I don’t know about you, but when I first heard the rumours that Christian Bale was going to enter the Terminator franchise, I had a hard time believing it. First of all, after donning the cape and cowl as Batman, would Bale really want to align himself with yet another massive film franchise? Secondly, why would an actor of Bale’s stature want to join a franchise that is historically more about special effects and things blowing up than scripts and character studies? When the official word came down that Bale had indeed joined Terminator: Salvation, directed by McG, it became clear that there is going to be much more to the film than what we expect. Even more clear, though, is the fact that Christian Bale is indeed a friend of the fanboy.
That’s right; the good looking, smart, and brilliant Bale has got to be a closet sci-fi or comic book geek. He has to love pop culture like the rest of us do. He simply has to. If you need proof, check out this list of iconic characters that he’s brought to the big screen over the past decade:
Patrick Bateman, American Psycho (2000)
You’re not supposed to like Patrick Bateman, the Wall Street serial killer created by author Bret Easton Ellis and brought to film by director Mary Harron. He kills women, homeless people, and kittens. But in the hands of Christian Bale, the narcissistic Bateman becomes a black comedy icon. Trust me, however American Psycho was marketed back when it first arrived, the film is a comedy. The blackest of comedies. Bateman’s dissertations on New York style, Huey Lewis, and Phil Collins could have fallen flat, but thanks to Christian Bale’s deadpan delivery they’ve now made their way into the pop culure lexicon. In the hands of lesser filmmakers, American Psycho could have been a monumental dud. Instead, the film is the rare case where it’s actually better than its source material, and this is coming from an unabashed Easton Ellis fan. It may not have lit up the box office upon its release, but American Psycho has become a cult classic, and showed that Christian Bale had the chops of a leading man.
Trevor Reznik, The Machinist (2004)
You want to talk method acting, look no further than Bale’s portrayal of the title character in The Machinist, an insomniac losing this grip on reality. Bale starved himself for months leading into the film, dropping an astounding 62 pounds to land at 120 pounds. While the weight loss was what kept the media talking about The Machinist at the time of release, it’s Bale’s performance that’s made the film yet another cult classic in his cannon. Sunken, haunting eyes only serve to highlight the psychological pain Trevor Reznik is in 24/7. Few leading men are willing to get as down and dirty as Christian Bale, and we’re better for it. Almost immediately after shooting The Machinist, Bale would have to pack on the muscle for the role that would take him from cult icon to household name (and certify him as a fanboy favourite).
Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008)
There’s no room for argument – Christian Bale is the best actor to bring Batman to the big screen. Sure, Michael Keaton had the eyes and did a good job back in 1989, but Val Kilmer’s take on the role in 1995 was far from memorable, while George Clooney’s 1997 performance was hampered by an inept screenplay. The pressure was on Bale when he took on the role of Bruce Wayne. Could he and director Christopher Nolan bring back the bat back from the depths of despair? Clearly, we all know the answer. Gritty, realistic, and full of common sense, the Batman franchise has returned in full force. Unfortunately, Bale’s defining performances sometimes get lost in the shuffle; that’s what happens when you’re playing against the Joker, I suppose. Time to give credit where it’s due. Bale’s got the goofy millionaire playboy part down pat (his drunken dismissal of the Wayne Mansion partygoers in Batman Begins is a favourite scene of mine), while his monsterous and aggressive Batman voice is exactly how I want to hear The Dark Knight speak. As the lead character, Bale has helped bring a newfound respect to the comic book film genre, cementing the fact that comics don’t always have to equal camp.
Add in the fact that he’s been quoted as saying that there will never be a Robin to his Batman and you just have more proof why fanboys now flock to Christian Bale’s films.
John Connor, Terminator: Salvation (2009)
With the release this Friday of Terminator: Salvation, Christian Bale becomes the third actor to bring John Connor to the silver screen. Edward Furlong first essayed the role back as a teenager in 1991 with Terminator 2: Judgement Day, while Nick Stahl did a fine job in 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. But with the addition of Bale to the series, expectations are now exponentially higher. Bale doesn’t choose his roles lightly, and I think we can all agree that he doesn’t phone his performances in either. As with every other film he appears in, Christian Bale’s appearance in this new Terminator film raises it from a simple summer popcorn flick to a potential thespian workout for all involved.
We won’t have to wait until Judgement Day to find out. In the meantime, I think I’ll throw on my copy of American Psycho again, size up my business cards, and shimmy along with Bale to some Huey Lewis and the News.