For years, K-Patz have avoided the obvious. Theyre back with Batman and Charlies Angels, threatening their hard-won credibility
Watching the first trailer for Charlies Angels, something is immediately off key. The first thing we see is a closeup of Kristen Stewart and she is smiling. Before now, nobody was even sure Stewart could smile, so transcendently stoic is her screen persona. Stewart does other un-Stewart-ish things in the trailer: flirting with a guy, wearing a glittery pink dress, tossing her long blond hair, dancing. Reassuringly, this is all just a disguise and shes beating the crap out of said guy moments later but, still, something has clearly changed. Stewart has spent the past decade cultivating a reputation as one of the coolest, most distinctive, least game-playing actors in the business. And now here she is in a big-budget Hollywood action-comedy.
Whatever is going on with Stewart, it also seems to be going on with her former on- and off-screen partner, Robert Pattinson. Like Stewart, Pattinson has successfully built a career on the back of some brave movie roles, but in May he was unveiled as the next Batman. So he, too, is returning to the very centre of Hollywood mainstream. What is going on? Is this a coordinated move? Will either of them survive it?
Both Stewart and Pattinson have already survived early breakout stardom in a high-profile Hollywood franchise, which is no mean feat. Just ask Daniel Radcliffe or Elijah Wood. Twilight could have ruined them. Stephenie Meyers vampire saga somehow struck that elusive chord with young audiences, catapulting its leads to global recognition stalked by paparazzi, their names worthy of ugly abbreviation (K-Stew, R-Patz, Stewpatz?). But Stewart and Pattinson have been textbook examples of how to do it right. It helped that neither of them were exactly cookie-cutter actors from the start. He was classically handsome but with a roguish air to him; she was possessed of a detached acting style that verged on boredom understandable given the high cheese quota and sanctimonious abstinence messaging of the Twilight movies. But their chemistry made it all the more palatable. The fact that they became a couple in real life only added to the mythology; a Liz Taylor and Richard Burton for the TMZ generation.
It looked as though things were heading that way post-Twilight, especially for Stewart. She had another brush with the Hollywood mainstream in 2012s Snow White and the Huntsman, and a more damaging brush with its director Rupert Sanders, married and 20 years her senior. The latter affair led to Stewart being dropped from the sequel, which could have been a blessing in disguise. It also led to a high-profile breakup with Pattinson, including public apologies and acres of media attention. Their relationship was of such global significance, even Donald Trump felt compelled to weigh in on it. In 2012, the future president tweeted: Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again just watch. He can do much better!
Since then, both actors seem to have made it their mission to take interesting, uncommercial roles. As a result, they have starred in some of the best films of this decade. In Stewarts case, that would include her work with French director Olivier Assayas: Clouds of Sils Maria (for which she became the first American woman to win a Csar) and Personal Shopper. Not to mention Kelly Reichardts Certain Women, Guantnamo Bay drama Camp X-Ray, Still Alice, and up next, literary impostor tale Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy. Pattinson also found a home in French cinema, with Claire Denis excellent High Life, and has worked with David Cronenberg, Werner Herzog, David Michd, Brady Corbet, the Safdie Brothers (Good Time, another 2010s high point), James Gray, and on Robert The Witch Eggerss Cannes hit The Lighthouse. They have honed their talents and made the right moves. Up to now.
Having survived the franchise curse at a young age, throwing themselves back into it could be their riskiest move yet. The signs are hardly auspicious for either of their new projects. While the 2000s Charlies Angels films did pretty well thanks to three established stars (Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu), this new version features virtual unknowns alongside Stewart. She is carrying the can. Likewise with Pattinsons The Batman. We have seen so many incarnations of the superhero, were all kind of Batted out. Pattinson has promised a really dark trilogy of Batman movies; maybe Stewart will give us a really dark Charlies Angels.
On the glass-half-full side, if anyone can bring something new to the multiplex party, it is these two. They are both now possessed of enough personality and confidence to bend movies to their will, rather than the other way round. Having survived franchise world the first time, maybe re-engaging on their own terms is a challenge. And if it all goes wrong, they can always get team Stewpatz back on the road for another Twilight saga.