Much conjecture has begun swirling over who is going to wear the mantle of the Bat in the sequel to “Man of Steel” when 2015 rolls around. Names such as Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Joe Manganiello have been bandied about in the media, with certain “sources” saying this or that actor has the upper hand with director Zack Snyder. No matter who is chosen to play Batman, the thespian must have certain traits, both tangible and intangible, that epitomize the character and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne. Famous or unknown, the actor needs to inhabit the role and make the audience believe that Batman is real. Like Henry Cavill did as Superman, the unnamed Bat-actor must inspire awe in moviegoers’ eyes. They must have a presence that projects authority.
Batman is a complex character, who juggles his life as Bruce Wayne with that of his mission as the Dark Knight Detective. He is a brooding character with a deep well of emotion contained within him. That complexity and darkness must be expressed by the chosen actor simply by his overall look and be especially evident through the eyes. Michael Keaton, in “Batman” and “Batman Returns”, splendidly conveyed that darkness through his eyes and facial expressions in many moments of brooding silence. Saying an abundance with silence or very little words is a hallmark of a talented actor, and that is what the filmmakers must look for in the next Batman. Not just any actor can inhabit a role and get lost in it, but a really good, or even great, actor can accomplish what needs to be expressed.
Physicality and physique are integral components that any actor must have in order to portray Batman. He must be physically built so that he can be an imposing figure. Bruce Wayne trained with the best teachers and senseis and honed his body into a perfect physical human specimen. Whoever is chosen to portray the Dark Knight must be in amazing shape, which should be an easily attainable goal for the actor. Henry Cavill and Hugh Jackman trained to make their bodies unbelievably fit in their screen roles as superheroes, so the physical part should be fairly easy. They may not like the strenuous work it will take to get in supreme physical shape, but at least they will have trainers and resources that us normal folk wouldn’t have the patience or will to accomplish. Training might even help them get into character and transform themselves into Batman and, as an added bonus, spark a love of the character that will inspire them.
Probably the most important, and most difficult, trait for any caped crusading actor to express is their ability to believably portray Batman’s superior mind. He is known as the world’s greatest detective, and that advanced mind must be an integral part of the script. Much of that responsibility goes to the writers, but, assuming they focus on his detecting skills (which I believe they will do), the chosen actor must utilize their acting chops and convey the part of a detective as well. Certain actors may not be able to become a detective onscreen because of how they look or could be typecast because of their usual cinematic or television output. An actor who usually plays comedic roles might not be adept at playing such a grim and gritty character as Batman. I may be judging harshly though, because an excellent actor, no matter their physical features or past roles, could portray almost anyone. When Michael Keaton was cast as Batman, fans lambasted the choice. Protest was all for naught, however, because he ended up becoming a believable Bruce Wayne/Batman. Talent, above all, will transform whoever becomes the next Batman into a detective in our eyes.
Before even setting foot on set, the Bat-actor must do their homework. Reading essential graphic novels, comic books, or comic book storylines will help the actor understand the dual persona of Bruce Wayne and Batman. By obtaining knowledge and knowing basic Bat-history, the actor is able to become a more authentic Batman and delve into the character’s psyche. He’ll be able to understand Batman’s motivations, fears, and drive. Everyone knows the origin story of how and why Bruce Wayne became Batman, but the great comic book stories that are available will be a tool to flesh out the complexity and beauty of the character.
My anticipation of the casting news is high and I am optimistic that we’ll get an actor who can portray Batman just as phenomenally as Henry Cavill portrayed Superman. An actor that can stand alongside Cavill is a must because the two greatest superheroes will be together for the first time on the big screen. Batman and Superman, otherwise known by the moniker of “world’s finest” in the comic books, will be a stunning sight to behold. Standing and battling with (and possibly against) the Man of Steel, the unnamed Bat-actor must convey the strength, brains, vulnerability, and, yes, even humor (preferably dark) that the character contains within his complex persona.