• William Valle

The Age of Batman

Looking back, I feel we all remember where we were when Ben Affleck was announced as the next Batman. In retrospect it doesn't even seem like that long ago, and maybe that's because it wasn't. Only so many have received the privilege of portraying one of Hollywood's elite characters on the silver screen. And with the news of Pattinson donning the cape and cowl next, as is now customary, the internet will have their say. This time though, the concept of "acceptance" seems to be a more common theme than anything else. Memes continually pop-up defending the decision of the "vampire bat" turned "millionaire bat", and his ability to brood with the best of them. The lessens of not judging actors before they get a chance to act has become widespread and continuous. Hope and positivity have deflated the ire and irrational deconstructive assumptions that once persecuted our hero hopefuls. At least somewhat... And whether you're pro-Patman or anti-Patman, (I personally am agnostic on the whole thing) casting Pattinson may actually cause an oddly unanticipated fallout by movie-goers when it's released in 2021. But not for the assumed objections of: "acting credibility" or "franchise fatigue" or "reboot exhaustion". Instead, the main issue WB may face may be one of marketing. Until now, the dilemma of age has never really been something to consider; and not just the age of the actor, but now, the age of their audience. When Matt Reeves' 'The Batman' is released it will star a 35 yr old Bruce Wayne. "Par for the course" you may say. Bale was only 31 when he started as Batman, and Keaton was 37. It would stand to reason that casting Pattinson is a balance between the two. But is this the right character age to relaunch your new mega tent-poll franchise? Much of the current "Burton-loving", "Nolanverse quoting", bat-audience will be older than the Batman depicted on screen in 2021. That alone is a new notion for many current fans. This may not be an issue for younger audiences who will be less critical of a greener Dark Knight, but for older folks who have grown up being spoon-fed a healthy dose of the caped-crusader since the '89 flick, this casting may skew their perception. For the better part of 30 years older Millennials and younger Gen-Xers have grown accustom to their Batman being of an older wiser sort. Rewatching a sophomore cut his teeth on the woes of nightly crime-fighting may not engender the same warm and fuzzy feelings that were once prompted in the previous films. Frankly, many bat-fans are aging out. They're not aging out of Bat-fandom per se, but they will most likely age out of the next generation's rendition of Batman. It's a known quantity in marketing that the targeted demographics in advertising are between the ages of 18-34. Once consumers hit 35, they're no longer considered a viable option of focused appeal by big business. Not only do advertisers see them as "irrelevant" because they don't have disposable income to waste of Funko-chotskies, but the interests of the middle-aged tend to wean drastically on topics that are pop-culture related. But what about the MCU!? They had 30-something heroes and that was a roaring success! This is true, and much like 'Batman '89', and to some extent 'The Dark Knight Trilogy', it had never been done before. The MCU's success was, impart due to those movies reaching that coveted 18-34 age group before they aged out. Many who participated in Marvel's past decade of films that were older than 35 did so as moms and dads. The current YouTube-Review/Geek Culture era we live in may suggest more staying power for genre films and characters of all types, but that alone won't discount the oncoming age shift that will alter the entertainment landscape drastically in the years to come. The MCU also worked because of cross-branding reinforcement. Ironman and Captain America were in more movies than their own respective trilogies. In 10 years time, will Pattinson play Batman as many times as Downey did Ironman? Will liking Batman for a younger audience be as cool as it was for 70's and 80's babies that saw 'Batman '89 or the 'Dark Knight Trilogy' on the big screen? I'm hesitant to say "yes". There are outliers however. Bond has mostly been portrayed by someone in their early to mid 40's for nearly 60 years now. That's a franchise that seems to always find a new audience. Maybe the difference is, is Bond isn't a character that succeeds due to it's kid-appeal and merchandising options. Bond doesn't fight psycho clowns and alien monsters, and god willing, never will. However, the actor's age was a serious variable to consider when the internet fan-casted Idris Elba as 007 a few years back. By the time Craig is through with the role and the franchise has had a chance to breathe, Elba would be in his late 50's before he buttoned up his tux; therefor dismissing him from any serious talks of playing Bond. Which suggests to me, if an actor can age out, can't an audience too? When heroes become your contemporary the illusion of aspiration is broken. For many who grew up on Batman since the '89 movie, the Dark Knight has been a mainstay in their lives for decades. I personally have always loved the older grizzled iterations of Batman. This doesn't mean there's no place for another year-1 or year-2 story, but with movies like 'Batman Begins' still feeling relevant today, will 'The Batman' do anything innovative outside of feeling like a 'Gotham' successor? This isn't a statement of the movie. I'm sure 'The Batman' will be good, and do well, but only at the surrender of it's current Millennial based audience. And if Warner Bros wants the Batman to be a success, they won't be able to rely on it's namesake alone. They're going to need to market this for an entire generation of Marvel-fanboy teens, who by 2021, likely weren't old enough to remember watching a well received Batman movie in the theaters. And that prospect alone makes it an uphill battle. When 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows' was released in 2016, despite being the best turtle-movie since the first one in 1990, the movie tanked in the box-office. The reason being, the marketing shifted from adults to kids; even though the movie itself was geared towards fans of the original 80's cartoon. References to: 'Kraang', 'Bebop', 'Rocksteady', and even 'Vanilla Ice' meant little to 6 yr olds looking for live-action versions of the newer, 'Fishface' and 'Dogpound' characters. 'Out of the Shadows' had almost zero connection to the current cartoon being peddled on Nickelodeon at the time, and ultimately that's what hurt it. Which brings me to my final point. If you had a choice between watching Pattinson in 'The Batman' or Keaton in 'Batman Beyond', which would you rather see first?

-Will Valle

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All works © Camel Moon Studios 2019. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Camel Moon Studios or William Valle.