Archive for August, 2013

“I’m Batman.”

Posted: August 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

ben-affleck-new-batman

By now everyone has heard the news. It’s no big secret or shocking revelation. Academy Award winner Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Dark Knight in Zack Snyder’s as yet untitled follow up to this summers Man of Steel. And, of course, you’ve no doubt become aware of enormous backlash about this news. So much so that the chemical weapons use in Syria doesn’t even seem to hold a candle to the magnitude of importance. Ben Affleck as Batman seems to be second only to Miley Cyrus “twerking” on stage at the VMAs.

But why are people so outraged? Well there are a few different reasons for such a negative reaction. Not the least of which is that people just love having something to bitch about. Especially in the film industry. It’s by far not the first time there has been a lot of internet rumblings and fan commotion about a particular character being recast with an unexpected choice. In recent memory alone you have Daniel Craig as James Bond with the popular internet dub “Blond, James Blond.” And in a more related matter there was a lot of distaste for Heath Ledger as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Sure, Ledger had a massive smile that seemed very Joker-like, but ironically his actual smile would never be used in the film. Nolan had a different approach to the clown prince of crime that the late actor ended up playing quite brilliantly.

Batman just happens to be one of those characters that the fan community has a sentimental attachment to and believe that there are certain people that just aren’t cut out to play that role. In some cases those complaints are thoroughly justified and in some cases it’s a simple matter of “oh screw that guy! He sucks! I hate him.” However, in the case of Ben Affleck as Batman, it’s that rare situation that happens to be both of those.

I like Ben Affleck. I’m going to start there. There are a lot of people who don’t and that’s a fair assessment. He comes off as pompous and arrogant and he doesn’t have the greatest filmography to his credit. However, when given the right material and following the right direction he really is quite a phenomenal actor. I especially enjoyed his work as George Reeves in Hollywoodland. It was intense, dramatic material in a very well made picture. The fact that it didn’t reach a larger audience is tragic in itself because it really did tell an amazing true story that, to this day, still resonates with a lot of people. That said, it’s also the only time I’d ever want to see him in the Superman suit (a role that his 6 foot something, square-jawed appearance had him in the running for back in the day). There are just some roles that, no matter how good of an actor you are, you just aren’t suited for (no pun intended).

When Warner Bros. announced that Affleck had been cast as Batman most people, myself included, immediately shot to one thing in particular: Daredevil. As you know, Daredevil was a movie based on the Marvel Comics character that was very poorly received not only by fans but by the movie going public in general. Of course, anybody who knows me knows that I liked Daredevil – to an extent. I think the reason I’ve fought so hard for that opinion simply falls on the matter that Daredevil is one of my all time favorite characters and, at the time, I wanted to believe so hard that the movie was good that I just accepted that it was. I no longer feel as strongly for it as I once did but the director’s cut still holds up a hell of a lot better than the theatrical release did. But it does stand to reason that if you watch Daredevil the last thing you want to see, based on that performance, is Ben Affleck in a much higher profile and much more revered role as Batman.

I could be wrong. Naturally, how well or poorly an actor does a performance is something that can’t really be judged until it’s been seen. However, it seems unlikely that people will be able to accept Ben Affleck as Batman. Not just because of the Daredevil performance but also because he is too high-profile. Even in the cape and cowl – but especially in the case of Bruce Wayne – people won’t be able to see anything except Ben Affleck.

Richard Donner had the right idea when he told Warner Bros. that Superman needed to be played by an unknown actor. There are certain characters that can’t be played by an A-Lister because people will never see past who the actor is wearing the suit. With Batman it’s a little easier because in the suit his face is covered. But as Bruce Wayne he would still be just that actor. Christian Bale pulled it off well enough because when Batman Begins came out he wasn’t superstar status yet. He was known by some but his biggest roles at the time were cult classics at best. It wasn’t really until Batman that he joined the ranks of the A-List. Affleck is already a superstar actor. His roles need to be more carefully selected and limited to more personal or dramatic roles like Argo and The Town or roles where a superstar A-Lister is needed to sell the film to audiences Gigli or Forces of Nature. Batman is a role that desperately needs an unknown, or at least a known actor with a smaller resume.

Matt Damon recently did an interview defending Affleck and firing back at all of the negative criticisms about the news.

“I know there are a lot of people grousing on the Internet. I just think it’s kind of funny. You know he’s not playing King Lear – it’s Batman! Certainly within his skill set,” Damon said and added, “If anybody saw Argo or The Town and all the work he’s been doing lately, it’s way more nuanced and interesting than Batman.”

I like Damon as well – way much more than Affleck, in fact. The Bourne movies were amazing. But those are the words of someone who clearly doesn’t understand the character. There’s more to Batman, Superman and Spider-Man than just a few choreographed action scenes in a funny looking suit. These characters are pop culture. They are a part of the people who read and watch them. Batman has been around a lot longer than any of us and will continue to be around long after we’re gone. In the end, does it really matter who has played him? Probably not. Because there will always be someone else later. But in the here and now it’s important to try and get someone who will not only do well but meet the approval of the people paying to see it. Maybe we will be surprised. Maybe Ben Affleck will deliver a performance that redefines the Dark Knight for decades to come. But I’m sure that when he gets on screen and says the immortal words, “I’m Batman,” there will be plenty of people in the theater who say “no you aren’t.”