Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben Affleck is the New Batman!

So that's that.  It seems only like yesterday that Warner Bros. announced at Comic-Con that the sequel to this past Summer's Man of Steel would be a Batman/Superman movie, tentatively titled Batman vs. Superman, or Superman vs. Batman (according to screenwriter David Goyer).  Well, it only took a little over a month for Warners to pick their choice for the new Batman after Christian Bale reported mere weeks before Comic-Con that he would be in no further Batman films, which that right there should have been the sign of things to come.  The rumors flew around that Warners was looking to present an older, more seasoned Batman, compared to Henry Cavill's still wet behind the ears Superman.  The list of possibles included almost every major actor from about the age of 35-50, with everyone from Josh Brolin to Ryan Gosling considered frontrunners by the rumor mill at one point or another, but the wait is no more, because the role has been cast!  The new Dark Knight is Ben Affleck.

Okay, let that sink in for a minute.  I know what you're thinking:  Ben Affleck?  The guy who made Gigli?  Well, he'll never live that one down, but I find his casting intriguing.  Here's why.

First, this is intriguing because of Affleck's history with superheroes.  Not only did he play Daredevil, but he sort of played Superman in Hollywoodland, the film about the mysterious death of TV Superman, George Reeves.  Then there's the fact that Affleck was reportedly approached by Warner Bros. about a year ago to direct and star in a Justice League film that would have conceivably spun out of Man of Steel.  Affleck was not interested then and turned it down, but now he is interested.

I am personally intrigued, first off, to know what changed Affleck's mind.  Maybe it's the fact that he feels the pressure will be less not directing and only acting.  That is a possibility.  The other possibility is that Warner Bros. and David Goyer clued him into what the story of the film will be about and he wanted a slice of the pie.  These type of behind the scenes workings are never fully revealed to us clamoring audiences, because once an actor, or anyone for that matter, signs on to a movie, their job is to say only good things about the script, the director, and the studio.  Have you ever noticed that?  If you hear interviewers ask an actor in a press junket why they took a part, the actors say it was because of the script or the director, or they wanted to work with a certain actor, it's never that they were just offered a huge payday and would feel terribly stupid if they turned it down.  Of course, I'm getting offtrack, because the casting of Affleck as Batman is intriguing for a second reason.

The second reason Affleck's casting is intriguing, is because Affleck has already played a superhero in the Marvel/20th Century Fox film version of Daredevil.  While that film did not succeed at the box office, and Affleck considered it a personal creative failure, the film really isn't as bad as most people remember it, and in fact I thought Affleck made a convincing Matt Murdock.  He had the charm that Murdock has, especially with women, but he also brought a gruffness whilst in the costume.  Both qualities will come in very handy for Affleck in doing Bruce Wayne/Batman, but the other thing he brought to Daredevil was this battered, tortured soul, that accentuated the character's past.  This quality is the main reason as to why I was not completely taken aback by Affleck's casting.  Of course, take in mind, no one has seen anything yet in regards to script or footage.

It's always hard to tell how someone will do with a role, sight unseen, without having seen a screen test or anything, but based on Affleck's previous work, with a similar superhero in demeanor, I think he might just pull Batman off.  It's a tough gig to do, for sure, to follow up such an acclaimed and beloved run as the one that Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan had with The Dark Knight trilogy.  I pity any actor who has to be the first to follow up, running the risk of being seen as a substitute rather than the actual teacher.  What heightens this risk is the fact that co-screenwriter of The Dark Knight trilogy, David Goyer, is writing this Batman/Superman film, and therefore the question remains as to how different in characterization will he really be from the Christian Bale Batman?  As I said, we can't answer any of those questions yet, but I'll remind fans that people thought Michael Keaton would make a terrible Batman when Tim Burton first cast him in the late '80s, and the resulting film became one of the first big box office superhero films that was taken seriously by critics and audiences.  Lest we forget a similar reaction to when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker?

In summation, I've never been the biggest Ben Affleck fan, but if he does the job well, which I think he has the potential to do, I think he can be a worthy successor to what has already come before (provided he bulks up of course).  While this seems almost like a ploy on the part of Warner Bros. to have a bigger box office draw attached to the film, as well as to keep Affleck happy, seeing as how one of the last films he did for them won Best Picture at the Oscars, it's hard for me to not pull for any new superhero film in hopes that it's actually good and becomes a worthy addition to my greatest films of all-time list.  My only fear is that Warner Bros. is in such a rush to make this movie, in the light of their supposed disappointment that Man of Steel topped out at around only $290 million at the domestic box office, that they cast the first person who just seemed kind of right.  Because the last thing the world needs is Superman being given a chance to prove himself on his own.  No we've gotta try and reach box office numbers like The Avengers by throwing in Batman.  Did it never occur to them that the box office haul wasn't as big as they wanted it to be, because the film was such a radical reinterpretation of the source material that alienated many fans?  But I'm getting offtrack again.  Back on...

Affleck could knock the role out of the park, as I said earlier, I think he has the potential to do it.  What does he need in order to do so?  Well, I think it's simple, a killer script, and that's not on Affleck.  That's now putting the ball back in the court of Goyer, Warner Bros., and director Zack Snyder.  I was not a fan of Man of Steel, I've already said that enough, so the script and direction in all honesty have me more tied up in a knot than the casting of Batman.  Not only are Goyer and Snyder going to have to work on their portrayal of Superman and his personality, but they are having to craft a Batman that is hopefully not too similar to Christian Bale's that gives Affleck some wiggle room.  Not to mention my trepidation that by calling the film Batman vs. Superman and using the fight between the two in The Dark Knight Returns as the rumored basis for the movie, might not be the best way to introduce this classic friendship between polar opposites to the world.  Of course, if they do like The Avengers did, show Batman and Superman fighting for most of the movie, and then teaming up at the end to save the day and realizing that they actually respect one another, then I think everything could work out fine.  Once more, back to Affleck and the real news of the week, that Batman has been cast.

While I would have personally loved to have seen Jim Caviezel don the role, purely because of his work on Person of Interest, here's wishing Affleck the best of luck, and that the potential from his previous superhero portrayal can be fully realized under the guise of the Dark Knight.

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