So, seen any good memes lately?
Like a lot of fans, I was floored when I saw the news that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman in 2015′s Superman/Batman film. We’d heard rumors about a half dozen other actors, including Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin, but Affleck’s name wasn’t a mainstay in any of the conversations. If anything, Affleck’s name was likely brought up as a joke. He was, after all, the star of Fox’s underwhelming Daredevil film. And there was a time when Affleck was something of a Hollywood punch line, appearing in flop after flop after flop. Cinematic disasterpieces like Pearl Harbor, Gigli, and Surviving Christmas. So it’s an incredible shock to see that Ben Affleck’s comeback has seen him not only win another Academy Award, but get one of the most iconic parts in American cinema. Even if you don’t like him, you’ve got to at least tip your hat to him. He’s risen from the ashes like a damn phoenix.
And yes, let’s all make the Matt Damon as Robin joke. Are people making Jennifer Garner/Catwoman jokes, too? Let’s throw one in just to be safe.
All jests aside, this announcement was met with more than it’s share of jeers from fans, which isn’t even remotely surprising. There’s even an online petition demanding the actor’s removal, with more than 36,000 signatures. Affleck’s history aside, whoever got the role was destined to be met with a mountain of skepticism, criticism, and even outrage. And who do we blame for that? Christian Bale, of course. His often over-the-top hoarse delivery aside, he’s established himself as the quintessential cinematic Batman of the 21st century. Between his look and his acting chops, he was everything you could want in a Batman actor. And he lived up to the hype. Heck, rumor has it he was being lined up for a $50 million payday to play the role one more time. How does any actor follow that kind of reception?
I know some are crying foul because Joseph Gordon-Levitt won’t ever get to suit up as the Dark Knight. The whole Nolanverse, as great as it was, is now essentially null and void from a continuity perspective. As a fan, that’s frustrating. We’ve heard all this talk about Warner Bros. using Man of Steel to launch a DC Comics cinematic universe, just as Marvel has done with its movies. But I think the majority of fans would tell you the Nolanverse was the ideal DC cinematic universe, and there’s not necessarily a need to create another one, because we had a perfectly good one already. Let’s also not forget that the Superman/Batman film is being co-written by David Goyer, who had a hand in writing all of Nolan’s Batman movies, as well as Man of Steel.
There is a caveat there, of course. Nolan and Goyer wrote themselves into a corner with The Dark Knight Rises. They inexplicably set the film eight years after The Dark Knight, and of course, they had Bruce Wayne retire. So if a Superman/Batman movie were to be set in the Nolanverse, we’d likely have to go to the trouble of pulling Bruce out of retirement, which might needlessly hold up the proceedings. Yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would have made a fine Batman. But from a marketing and publicity standpoint, it’s ideal to have Bruce Wayne in the cowl. Especially since this is the first time Superman and Batman will be together on the big screen.
So if we can’t have Christian Bale, then we need a new Batman. Ergo, Ben Affleck.
Let’s not kid ourselves, here. Ben Affleck is entirely capable of playing a superhero role. Daredevil had it’s share of issues, but I didn’t have any problems with Affleck’s suitability for the Matt Murdock role. He certainly didn’t look out of place in a dark superhero movie. But I think what has people up in arms about the Batman announcement is the question of whether Affleck has the acting chops to portray a character as haunted as Bruce Wayne. His Matt Murdock certainly had some of those qualities, but Batman takes brooding to a another level entirely. Even casual fans are expecting that kind of character. So Affleck may have his work cut out for him. And you’ve got to believe he knows that. I’m sure he’s well aware of what his reputation is among fanboys, and that he’s going to have to move mountains to win their approval.
And as if that weren’t enough, there’s a lot, a lot, a LOT of money riding on this thing. Man of Steel laid the foundation for a DC cinematic universe, and now it’s this movie’s job to actually get the damn thing going. Even moreso than Man of Steel, the success or failure of the Superman/Batman movie is going to make or break Warner Bros. and DC’s ability to get more movies off the ground. What’s more, it’ll have a tremendous impact on the global perception of their brand, and their ability to compete with Marvel. And that’s to say nothing of the sky-high fan expectations for the film overall. Ergo, Affleck is arguably in a more difficult position than any other new Batman actor has ever been. A disappointing performance here would result in the disappointment (and even the downright rage) of millions of fans, and the loss of BILLIONS of dollars in future superhero movie revenue. Yeesh. Talk about pressure…
But all hope is not lost. One thing that’s definitely worth noting is that these Batman movies tend to bring out certain sides of actors that we never knew existed. Michael Keaton seems to be the apropos example to make at this point. When he was chosen for the title role in Tim Burton’s Batman, a lot of fans either scratched their heads or cried foul. Remember, at that point he was best known for his role in comedic films like Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice. But of course, he turned out to be perfect for the role. Some fans still consider him to be the best cinematic Dark Knight of them all.
And then there’s Heath Ledger, who won a friggin’ Academy Award for his performance as the Joker. But when fans learned he’d been cast, there was no shortage of outrage. Newsarama actually just posted an article, title Public Service Reminder: How the Internet Reacted to Heath Ledger as Joker Casting. It’s a great read if you’re looking for some perspective on all of this.
Interestingly enough, it was reported awhile back that director Zack Snyder was meeting with Frank Miller to talk about this movie. And when the film was announced last month, a passage was read from The Dark Knight Returns. This has lead to the speculation that an older Batman will be gracing the screen in 2015. As of this writing, Henry Cavill is 30, and Ben Affleck is 41. I wouldn’t read too much into that at this point, as Affleck is certainly capable of playing younger. But it is worth noting.
So what else is there to say at this point? Eh, not much really. To our knowledge, they haven’t shot a single frame of footage yet. But we do know this team produced a pretty good Superman movie, and that Cavill has a solid footing in the role. We know David Goyer’s track record with comic book movies is good, Blade: Trinity notwithstanding. And we know that Affleck, regardess of what people say about him, is a good actor. So while the stakes are high, there are definitely circumstances leaning in his favor.
Sadly, the only thing we can do now is wait for 2015. Or at the very least, a trailer.
Front page image from hollywoodreporter.com. Images 1 and 4 from mashable.com. Image 2 from facebook.com/comics.xaminer. Image 3 from ushumor.com.
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