With Matt Reeves’ The Batman movie coming along quite well, Batman fans just might have a reason to be excited to see the next live-action version of The Caped Crusader. It has a great director, a talented cast, and Robert Pattinson playing Batman. When fan polls came around for another Batman candidate, he wasn’t exactly a popular choice, but then again, neither was Ben Affleck. Fans are beyond anxious to see how he’ll perform, but Pattinson himself confirmed that his version will be different than how fans are used to seeing Batman on the big screen. According to Pattinson, Batman is not a superhero. That’s an odd statement, but it makes sense for the version he is going for. The film is using certain Batman comics as a reference, but if there is one particular one they should follow, it would have to be Batman: Earth One.
Batman: Earth One is a graphic novel that was released in the summer of 2012, written by the one and only Geoff Johns. In this brilliant adaptation of the dark knight, we got to see a Bruce Wayne in his mid-twenties beginning his career as a crime-fighter. The difference between that version and others is that this Bruce Wayne was impulsive, angry, and acted solely out of revenge. He was one of the most vulnerable versions of Batman that has ever been on the page, and that made him interesting. The graphic novel was good enough to spawn a sequel, with a third installment hopefully hitting the shelves very soon.
Reeves did confirm that the Batman he wants to show will not be a veteran, but also not a rookie. Â If this is true, then he should take a look at Batman: Earth One. That version of Batman is closer to a rookie, but he still kicks butt. When he makes mistakes, he makes awesome mistakes, as weird as that sounds. He doesn’t trip over his cape, but he’ll fail to catch a criminal because he wasn’t fast enough. His grapnel gun malfunctions, but he decides to jump to the next roof anyway. He’s not patient enough to pick a lock, so he kicks down the door. The list goes on.
Seeing a full-blown “professional” Batman is always fun to see, but it’s honestly more interesting to see him when he’s not the toughest guy on the block. Ben Affleck’s Batman had twenty years of experience under his belt and was feared by the criminal underbelly of Gotham. He was indeed the biggest guy in town that no one wanted to mess with and wiped the floor with a litany of bad guys. Of course we want to see Pattinson’s Batman kick butt, but where would the fun be if he won every fight? We never got to see how Affleck’s Batman got to where he was, but the interesting part of Pattinson’s version is that we’ll get to see him grow as a better Batman.
If we go back to Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman, there is a consecutive flow to his development. He starts out as an idealist wanting to purge Gotham of the corrupt, then as a strong inspiration in his prime, then as an aging and physically weaker Batman. Bale’s performance stood out the most when he was the rookie with a vision. Since Pattinson will be a younger Batman, he should care more about revenge and less about the welfare of Gotham. This would make him very similar to the Earth-One version of Bruce Wayne and will make him stand out from the other actors who have portrayed the character.
Let’s go back to how Batman was written in the Earth-One graphic novel. In the very beginning, he fails to catch a criminal, then witnesses another crime. Instead of intervening, he just lowers his head in shame and walks away. This was a strange way to introduce a new version of the character, but as the story progresses, the young and angry Bruce learns that fighting for justice is more important than revenge. This is how Pattinson’s version of Bruce Wayne should develop. Don’t have him start out as a naive idealist, but a self-centered hot-head that has to learn something about true heroism. That is the true meaning of character development.
Bruce Wayne isn’t the only character from Earth-One that needs mentioning. The graphic novel’s version of Alfred is by far the most toughest version of the character we’ve ever gotten. Unlike most versions of the character, this Alfred directly trained Bruce Wayne in hand-to-hand combat and weapons. Since he was a former Royal Marine, this not only makes sense, but gives Alfred some serious entitlement over Bruce. He served as his mentor, father-figure, and even smacked him around a bit when Bruce’s stubbornness got the better of him. We have not seen this kind of Alfred yet on screen and it’s the one we need to see in the film. Plus, Andy Serkis.
What good is a Batman comic without his villains? Reeves’ film is reported to have several villains, but the main ones include The Penguin and The Riddler. Both villains serve as a main antagonist in Volumes one and two, giving rather creepy versions of both characters. The Penguin was the corrupt politician hiding behind a nice-guy persona, while The Riddler operated in the shadows and acting as the Jigsaw of comics. With Colin Farrell and Paul Dano taking up the roles, it is safe to assume that the characters will be in good hands.
Having a young Bruce Wayne go up against multiple villains is a smart move, mainly because it gives him the ultimate challenge. Given that he is still young and fairly inexperienced, he’ll be forced to think before he acts in order to win. He’ll take his licks along the way but he’ll truly be tested as a character based on how he chooses to move on after that.
The Earth-One series has done a lot for DC’s biggest heroes and it’s done wonders for The Dark Knight. Let’s hope Matt Reeves kept it on his radar for inspiration.