Robert Pattinson: Our Sci-Fi Superman? Who knew?

Robert Pattinson: Our Sci-Fi Superman?  Who knew?

After Twilight and other films who would suspect Pattinson had an interest in Sci-Fi? There's nothing "sparkly" about his role.

David Michôd’s The Rover is fantastic because it so well illustrates what we have been missing from so many other acting performances in the action-adventure genre. 
 
You may have noticed that what we haven’t been getting lately in the Action-Adventure genre. A jolt, a reason for pause, a genuine sense of surprise in character development seems to elude us in so many films. For some reason many actors seem to forget they are: 1) the vehicle for wonder, 2) the translator of exception, 3) the provocateur of awe yet accomplishing any of these endeavors is very difficult.  It’s difficult because the actor has to be willing to break convention, choose against formula, and frequently find rationales in character definition that may not be on the page.  In other words the performance may contradict what we think the original text suggested.  That’s right this performer has to be in large degree a rebel! This kind of artist can’t be a people pleaser, can’t seek to be popular, nor can he or she perform to win acceptance. These described bold attributions require guts, bravery and integrity, things that audiences don’t necessarily attribute to artists yet are apparent in the best performances (yes, even in Action-Adventure). As Rey, Robert Pattinson provides this kind of superb performance.
 
 
You may be taking exception.  The audience may think all of these characteristics are purely the product of the Director’s artistry.  Yes, by his or her authorial position in the dramatic production the director can easily take credit for the actor’s best artistic choices. But the director can’t produce what (for lack of a better description) an “instrument” can’t project.  For instance a violin can’t produce percussion the way a drum can.  So yes the director should get credit for knowing what part of the musical section produces the best effect, yet after that -- the exact “tool” for that effect has to eventually register it’s own unique performance.
 
Instead of “beating around the bush” we will look at the comic book genre in film to illustrate a rebellious exception to ordinary expectation.  In 1979’s Superman the Movie, Julliard trained actor Christopher Reeve was hired to play character Kal-El who in the film played two distinct characters: Superman and Clark Kent.  The example of heinous thespian rebelliousness we’re looking for is apparent in the Clark Kent character.  Contrary to previous performances by T.V. actor George Reeve (no relation) the character Clark is depicted as an upstanding responsible citizen.  Uncharacteristically, Christopher plays the Clark as a buffoon, a wimp, and way too pathetic for audience members to believe he might actually be effective in anything.  Why was that dramatic portrayal useful because the performance highlights how heroic his later performance of Superman will actually appear for audiences?  In other words breaking with previous expectation actually enhanced and improved the audience reception for the character. I could mention other unexpected genius super hero performances such as (Oscar winner) Christian Bail’s wicked gravel voiced Batman in The Dark Knight or (Oscar winner) Robert Downey Jr.’s petulant and self-absorbed Tony Stark in Ironman yet the effective character contradiction should be clear.  Certainly if the actor has any job, character presentation is the biggest responsibility.
 
Trying to avoid any really significant spoilers, let’s look at a far more recent epic performance. Back to The Rover, Robert Pattinson equally plays his character Rey as a bit of buffoon.  Many critics have claimed he is as Guy Pearce’s character Eric sees him: a “half-wit.”  Yet we’ll let you decide for yourself whether you think the character is mentally challenged.  In a scene that is described (yet we don’t actually see it) Rey is shot and left for dead by his brother Henry (played by actor Scoot McNairy). Post traumatic syndrome disorder or PTSD could explain Rey’s odd or pathetic behavior as an effect of being horrified by stressful events.  We only have character Archie’s  (played by actor David) opinion that Rey’s behavior is typically that way to lead us to believe Rey is a dunce.  Yet it’s his brother’s uncharacteristically violent reaction to these statements that make us believe that Archie statements may be entirely wrong.   Many of the film’s depictions are equally this open ended, allowing a thoughtful audience to independently process the brilliance of the narrative.
 
Like the earlier Reeve portrait of a pathetic Clark, Pattinson’s performance helps us better understand how uncharacteristically brave, loyal and devoted he is to his virtual kidnapper Eric.  Apparently separated by decades, bravery and brilliance from one actor demonstrates brilliance in another.
 
Though he has presented many nuanced characters since his most popular performance as Edward in the Twilight series, few roles have demonstrated how expansive Pattinson’s range actually is.  Yes Edward, the character that sold the entire Twilight series has one thing in common with Rey from The Rover; actor Robert Pattinson.
 

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