The Cast of ‘The Batman’ Challenges and Supports the Dark Knight Mythology

We scrounge through various filmographies to uncover Matt Reeves’ Gotham.
Batman Year One
DC Comics / David Mazzucchelli
By  · Published on November 14th, 2019

With The Batman, director Matt Reeves wants to get inside the head of Bruce Wayne in a way that previous films never allowed. He’s on record as saying that his take on the character will be noir-driven, plunging into the broken psyche of a child who reconstructed himself into a semi-functioning human being by wearing a mask of vengeance. Reeves claims that his film is anchored to the point-of-view of his lead, hopefully splintering in other directions only when necessary to flesh out Bruce Wayne’s experience.

Yet, based on recent casting rumors and announcements, The Batman appears to have quite the rogue’s gallery to confront. Certainly, we’ve learned a lot since the baddies saturated the ’90s market, and The Dark Knight (as well as numerous Marvel adventures) proved that more featured characters do not automatically equal an unfocused narrative. With filming scheduled to kick off in January, now is the time to run rampant with speculation and consider how this cast will both alter and support our idea of Gotham and the creeps that populate it.

Red Dots

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne, aka Batman

We’re not going to mention the vampire movie. You’re reading FSR. You don’t need to be pointed toward The Rover, The Lost City of Z, Good Time, or High Life. You know Robert Pattinson is legit.

You may have crooked an eyebrow when you heard the casting, but you also learned not to freak out like you did when Ben Affleck was announced in the part. Say what you will about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but Batfleck was in no way part of the conceived problem surrounding Zack Snyder’s vision. The dude was a brick, and he filled the Frank Miller spandex well.

Pattinson can pull off both masks of the character. He can wear the uncomfortable, intricately constructed persona of the billionaire playboy. Watch his David Cronenberg endeavors: Cosmopolis and Map to the Stars. He understands the weaponization of wealth. He can wield Bruce Wayne like a Batarang. Look to The Lighthouse to find the Bat or at least the rage under the cowl. The new Robert Eggers film offers him many opportunities to control bubbling anger, stabbing dagger eyes in the direction of Willem Dafoe. Hopefully, there will be less farting.

The Batman requires strength, which can be gained at the gym, but the simmering anger is much harder to track and was sorely lacking from the cartoonish Joel Schumacher movies. If you’re doing Bat-noir, you gotta deliver the hot emotion. As far as how he’ll fill out the suit? Just click your way on through Tumblr. Plenty of fan artists have donned the cowl atop Pattinson’s mug, and the results bear a striking resemblance to Greg Capullo’s artistic interpretation of the character. Dat jaw, man.

Paul Dano as Edward Nashton, aka The Riddler

This is perfect casting. Immediately we know we’re not going to get the screeching cackle or Frank Gorshin or his pretender Jim Carrey. Paul Dano suggests a quiet condescension from the character. He’ll have anger too, but it stems from a much different place than Bruce Wayne. Edward Nashton, aka Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler knows he’s the smartest man in the room, and he gains self-importance by forcing others to jump feebly through intellectual hoops. His rage erupts when his genius bumps against the world’s greatest detective. Batman represents the limits to his mental faculties. He hates nothing more than to have his riddles solved, and to be called out as basic.

If you’re digging for The Riddler’s impotent rage within Paul Dano’s filmography, please seek his small turn in Cowboys & Aliens and mix it with his sheepish genius at the center of Knight & Day. Those are a pair of films dismissed by audiences upon release but which contain the right ingredients to produce a Riddler. Feckless wrath is a volatile, self-destructive combination. Watching Pattinson take him down should prove to be quite pleasurable.

Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin

The Penguin as daddy. Yikes. Didn’t see this one coming, but the longer I contemplate Colin Farrell beneath the top hat, the more I come around. The guy loves to graze the scenery. Search no further than his turn as the assassin Bullseye in Daredevil, Marvel’s answer to Batman. That’s close to ’90s era spandexing, though. I don’t imagine Reeves will have much use for that version of Farrell here. The Penguin could easily be a Sydney Greenstreet-type a la The Maltese Falcon. A bold, commanding evil who can transform on a dime from unassuming to vicious. He’s a guy who operates behind the scenes until he needs to get his feathers dirty. Imagine Farrell’s political viper from Widows: an amoral character who manipulates those around him to maintain deep and full pockets.

Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman

You don’t need to contemplate how Zoë Kravitz will behave as Catwoman; she’s already done it. In The Lego Batman Movie. Ok, so she’s barely in that flick, and mostly just doing her best Eartha Kitt impression, but it’s a damn fine one.

Traditionally, the relationship between Batman and Catwoman has been fraught with romantic turmoil, with their will-they/won’t-they (bone) tension manipulated to tease hormonal adolescence. If Reeves is going full-noir with The Batman, the Catwoman I want to see is a true Femme Fatale. She needs to maintain control of the screen even when she’s not present. Bruce is off concerning himself with the shinanigans of the Riddler and the Penguin, but he should have been watching the Catwoman the whole time. Kinda like Kravitz’s reversal in X-Men: First Class. She’s a good little mutant until she’s not.

Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon

Jeffery Wright could deliver any kind of Jim Gordon. He’s done it all. Do you want an armchair badass? Take a look at his Felix Leiter in Quantum of Solace. Do you want an overworked, confused, and exhausted badass? Travel to Westworld. Remove the badass element and appreciate his ultimately upstanding servitude in The Public. He’s a jobber.

Commissioner Gordon is a tricky character. He’s a cop on the verge of giving up the good fight and succumbing to the corruption of Gotham when suddenly, a man dressed as a bat perches on his window and reinvigorates his desire for justice. He’s the ultimate lost soul ripped from the precipice of despair. Jeffrey Wright can do that in his sleep.

Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth

Give me the Andy Serkis from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther. Not the accent, the terror, or the mania, but the thick slab of beef. The tough. The heavy. Alfred Pennyworth usually kicks back and irons the suits while Batman is off parading about Gotham crushing skulls, but I’d like to see Serkis’ Pennyworth show off some of that SAS training we heard about in The Dark Knight. In the comics, we’ve seen the character bust heads. Now, it’s time for the cinematic butler to reveal the dark side that allowed a child to grow up to be The Batman. No fancy dan could rear such a creature. Alfred’s got a bit of the beast in him as well.

Jayme Lawson as Bella

We don’t know much about newcomer Jayme Lawson or her character. io9 reported that Bella is a politician rising in the ranks of Gotham who contributes significantly to the plot. If you scroll through Batman canon, you will not find mention of a Bella. Some fans hope the name is a sleight-of-hand, with the film ultimately revealing Bella to be Barbara Gordon, daughter or niece of Jim Gordon and inheritor of the Batgirl mantle. Maybe, but that’s a little too Dark Knight Rises for my tastes. Sticking to the noir skeleton, politicians are always in place as pawns, victims, or villainous perpetrators. Rarely do they reveal themselves as shiny righteous do-gooders. Although, Barbara Gordon did do some time as a senator. Hmmmm.

The Batman is scheduled to swing into theaters on July 25th, 2021.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)