LOS ANGELES • Robert Pattinson (above), the British actor best known for portraying an emo-teen vampire in the Twilight film series (2008 to 2012), is suddenly poised to play the world's biggest bat.
Warner Bros has approved Pattinson, 33, to become the next title star of its multibillion-dollar Batman film franchise, Hollywood trade papers reported last Friday.
Directed by Matt Reeves (Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, 2014), The Batman - set for release in the summer of 2021 - is believed to centre on the character's formative years. And by choosing Pattinson, the studio has spurred debate and complaint among fans.
The announcement immediately prompted some sharp social media responses, which ranged from "Wow, horrible!! DC comics swings and misses again" to "Have you seen him in anything not named Twilight? Because dude has real chops."
Indeed, the actor has built an impressive resume since exiting the Twilight Saga in 2012, which capped a US$3.3-billion (S$4.5-billion) franchise.
Choosing smaller films, he has picked up critic-group nominations for such movies as The Rover (2014), The Lost City Of Z (2016) and Good Time (2017), and won praise for his new film, The Lighthouse (2019), opposite Willem Dafoe.
He is also choosing to work with fascinating directors, including David Cronenberg (Maps To The Stars, 2014) and The Dark Knight trilogy (2005 to 2012) film-maker Christopher Nolan (next year's Tenet), who knows a thing or two about casting talented, brooding actors.
As recently as 2016, Ben Affleck hoped to star in and direct a solo Batman film, but that was before the critical drubbing of Suicide Squad (2016) and Justice League (2017), and before the box-office underperformance of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016).
That all works in Pattinson's favour. The so-called "Bat-fleck" era has temporarily lowered some of the expectations for the role, while increasing the craving for one of Batman's most intriguing facets - revelations of his weirdness.
Although Affleck had the bulk and square jaw to physically be the Gotham City superhero, he often resonated as too vanilla to be believably dark.
Pattinson, in contrast, has shown he can credibly inhabit shadowy layers of intrigue. That does not mean that he lacks detractors and sceptics, but he could well be revealed as a tormented, and thus compelling, Batman.
Perhaps nothing has rankled and motivated Pattinson more than waiting for the opportunity to prove that Twilight has turned to Dark Knightfall - and that Edward Cullen has disappeared over the actor's horizon long ago.