Robert Pattinson is no stranger to brooding. With an acute jawline and a permanently creased brow, the English actor seems to suit the spiraling sensibilities of Hamlet or the disciplined rage of Inspector Javert.
He’s an odd choice for a superhero.
Yet, “The Batman” is not a run-of-the-mill superhero flick — it’s more of a run-to-your-parents, hide-under-the-covers sort of film. Shrouded in low lights and prickling with suspense, “The Batman” stars Pattinson as the dark prince of Gotham, reclusive rich kid Bruce Wayne who doubles as a masked vigilante haunted by his parents’ deaths.
In the last decades, a laundry list of high-profile actors — most famously, Christian Bale; most monotonously, Ben Affleck — have donned the bat suit on screen, but Pattinson grounds his interpretation in the man behind the mask. “Batman’s always been kind of fallible,” Pattinson admitted in a virtual press conference. “He’s just a man in an armored suit. But this (film) really embraces that, and it makes it more interesting to play in a lot of ways.”
In retelling a familiar story, the filmmakers behind “The Batman” must confront the burden of innovation. Adaptation implicitly demands an assertion, an answer as to why a well-worn story deserves a new overcoat. Director Matt Reeves seems to wager the film’s distinction on artistic direction and psychological depth.
Reeves explained his image of Batman relies on identity formation and themes of maturation. “I wanted to take this iteration of a younger Batman, who was early in his arc,” Reeves recalled, “and put him at the center of this mystery that would pull us into the path of all of these characters.”
“The Batman” spans three hours, an admittedly startling run time. Yet, the lapse of time provides the film with ample ability to sprawl, build out the gritty city and introduce its morally gray inhabitants.
Actor Paul Dano plays The Riddler, the film’s antagonist. The actor described the allure of playing a sinister character in a superhero film, as heroes and villains are interdependent, with one necessitating the other.
“I love the idea that you can’t really have Batman without his villains or his rogues’ gallery,” Dano mused. “I love that you couldn’t have this Riddler without the Batman. … There’s some boundary there that is really beautifully explored. And there’s more murkiness to the (film’s) morality.”
“The Batman” aspires to assert its artistry and merit as a work of cinema, as if to foil Martin Scorsese’s denouncement that superhero movies are merely trite “theme parks.” The cast and crew for “The Batman” exalted the film’s world building, praising every facet from performance to soundscape.
The sound design, in particular, serves as a vital instrument for immersion and pathos. Michael Giacchino’s score sews together musical themes that adapt and grow alongside the characters as they venture deeper in the story’s gnarled mystery.
“The sound design is a big part of creating that kind of immersive, subjective experience,” Reeves gushed. “(Giacchino is) talking about the emotional landscape of this movie.”
Alongside the sonic elements, the film’s aesthetic direction elevates “The Batman.” Reeves scoured the DC comics to inspire Batman’s content, but the form borrows from the stylized genre of film noir. “There are a lot of those kind of ’70s movies that are the movies that really inspired me to want to make movies in the first place,” Reeves said, admitting the personal element to this interpretation.
In discussing the film’s style, awe and agreement permeated the Zoom call, and Patterson remarked that, “I’ve seen two different iterations (of the film) before the final one. To see this wave of craftsmanship just getting more and more impressive every single time. … I was so overwhelmingly impressed.”
“The Batman” is currently playing in theaters.