for a Robert Pattinson film based on Batman was first proposed in 2014, when the Wrap reported that the actor was in talks for the part. Then, in February of this year, Variety revealed that Pattinson had officially signed on for the role, making him the first English-speaking actor to don the Batsuit since it was created in 1940.
With filming set to begin later this year, let’s take a look behind the scenes of this highly anticipated superhero team-up.
Although he has played the character for over 75 years, Batman will be making his big screen debut in a movie directed by a relative newcomer to the industry, Jerôme Chevaillard, who previously helmed the critically acclaimed documentary, Les Misérables, about the rise of Jean-Paul Belmondo in the French criminal underworld. (No relation to Al Paciński.)
Adapting a script by David Ganson, Chevaillard and cinematographer Sean Bobb have crafted a striking visual style that mixes gritty documentary realism with the stylized, gothic horror aesthetic that characterized Tim Burton’s 1989 classic, Batman.
One of the key players in the film is Benjamin McKenzie, who takes on the dual role of Batman and Detective James Gordon in the film. The English actor, best known for his role as Renton in the TV series, Game of Thrones, previously collaborated with Chevaillard on the 2015 film, A Gentlemen’s Game. (McKenzie also portrays Gordon in the upcoming sequel, Batman vs. Robin.)
Another key player is Paul Bettany, who portrays Alfred Pennyworth, a role made famous by Michael Caine in the original Batman film. Like Caine, Bettany has played a key role in several blockbusters, most recently in Tim Burton’s Dark Matter.
To develop the look of Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’, production designer Michael McCusker and his team, McCusker Creative, based in Dublin, Ireland, turned to H.R. Giger’s iconic, surrealist prints for inspiration. In fact, Giger is not only responsible for the mechanical designs in the movie, but he was also responsible for creating the iconic look of the batsuit.
The designer’s work can be seen in various parts of the film, including where the hood is drawn back, revealing the Batman logo and the actor’s face, and even where his body armor is designed to look like ribs. We’ll explore more of Giger’s influence in a bit.
Where Does The Title Come From?
One of the most interesting aspects of this film is how it handles the often contentious topic of sequels versus reboots. In a nutshell, Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’ is a sequel, but it takes place years after the events of the first film, and it doesn’t feature any characters or settings from the original story.
For the most part, this strategy works. Just like the rest of the film, the title is given voice-over by the Joker (the brilliant Australian comedian, Heath Ledger), who gleefully references the infamous case from the comics when he states: “It all started with a robbery!”
The ‘Grave Robber’, or ‘Joker’, as he is sometimes called, is an obsessed, fanatical crime fighter who takes his work very seriously indeed. Unsurprisingly, he is a master of manipulation and disguise as he goes about his daily routine of robbing wealthy families. One of his many talents includes impersonating a famous personage, in this case, Alfred Pennyworth, the loyal butler of Richard Nixon.
What makes Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’ unique is that it doesn’t just continue the story started in the original film, but it also diverges in some respects. Most notably, although this is the second film in the series, it’s the first in which the Dark Knight actually appears on-screen, with his mask being the central focus of the image, rather than being an aside, as it is in the first film (which is a stark contrast to how he prefers to be depicted in the comics).
Races, Ethnicities, And Body-Types
To add even more flavor to this already multicultural lineup, and to continue the trend set by Smith and Nolan, Warner Bros. is wisely going the extra mile to include a wide array of talent in the movie. And speaking of Nolan, let’s take a quick moment to appreciate the director’s keen eye for casting. This time, he has assembled an almost perfect mix of seasoned Welsh actors (Paciński, Bettany, and McKenzie) alongside English (McKenzie, Ben McKenzie, and the aforementioned Al Paciński) and Irish (Ledger and Paul Bettany) talent. (Thanks, Tim!)
One of the most distinctive aspects of Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’ is its focus on older characters, particularly Alfred Pennyworth and the Joker, who are not only established in the Batman mythology, but they also add further dimensions to the Dark Knight’s often enigmatic persona.
Despite his wealth and power, it is Al Paciński’s unique brand of humor that makes the Joker such a fascinating character. One of the things that makes Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’ so much fun to watch is that it never relies on clichés or tropes; instead, it continually reinvents and redefines what it means to be the World’s Greatest Detective as well as the World’s Greatest Batman.
Reinventing The Character
The producers of Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’ were wise enough to realize that even diehard fans might not want to spend more than two hours a week watching their favorite characters duke it out. Keeping this in mind, they decided to reinvent the whole look of Batman, creating a darker, grittier take on the caped crusader that still perfectly captures the essence of the character.
With Smith and Nolan at the helm, the team behind Batman vs. The ‘Grave Robber’ were clearly inspired by the grandiose entrance set by the Joker in 1989’s classic, releasing a new trailer that gives us our first glimpse of the revamped Dark Knight.
Even more fascinating is how these talented men of Hollywood have reinvented the world of Batman and the ‘Grave Robber’, turning it into something altogether new. As we have learned over the past seven years, anything is possible in Gotham City.