Apollo
Rakewell

Whatever happened to Bruce Wayne’s good taste?

13 March 2022

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Gazillionaires are not what they used to be. Anyone who goes to see The Batman in search of a killer house as well as a serial killer will be severely disappointed. All that Wayne money can buy many things but apparently it won’t be good taste.

The Batman, in case you’ve understandably been hiding in a cave, is the latest cinematic reboot of the caped crusader. With Robert Pattinson’s Batman, the ninth incarnation of the superhero, the emphasis seems to be very much more on leather than beautiful things. When he makes his first appearance, the first thing we see is a rather powerful boot which suggests all manner of things about domination and subservience in Gotham but not a lot about decorating.

The most popular Batman is probably the version that Christian Bale played in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. In this version Bruce Wayne had rather splendid digs as his riches afforded him the privilege to live in, first, the Rothschild house Mentmore Towers (also used, incidentally, as the location for the video for the Spice Girls final video Goodbye) and, then, Wollaton Hall (in the sequel). Here, the Waynes’ money was a means of leading an Old-World life, everyone aspiring to be an English aristocrat. The figure of the English butler, Alfred, only added to this impression.

Tim Burton’s more overtly stylish films also used English houses. Knebworth was the exterior while the interiors were shot at Hatfield House, such that the Salisburys’ art collection became that of a crime-fighting vigilante in a fictional New York.

By the time we get to Pattinson’s Batman, he’s given up on living in a wonderful house and instead has an apartment in Wayne Tower, the family skyscraper at the heart of Gotham. The interiors major in neo-gothic woodwork and difficult shaped rooms, the telephones are stylishly retro Bakelite. That’s about all you see. On the plus side, Alfred is no longer a solitary indentured servant, the Chekhovian old retainer of Nolan’s films – instead, the Wayne millions have been properly set up to provide the service he requires. Much more important, however, is the sense of tortured emo retreat that the carvings and tracery give. Rakewell can’t help but be saddened by this apparent demise in Bruce Wayne’s situation. If part of Batman’s mission is giving the people something to fight for, surely it needs to be a well-appointed lodging?

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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