Pattinson talks about gritty, horror-channeling ‘The Batman’
While we’ve heard of Bruce Wayne’s crime-busting mission and tragic backstory spun so many times before, director Matt Reeves’ iteration of the Dark Knight, starring Robert Pattinson as the billionaire vigilante, feels like uncharted territory even for one of the DC Universe’s mightiest superheroes. And it’s a film his followers can’t afford to miss.
In fact, “The Batman,” which clocks in with a three-hour running time, plays out like a deeply provocative psychological thriller-cum-horror movie. Framed by its neo-noir “Saw”-meets-“Nightmare Alley” mood and underpinning, the creepy movie finds our stoic hero trying his best to keep it together two years after Batman began stalking the loon- and goon-infested Gotham City.
The scepter of grief continues to loom over Bruce 20 years after his father Thomas Wayne (Luke Roberts) was gunned down, and he is cynical and broody as all get-out—a recluse who doesn’t always get along with his doting but disapproving butler Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis).
This version of Bruce is also far from the slick and world-weary mogul that the superb Ben Affleck played with aplomb and sophistication in the “Batman v Superman” and “Justice League” juggernaut.
At the virtual global press con that we attended last week, Robert, who often dressed up as Batman (the Adam West version) his “entire childhood,” admitted that he was as nervous as he was thrilled at the dream-come-true prospect of bringing the Caped Crusader to palpable life. He wasn’t alone, though. Keeping Robert company at the press con were costars Zoë Kravitz, John Turturro, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, producer Dylan Clark and director Reeves.
“It’s incredible to be a part of the same coterie,” Robert told Reuters at the London premiere of “The Batman” last Wednesday. By “coterie,” the 35-year-old actor meant the league of illustrious actors who had worn Batman’s cape, including Adam, Ben, Val Kilmer, Michael Keaton, Christian Bale and even George Clooney. “So I’d be so curious what my childhood self would think of this.”
In “The Batman,” a killer targeting Gotham’s elite with a series of grisly, sadistic acts sends the Dark Knight sticking his nose into the underworld. Along the way, he crosses paths with characters like Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), Oz Cobblepot aka The Penguin (Colin Farrell, unrecognizable here), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), Edward Nashton aka The Riddler (Paul Dano) and Gotham district attorney Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard).
But things take a turn for the twisted when evidence leads Bruce very close to home, forcing the crime-busting lone wolf to forge new alliances in his quest to expose the abuse of power and corruption plaguing Gotham City. It raises the stakes higher, and makes the story more intimate and deeply compelling.
“I was just happy to be in it—I couldn’t believe I was in a Batman film,” admitted John, chuckling. “After watching the film, I was really struck by the relationship that develops between Robert and Zoë’s characters—and I really thought there was something unusual about what they were doing, individually and with each other.”
Robert concurred, “I’ve seen two different iterations of this before the final one. So I witnessed this wave of craftsmanship getting more and more impressive every single time.”
In Dylan’s case, he was just happy that all their hard work seems to have paid off. “It took five years for us to get to this place,” he explained. “And for Matt and I to be able to show this to John, Paul, Jeffrey, Rob and Zoë, it was something so satisfying. They each had their own screenings, so to hear from them after that was truly special.”
“But it was also a terrifying moment (laughs),” Matt quipped. “Because we were waiting and going, ‘Oh my God, I hope they like the movie!’”
Jeffrey interjected, “Here’s what struck me about it: The movie that was on the screen was also the movie that was in the script—and the way it was fully realized makes it even more gratifying to have been a part of. As Robert said, it was seriously impressive.”
Paul added, “And I liked how immersive it was, from the opening shot till the end. As an audience member, you have no choice but to give over to the movie! It was the best feeling. I can’t wait to see how fans react to this movie.”
“The Batman” launches its theatrical run in Philippine cinemas tomorrow.
Our Q&A with ‘The Batman’ team:
Matt, did you start with the visual style that you wanted to do and have it influence the story, or was it the other way around?
Matt: There’s no real order. The creative process for me is like a blank page or being in a dark room, and you’re on hands and knees reaching for something that feels familiar. I knew that I wanted to focus on this iteration of a younger Batman very early in his arc, where there’s room for growth and awakening. You put him at the center of this mystery that would pull us into the path of all of these characters.
Then, I also started to think of this tale from the Riddler’s point of view. What I love when I go to the movies is the idea of putting the audience in this empathic relationship with characters that the audience doesn’t necessarily like, so they experience this kind of immersion into somebody else’s perspective. In this case, it was more the idea that led to the visuals.
Robert, we’re seeing Batman here in his early years as a vigilante. How did that affect your portrayal of this character?
Robert: We normally see Batman going away to train and coming back confident with his skills fully realized. For the first time, you know that this Batman is more fallible—he’s just a man in an armored suit. This version really embraces that concept and makes him more interesting to play in a lot of ways.
Jeffrey, your character has been around for a while, but here, he isn’t even a commissioner yet. It’s the first time on film where you see Lieutenant Gordon and Batman almost as complete partners. What is at the core of their relationship?
Jeffrey: What’s at play here is the desperation of two isolated characters under a sea of mistrust in a place like Gotham. For Gordon, it’s out of utility. For Batman, there’s something within the core of the character we’ve come to know that, even if he’s obviously troubled, is honorable.
Again, it’s early days in this relationship, but when Gordon has very few tools of his own and few partners he can trust, it’s really out of desperation. Batman may be strange, but it’s a chance and a risk that Gordon is taking out of a sense of need. Their relationship is still developing.
Zoë and Robert, how did you find that chemistry so instantaneously?
Zoë: It was very easy. Rob and I have been friends for a long time, but a lot of it was already on the page. The emotional states of these characters were so clear, as well as the connection they find in each other. So I feel like it was built-in.
They felt alone their entire lives, so to meet somebody who has a similar way of thinking is special. It really is the heart of the story. And it’s a big deal for both of them to feel this way. So, if you’re attached to your character emotionally, it’s easy to play that part of it.
Robert: I’ve been part of massive productions like this, so I know that it can be easy to feel quite disconnected from the story, because there are so many moving parts. You’ll occasionally come across actors who just wouldn’t put that level of effort in what they do, which puts a little dent in the machine.
But if you meet a performer who’s really putting everything into it, like Zoë does, it becomes a reflective experience that makes you want to work harder.
Paul, your character The Riddler is such a big adversary for Batman, but there are times when he thinks they’re aligned in their ideas. How did that play into the dynamic of that relationship?
Paul: I spent a lot of time thinking about “The Batman.” I love the idea that you can’t really have Batman without his villains or his rogues’ gallery. You could see the dynamic between Batman and The Riddler in the way Matt uses the camera.
There’s some boundary there that’s beautifully explored, and there’s more murkiness to the morality. It isn’t just a black-and-white hero versus villain story—they aren’t there just to protect the status quo. There’s really something wrong with their city.
The complication rises a notch when you have a villain whose ideas aren’t all wrong—and that’s what makes The Riddler potentially scary. As an actor, I found that to be really compelling. INQ