Tom Jolliffe on the furore surrounding Robert Pattinson’s workout (or lack thereof) confession in lockdown…
It would be fair to say that Robert Pattinson as Batman has been a contentious choice since it was first murmured as even possible. Now fully confirmed, and having already spent time on set, the decision is evidently final. In some corners, Pattinson is never going to win. He’s never going to be accepted, even if Matt Reeves’ film opens to rapturous reviews lavishing praise on R Batz (Robert Battinson) and the most ardent detractors won’t change their mind.
With The Batman possibly due to recommence filming soon, talked has turned to Pattinson’s admission that he’s not been spending hours in the gym bulking up. When you look at Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt and Christian Bale (bit of a Chris theme…) they’ve approached their respective comic book roles (including Bale as Batman of course) with intense workout regimes. All that being said, is it really deemed a prerequisite? Was Michael Keaton hench? Did he even lift bro? Val Kilmer and George Clooney were in good shape but not in a three-hours-a-day-in-the-gym kind of a way. Bruce Wayne’s a busy man too. Between his by day business dealings and playboy shenanigans, to his nights of fighting crime, is he really going to be as beefed up as Dwayne Johnson? Where does he find hours on end to pump iron? It’s as if the image of Pattinson is painting him as some kind of slovenly tubster. He’s not gonna come in looking roly poly. There’s another train of thought too that he’s too gaunt. He’s kept himself in pretty good shape as is and never been shy of taking off his shirt.
I think it’s nitpicking for the sake of it in some cases, but in other corners it’s this general sense that priorities in film are becoming skewed now. Everyone’s worrying about particular aesthetics. Is the suit gonna be right? Is Pattinson going to be hench enough (in a role which hasn’t always required it)? In general, the whole body weight thing in films has almost become a gimmick. It starts to become more important than the content of the film itself, and of the character. Like every piece of casting, Pattinson deserves the chance to take on a role and prove his worth. Robert Downey Jr. was lithe and certainly worked for the role of Tony Stark, but he didn’t go to the extent of others, and largely because he’d spend a lot of time in a suit anyway. The Batsuit in film terms has always been a big part of the physical presence. It gave Keaton muscular definition and stature he didn’t actually have.
Is he going to be physically able in fight scenes etc.? Here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on. Most of the actors portraying Batman aren’t fighting in most of the scenes in the suit. Bale was an exception (given Wayne got a fair few fights out the suit), and yes, due to his training, but the beauty of the suited superhero, in an age of faultless CGI head doubling and green screen, is that stunt doubles are easy to hide. Keaton still remains my favourite Wayne/Batman, but physical force he is not. Pattinson’s remit will be to do something interesting as Bruce Wayne. We’ve seen in his recent indie output that he is more than capable of delivering enthralling and layered performances. Just how much he can give to this will be down to Reeves and his co-writer Mattson Tomlin and how much they want to delve into Wayne’s psyche. It’s difficult going dark, because Nolan did it very well, but there is a gap to exploit, there are other avenues to explore. Snyder teased but lacked the subtlety (whilst Batfleck felt slightly add odds with the role). The gap which Nolan left was the fact that his standout film, The Dark Knight left Wayne overshadowed by not just Heath Ledger’s Joker, but Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart).
R Batz is also still quite young and there’s the chance to see a Batman still finding his feet a little more. To bridge a middle ground between the opening 40 minutes of Batman Begins and the present of the film where he’s firmly in his Bat pomp. They can also do this without totally rebooting and going over all the back story tropes we already know. Throw in a very interesting, and not entirely obvious cast and the promise of excellence still remains. They could have come up with tired choices but casting guys like Paul Dano and allowing Colin Farrell back into a comic book film strikes me as interesting choices, as does the choice to cast Andy Serkis as Alfred and Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle. In some regards the cast list reads almost like an Indie film fantasy cast list. Serkis is almost the most big budget mainstayer there is, though he often spends his time dotted in ping pong balls against a green screen. A chance to play human comes along all too rarely, particularly in a role as prominent and iconic as Alfred.
Time will tell but the issue of Pattinson not sporting Hulk Hogan-level pythons, nor gluing himself to a set of dumbbells is unlikely to have much impact on the end result. Maybe it will be one Batman film too many, maybe they’ll struggle to deliver something new, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Nolan’s incarnations (or Burton’s) but with the cast and crew involved, the potential for something very different and very interesting is most certainly there.
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville Academy (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), Tooth Fairy: The Root of Evil and the star studded action film, Renegades. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/