We knew that Ben Affleck was done, and Batfleck was no more. Now, we know that the next actor in line for Batman is none other than Robert Pattinson. It was a real record-scratch moment when the news broke, but frankly, it’s no stranger than when Heath Ledger was announced as the new Joker. But honestly, this makes as much sense as anything going on with the DC movies, where we still have two iterations of the Joker and James Gunn is basically rebooting Suicide Squad with Idris Elba, whose character has since been changed since apparently Will Smith wants to keep the door open for Deadshot. The DC movies are getting on track but are still a little clusterf-cky, and 2019 is so goddamned weird, OF COURSE Robert Pattinson is the new Batman.
I am strangely unmoved by this. I have enjoyed Pattinson’s post-Twilight work, and I am sure he will do a fine job being broody and moody as Bruce Wayne. His Batman will appear in the Matt Reeves’ movie, which replaces the Bat-movie Ben Affleck never made, and the movie is expected in 2021. Sure, that all sounds fine. I think part of my disinterest is because in thirty years we have had five live-action Batmen, none of which have given us the definitive take on the character. I’m starting to think such a thing is impossible, and we will never have a definitive Batman the way we have a definitive Iron Man and Captain America. The weight of the cultural expectation is too great for Batman, especially in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s Bat-movies, which attempted to lift Batman out of the comic book movie neighborhood and make him a symbol for more than just vigilante justice. (The Nolan movies are not aging well and are only partially successful ten years later.)
Another reason I am starting to think live-action Batman will always fall short, no matter who plays him, is because of Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce Timm’s cartoon ran for a few years in the mid-nineties, spawned the DC Animated Universe—still superior to every other iteration of the DC universe—and led to a couple animated films. Animated Batman has dark, Gothic touches which a certain segment of the fanbase craves, but also leans into the detective-comic pulp roots of the character. I’m not sure a live-action movie will ever be able to capture that combination as effectively as the cartoon did. Short of just adapting Timm’s version of the character into live-action, I’m not convinced there will ever be a definitive Batman that unites fans in shared enthusiasm. Do we even need that? We’ve never had a singular Batman—though Michael Keaton got the closest—and pop culture has done just fine. Maybe we’re just going to live in a world where Batman gets recast every five years with increasingly outlandish choices to play him. Robert Pattinson will probably do fine as Batman (he certainly can’t do worse than George Clooney). My only real question is whether or not we are going to have to watch Batman’s parents be murdered for the hundredth time.