Did you catch the first trailer for Matt Reeves‘ The Batman during DC Fandome? Woo boy, it looks great. It looks like someone plopped a Gotham City story directly into David Fincher‘s Seven. It looks like Robert Pattinson absolutely walloped that man in clown paint into a level of unconsciousness previously unknown to medical science. However, despite the hype train rolling right on time out of Fandome, there does still exist a niche of naysayers whose buffoonery I cannot sanction. I don’t mean anyone who just isn’t feeling the trailer or the movie overall—different strokes, different folks, etc—but I am referring to anyone who still cannot believe the Twilight guy is playing Batman.
Here’s the facts: From 2008 to 2012, Pattinson portrayed Edward Cullen across from Kristen Stewart in the Twilight franchise, based on the monumentally popular book series of the same name. Edward is a vampire who, yes, sparkles in the sun and, yes, is attractive in the way you might be compelled to donate to an animal shelter while watching TV late at night; less a sexual thing than a potent “it’d feel nice to give that man some soup” kind of way. Boiling Twilight down to a punchline is an easy thing that also ignores the sheer unfuckwithable power this series commanded for nearly a decade. There are grown-ass adults walking around right now whose entire being was shaped by this aggressively horny woman/vampire/werewolf love triangle tale, and as such, it’s understandably still hard to separate someone like Pattinson or Stewart* from their breakout roles.
But Pattinson’s post-Twilight career has looked like someone gracefully backflipping from an Olympic diving board into a mud-pit, and I somehow mean that as a compliment. The man pivoted from the most commercial franchise possible into a long stretch of dark, decidedly weird indies. He’s reinvented himself as a character actor without limitations—the man simply cannot and will not stop feverishly masturbating on-screen—using that Twilight money to extend his “one for me” period across eight years. It’s been a thrill to watch, and an even bigger thrill to realize Pattinson’s range. Gritty crime-thrillers, dystopian road-Westerns, heady slow-burn sci-fi. If you’re on the fence about Pattinson’s capabilities as an actor, there’s eight years of weird, wild proof that the dude commits, and commits hard, to fuckery. But if you don’t have the time to dig into the entirety of Pattinson’s experimental period**, here is a truly unhinged three-movie run that’s hard to top:
Good Time (2017): From Josh and Benny Safdie, the same guys who just straight up gave you a panic attack during Uncut Gems, Good Time is a relentlessly grimy crime-caper led by a breathtaking performance by Pattinson. He plays Connie Nikas, a degenerate who spends one desperate night trying to secure a $10,000 bail bond for his developmentally disabled brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), after a heist gone wrong. Pattinson is a force here, jumping from one terrible decision to the next with the type of impulsiveness that can only come from desperation. Good Time is probably the best overall showcase for Pattinson as an actor, a role that bounces from tightly wound to fully breaking down on a second-by-second basis.
High Life (2018): The English-language debut from French auteur Claire Denis is a shockingly horny and glacially-paced piece of sci-fi that isn’t here to make anyone comfortable. Pattinson plays Monte, a criminal mysteriously left alone with a baby girl aboard a space ship hurtling toward a black hole. Meditative and confounding, High Life is bolstered by a frighteningly quiet performance by Pattinson. It’s very “Batman”, if only in its wordless intensity, a tender smoldering that feels dangerous and desirable at the same time.
The Lighthouse (2019): You wanna’ get nuts? Robert Eggers’ black-and-white descent into madness is nuts, a two-hander carried by a pair of full-tilt performances by Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. The duo plays lighthouse keepers who can’t seem to leave the lonely rock they’ve been stationed on, and that’s all I can really say about the plot without sounding like a marooned sailor gone sea-mad. What I can say is that The Lighthouse should be your first destination if you think all Robert Pattinson can do is brood. This is a performer let loose in a movie without inhibition, solidifying Pattinson as a performer you can’t predict.
And hey man, if you truly just don’t think Pattinson is a good fit for The Batman, I do have one more movie series to suggest before you tap out for good:
Twilight (2008-2012): Awhoops, it turns out that playing a depressed vampire is actually the perfect preparation for playing Bruce Wayne because, like it or not, Bruce Wayne is a depressed vampire. Decades of fans building up Batman as a living tank has dulled the stone-cold fact that the character’s core drive is that he feels too many feelings all at once and would rather die than let anyone know that. (But everyone does, Bruce!) Anyone laughing at “Emo Batman” in that trailer is lying to themself; my dude has been blasting MCR’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge in the Batcave since day one. So no, Robert Pattinson is absolutely not just the Twilight guy, but he was born in the Twilight. Molded by it, you could say. As much as he’s displayed a knack for deep character work, there will always be a base built on a pop culture character who is deeply tortured and only goes out at night.
We still don’t know if The Batman will be any good, because pre-judging a movie based on its trailer is one of the highest forms of clownery. But we absolutely can be excited for the Batman of The Batman. Robert Pattinson had every lofty opportunity in the world and decided to get weird with it in the gutters. If that’s not some Bruce Wayne shit, I don’t know what is.
(*Pretty much every word of this piece can also be applied to the supremely talented Kristen Stewart, except for the parts about playing Batman. Which, for the record, would whip ass.)
(**If you do have the time, I also highly recommend The Rover, Damsel, and The Lost City of Z.)
(***UPDATE: Several hours after hitting publish on this piece, I remembered the Netflix film The King, in which Robert Pattinson tells Timothee Chalamet he has “giant balls with a tiny cock” in a truly wild French accent. Watch it immediately.)