2022’s The Batman, DC and Warner Bros.’ latest Caped Crusader reboot, shares multiple characters with the Dark Knight trilogy. Like James Bond, Dracula, or Peter Pan, Batman is a character seemingly destined to outlast any changes to the trajectory of pop culture. Gotham City’s watchful protector is arguably the greatest superhero of all-time, and has a highly eventful history on film, for the better and worse. No matter the ups and downs though, consumer appetite for Batman stories never really seems to abate.
Before Pattinson, Batman was portrayed onscreen by Ben Affleck, who was an infamously controversial pick when first cast, but eventually won over millions of fans. Affleck first played the role in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, then returned the next year for Justice League, as cut by Joss Whedon. Despite earning positive reviews for his performance, Affleck’s time as Batman ended almost as quickly as it started, with the actor bowing out of a planned solo project and leaving the role behind. Or at least that was how it appeared until Affleck shocked fans by signing on to return for The Flash solo movie alongside the return of Michael Keaton’s Batman.
With the DCEU’s older take on Batman still surprisingly marching forward, DC’s next rendition has arrived in The Batman, with Robert Pattinson playing the lead. While Affleck’s Batman might still be on the scene, it is hard not to compare any new performances to the iconic version of Batman that was created by Christian Bale’s performance in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Here are all the Dark Knight characters that The Batman shares.
Obviously, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his superhero alter ego Batman are the protagonists in both The Batman and the Dark Knight trilogy. While fans got to witness Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne evolve into Batman through Batman Begins, then perform as a more seasoned Caped Crusader in The Dark Knight, The Batman splits the difference between those periods. Robert Pattinson’s Batman is in only his second year as a masked vigilante in Gotham City, so while the film smartly doesn’t focus on once again retelling Batman’s origin story, Pattinson’s Batman also isn’t yet a fully-formed hero.
Pattinson’s Batman is also darker and gloomier overall than Bale’s, and seemingly less in control. Pattinson’s Batman seems like he could fly off the handle at any moment, which makes him more of an unpredictable character. The Batman also gives more play to the titular hero’s status as a great detective too, although it’s clear he can still bust up bad guys when the need arises.
Continuing the theme of Gotham City’s heroes and villains not yet being fully formed, Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) isn’t quite Catwoman when The Batman begins. She’s not covered head to toe in black leather, and is more of a small-time thief. However, by the time Selina takes her leave from Gotham City on a motorcycle, she’s taken a major step toward becoming a complete Catwoman before The Batman‘s credits roll.
Most recent versions of Catwoman have made her more of a morally conflicted antihero than an outright villain, Anne Hathaway’s portrayal in The Dark Knight Rises included, and Kravitz’s The Batman character is yet again of that nature. While some fans of the feline foe might wish her more evil side would get to come out again on film, it seems that for now she’s on course for another love story with Bruce.
One of the first signs that The Batman probably wouldn’t be part of the established DCEU, even as a prequel to it, came with the casting of Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon. While characters changing race in different iterations onscreen has certainly become more and more common, having it happen in the middle of the same franchise is much less so. Gordon has of course always been played by white actors previously, including Gary Oldman in the Dark Knight trilogy.
Being Black this time didn’t really seem to alter Gordon’s characterization, but it definitely could have, as it could have been even harder for a Black lawman to stand up to and try to push back against Gotham’s notoriously corrupt political forces than it was for Oldman’s version. For better or worse, Reeves chose not to go that route, with Gordon’s race not really factoring in, although Gordon’s loyalty to Batman definitely has him on the outs with his superiors early on.
Bruce Wayne’s butler and surrogate father Alfred Pennyworth once again appeared The Batman, this time played by Andy Serkis. Serkis said in pre-release interviews that a big part of The Batman would be the emotional connection between Alfred and Bruce, and despite Pattinson’s moodier take on Batman, that did hold true. As has happened in many other movies, an attempt to harm Alfred brought out Bruce’s protective side, and revealed the deep bond he has with the man’s who taught him so much.
Alfred, as played by Michael Caine in the Dark Knight trilogy, was very much someone Bale’s Bruce looked to for advice and guidance, and to possibly check him if he got too consumed with his other persona and the power that comes with it. With Pattinson’s younger, darker Batman not as focused on the idea of avenging his parents’ murder this time as he is cleaning up Gotham’s streets, Serkis’ Alfred did fall into that role with his The Batman character as well, attempting to caution Bruce against going too far down the rabbit hole.
The one Dark Knight character to make an appearance in The Batman without being advertised in advance was none other than The Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker. The sadistic clown was of course played by the late Heath Ledger in Nolan’s The Dark Knight, earning a posthumous Oscar for his work. Ledger’s Joker fashioned himself an agent of chaos, and someone out to turn the world upside down. It’s hard to tell just what kind of Joker that Barry Keoghan’s version in The Batman will be, as he only made a brief but memorable cameo appearance in The Batman‘s post-credits scene.
Another character in both The Batman and the Dark Knight trilogy is Carmine Falcone, Gotham City’s resident lord of organized crime. John Turturro plays Falcone this time out, while Tom Wilkinson played the character in Batman Begins. While Falcone is not a supervillain, it made sense for him to be included here, considering Reeves’ often stated intent to make a more grounded detective story about the festering corruption in Gotham.
Falcone’s most recent live-action depiction on FOX’s Gotham TV show made him far more of an antihero than an arch-villain. While he was still a notorious criminal, he at least had some apparent sense of honor, and could be reasoned with to an extent. This stands in contrast to Wilkinson’s slimy version in Batman Begins, who let Bruce Wayne live after being confronted basically just to make it clear how little the latter’s threats of vengeance bothered him. Turturro’s Falcone in The Batman brought the character back to his roots in a manner akin to Wilkinson’s take, making him an irredeemable monster.
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