Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Batman.
Christian Bale’s Batman portrayal is widely praised, but it has just one problem that Robert Pattinson’s performance in The Batman managed to avoid. The first film of his The Dark Knight trilogy was released in 2005, and only grew in its massive success until it concluded in 2012. Given the multiple recasts of the titular character from its 1989 reboot, what Christian Bale achieved as Batman is rightfully lauded. However, Bale’s Dark Knight performance still has one particular flaw that Pattinson deftly manages to sidestep.
Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman set a lot of precedents for future incarnations of the character. In particular, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton put a lot of focus on portraying Batman as a ”freak.” Rightly so, there is something inherently odd about an orphaned child who learns exemplary hand-to-hand combat in order to fight crime, whilst dressed as a giant bat. Coming from such a notorious and wealthy family, Bruce could easily find solace in other forms of escapism, but he instead marries himself to justice. Pattinson taps into this ”freak” in The Batman, which highlights one issue with Bale.
The problem with Bale’s Dark Knight is that he isn’t a ”freak”, and in fact is arguably the exact opposite. Though Bale’s duality of Bruce Wayne is clearly a facade to avoid people looking too closely into his life and discovering what lies beneath, he still appears as a self-confident playboy vigilante to viewers. He’s a smooth talker even when he doesn’t have a crowd to impress, and carries a little knowing smirk that suggests he knows how cool he is. The difference between his and Pattinson’s portrayal is evident, as Pattinson’s Batman is a true ”freak” in almost every sense.
Pattinson’s Batman doesn’t sleep and is mostly seen wearing sweats when he isn’t wearing the Bat-suit. The one time Bruce wears a suit is for a tribute to the Mayor, and even then everyone comments on how shocked they are to see him because he is a complete recluse. He’s incredibly quiet and muted, and you get the impression he doesn’t really care to speak unless he really has to. His coolest line, ”I’m vengeance,” is even said in a strained and uncomfortable way which truly emphasizes how warped his psyche is.
This, compared to Bale’s Bruce, who tells Harvey Dent not to worry about pushing two tables together in the restaurant because he ”owns the place”, shows just how different the two approaches are. Pattinson’s Bruce whines when Alfred tells him about a meeting he should attend, whereas Bale’s Bruce attends a meeting in The Dark Knight and falls asleep, later telling Lucious he knew Lao’s company was possibly engaging in illegal activities but he ”just needed a closer look at their books” to make sure. Bale’s Bruce is so self-confident and aware that he can take a nap in a meeting full of wealthy businessmen, but Pattinson’s is so disengaged from society he will do anything to avoid human interaction.
Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman truly carries on the idea laid down by Burton and Keaton’s DC story, and takes it to the extreme. Whilst Bale’s iteration of Bruce Wayne/Batman has become emblematic of the character, he more so represents a cooler, playboy vigilante—which, to Christian Bale’s credit, is a popular depiction of the character. Even Keaton’s Batman, while a true “freak”, entertained the beautiful and famous photo journalist Vicki Vale. Ultimately, Bale’s Batman is still tortured and plagued with grief, but he hides it a lot better than Pattinson in The Batman, who fully embraces the ”freak” aspect of the Dark Knight.
Next: Every Batman Actor’s Rotten Tomatoes Score Compared (Including Pattinson)