Thursday, August 22, 2013
Just hours ago, the news broke that Ben Affleck has been cast to play Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming sequel to this year's Man of Steel. The initial reaction I've seen online has been mostly negative. I don't know if people are automatically thinking of his underwhelming 2003 superhero film Daredevil, which was supposed to kick start that franchise but ultimately never really did. It produced an even worse spin-off, Elektra, starring Affleck's wife Jennifer Garner.
But can Affleck work as Bruce Wayne and Batman? You know, I think this might just be crazy enough to work, despite the negative reactions so far! First off, you can't cast Affleck aside because of Daredevil. Chris Evans was okay as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, but his performance as Captain America helped elevate his career to another level. Affleck has had a very successful film career with Oscar winners such as Goodwill Hunting and Argo. While I initially liked Michael Fassbender after his successful reinvention of Magneto in X-Men: First Class, the announcement that they wanted an actor in his 40s in order to avoid a Batman origin story pretty much ruled out the younger X-Men star. The 41-year-old Affleck is certainly a seasoned actor and can bring his experience and confidence to a role that certainly will require both.
He will also need this confidence to avoid falling into the trap of trying to recreate Christian Bale's Batman. Bale's Batman is truly incomparable. Trying to duplicate that would pretty much be the worst thing they could do. That is why Brandon Routh trying to be Christopher Reeve's Superman did not work. Just because Affleck and Snyder will not be able to be Bale and Nolan isn't the end of the world for the Caped Crusader. Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy was based in "realism" with no Lazarus Pits for Ra's al Ghul and no Venom for Bane. Bale's Batman was just essentially a regular guy who beat other regular guys. For this to work, Batman will have to become a regular guy who beats superheroes and super villains like he does in the comics and cartoons. Can't really have realism when the other main character is an invincible Kryptonian.
But just because they can't have Nolan's realism doesn't mean they're doomed to Adam West/George Clooney campiness. The DC Animated Universe and DC Animation have been doing it great for years. Kevin Conroy is the most underrated Batman of all-time. He created a dark, serious Batman during the 90s when Joel Schumacher was making its film counterpart increasingly campy. He bagan with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 all the way through Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond. He has even reprised the role in various standalone movies such as Justice League: Doom and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. That is the Batman Snyder and Affleck should aspire to. Don't try to be Bale and certainly stay away from the campiness of the Burton/Schumacher series.
Ben Affleck was not my first choice. He very well may not be yours either. Was Henry Cavill your first choice to play Superman? Had you even heard of him before? I hadn't, but he certainly exceeded all expectations. Heath Ledger's casting was met with some skepticism and he went on to put on one of the greatest performances in movie history. Anne Hathaway's and Tom Hardy's casting was met with similar criticism as well. So...maybe...Ben Affleck is the Batman we deserve AND the one we need right now...