Breaking News: Ben Affleck is Batman

ben affleckWell, not literally, of course. Batman is a fictional character, but Affleck will play The Dark Knight in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. Opinion ranges from ‘worst casting ever’ to ‘inspired choice.’ I probably can’t add much to what others on the internet have already said, but I’m cautiously optimistic about it. I recently watched Argo and The Town and thought they were brilliant. The latter especially was a dark film in which Affleck demonstrated an impressive emotional and psychological range. He also did a great job as Superman actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland. I suspect he can do Batman justice, provided the material around him is strong. In my view, the writing and direction are the potentially weak links in the project. I didn’t like Man of Steel nearly as much as I wanted to, and both Goyer and Snyder are hit or miss for me.

Quite apart from casting, there’s the question of whether including Batman in a Superman sequel is the way to go. Clearly, the studio sees Batman as the more bankable character after the success of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I’m sure a movie featuring both characters would make a lot of money. The studio is also hoping to compete with Marvel by building their own universe that will culminate in a Justice League movie down the road. But one might question the wisdom of recasting Batman relatively soon after the success of Bale’s interpretation. The Nolan trilogy was so well-received, any actor or director taking on the character will have his work cut out for him. However, the Batman universe that Nolan and Bale created, which I enjoyed for the most part, never seemed like a world that could be inhabited by super-powered beings. If the goal is to build a Justice League universe on the back of Man of Steel, the way Marvel built the Avengers universe on the back of Iron Man, a new direction is required.

I also question the wisdom of a Superman VS Batman story reminiscent of Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Sure, some fans want to see the characters fight, but that doesn’t work for me for a couple of reasons. First, I’m a Superman fan, so I don’t want to see him get shown up in his own movie. Because Batman has no super-powers, writers often make up for that by giving him some strategic edge in combat with super-powered opponents. Since we didn’t see kryptonite in Man of Steel, some have suggested that it will be introduced by Batman. But that brings me to my second reason for not liking the ‘versus’ idea: it turns Batman into Lex Luthor. Superman already has an archenemy who is a billionaire, uses kryptonite and, in some cases, battle armor to fight Superman. Putting Batman in that role, as Miller does, has never worked for me. I would rather see the two characters come into conflict in more subtle, ideological ways, before setting aside their differences and teaming up to fight a common foe.

My point is simply that the success or failure of the movie doesn’t rise or fall on casting alone. There is also writing and direction. My problems with Man of Steel, for example, had nothing to do with casting (which I thought was quite good) and everything to do with writing. So while I think Affleck has proven himself a competent actor and director, he doesn’t have creative control of this project like he did with Argo and The Town. However, if the Superman VS Batman movie is a success, and he establishes himself as Batman, perhaps he could take the reins directing future stand-alone Batman films, or a Justice League movie. That might be an interesting outcome.

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3 thoughts on “Breaking News: Ben Affleck is Batman

  1. I’d much prefer Affleck behind the camera than in front of it. I’m very concerned about them basing a Superman movie on Frank Miller’s work because he’s openly admitted he hates the character of Superman and wrote his work to reflect that. But as long as Batman’s bad-ass, nothing else matters right? After all… he’s Batman. That trumps everything, right?

    • Doesn’t Affleck usually star when he directs? As mentioned, there’s still a chance that he may direct DC properties down the road. I’m also concerned about the VS storyline, whether it’s based on Miller’s work or not.

      • He was offered a chance to direct both Man of Steel and Justice League but turned them down because he didn’t feel comfortable directing a special effects-driven movie because he hadn’t done something like that yet.
        I’m very uncomfortable with a VS movie, just like you. I’m not a big fan of Avengers but I did appreciate they kept the hero vs hero thing to one scene, when Iron Man fought Thor who fought Captain America, and then they worked together. I don’t get the sense VS will do that. And that’s sad because it continues the cynical view of heroism displayed in Man of Steel.

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