Anyone who has kept up with Robert Pattinson’s career since the Twilight movies can tell you he’s developed into a brilliant, chameleon-like actor capable of disappearing into roles. So of course people are angry that he may be cast as Batman.
Luckily for Pattinson, this isn’t out of the ordinary. As far back as Tim Burton’s Batman, the casting of major fictional characters has been highly controversial. From complaints about Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, to Daniel Craig as James Bond, to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, negativity surrounding the casting of an actor or actress as a popular hero rules the news cycle, but most of these controversies pale in comparison to what happens when you cast a new Caped Crusader. And, should he end up being next in the long line of Batmen to be received with anger, Robert Pattinson should not be disappointed by the fans' reactions. In fact, he should be encouraged by them.
In 2013, the announcement that Ben Affleck was Warner Bros. next Batman sent the Internet spiraling, leading to petitions to nullify the casting and a social media meltdown. Even now-presidential candidate Cory Booker weighed in on the matter. Those afraid that Affleck would bring a lifeless Daredevil energy to the role were pleasantly surprised, as Affleck’s turn brought a tired, dark brutality to the character. And while the DCEU's films he starred in were met with mixed reception from critics and the box office, he undeniably outperformed expectations.
This isn’t just a recent trend, of course; Michael Keaton’s casting in Tim Burton’s 1989 vision of the character famously caused more than 50,000 people to send angry letters to Warner Bros. Just a few years earlier, comic book creator Frank Miller redefined the character in the pages of The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One (in collaboration with Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley and David Mazzucchelli), turning the World’s Greatest Detective into a bleak, gritty action hero. After playing Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice, many just couldn’t see how Keaton could possibly translate to a grim role, and worried that he would make a mockery of their favorite hero.
By today’s standards, Keaton’s pair of movies as the character, Batman and Batman Returns, were odd adaptations. They wrote the Joker into Batman’s origin, giving the villain a concrete backstory, and ditched Miller’s grime and grit for a Burton-esque, cartoonish-yet-gothic atmosphere. Though these elements divide audiences today, the films were massive hits at the time, grossing over $400 million and achieving general acclaim. Keaton's performance was key to the films’ success, and quickly had those 50,000 letter-writers eating their words.
While fan reaction to Val Kilmer and George Clooney’s castings was mild to positive (Entertainment Weekly writer Jeff Gordinier wrote that Kilmer’s casting was “good news for the franchise’s longevity.”), reactions to their movies weren’t. The two actors were unfortunately stuck with director Joel Schumacher, who coated the stories in neon lighting and ham-fisted performances, ditching any hint of Burton’s gothic gloom or Miller’s noir brutality. Calling these movies poorly received would be an understatement, with 1997’s Batman and Robin earning less than Batman Returns on nearly twice the budget, and only 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. The two actors could have worked well in the role, but sloppy scripts and bizarre direction dunk the character for nearly a decade.
When Christopher Nolan announced his plans to reboot the character for 2005’s Batman Begins, even the now near-universally beloved Christian Bale took heat when cast in the role. And just a year after the movie was released, almost completely silencing its naysayers, fans infamously trashed Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker, who went on to deliver one of comic book cinema’s defining performances.
And now, we come to Robert Pattinson, the Internet’s favorite vampire we love to hate. As soon as Variety reported that Pattinson had been cast as in the lead of director Matt Reeves’ The Batman, social media heated right up. Though some outlets dispute the casting, most fans have responded to Variety's report as fact, and there are, unsurprisingly, thousands of strong opinions.
Clearly, the Internet is not happy, as evidenced by the launching of at least four petitions to make sure he never plays the Dark Knight, and a ton of angry comments on CBR’s Facebook page.
Here's the thing, though -- while most people remember him as Twilight's mopey vampire, Pattinson has spent the last seven years honing his skills as an actor, exclusively choosing small-scale roles that allow him to expand his range. Angry commenters refuse to see anything other than his (admittedly wooden) role in the Twilight series, but Pattinson has grown substantially since then. After delivering transformative performances for beloved indie directors like David Cronenberg, James Gray, and Claire Denis, Pattinson has more than earned a return to this level of blockbuster filmmaking, rage-filled Internet posters be damned.
The Batman is directed by Matt Reeves, who will also produce alongside Dylan Clark. The film is scheduled to be released on June 25, 2021