In Defence of Batfleck: Why Ben Affleck will make a Great Batman
By Phil Boothman.
Late Thursday night, it was announced by Warner Brothers that the role of Batman in Zack Snyder’s Untitled Superhero Mash-Up Film, also known as the sequel to Man of Steel, would be played by none other than Ben Affleck.
Then on Friday, the internet went insane.
The casting decision had some high-profile supporters, particularly Kevin Smith who, as both a Batman fanatic and a good friend of Ben Affleck, seems more qualified to make judgments on the decision than most, but the vast majority of the internet went into a nerd-rage meltdown railing against what they see as a travesty to the source material and the worst thing that has happened to Batman since Joel Schumacher gave George Clooney rubber bat-nipples.
It would seem, then, that in this case I am in the minority: I like Ben Affleck as an actor, and I think he is well-suited to the dual role as both Bruce Wayne and Batman.
Most of the criticism brought up against Ben Affleck comes from two of his past roles: the multiple Razzie-winning cinematic atrocity Gigli, and Affleck’s previous superhero outing Daredevil. While there is little that can be said in defence of Gigli, Affleck was far from the worst thing in it, seemingly thrust into a starring role before his time and offered poor writing to work with.
Daredevil, on the other hand, is not as terrible as people seem to remember it. The plot and general writing is far from perfect, admittedly, but the overall characterisation is decent, with some standout performances from Michael Clarke Duncan as the hulking Kingpin and Colin Farrell as the manic hitman Bullseye. Even Affleck’s characterisation is good, with a clear delineation between his superhero persona as the brooding, sinister Daredevil; and his cheekier, cockier secret identity as Matt Murdock.
However, the main point to bear in mind when comparing these films to Batman vs Superman (a working title I’m going to use for the sake of simplicity) is that they are both around ten years old, and there are far more relevant, not to mention recent films to look at before critiquing Affleck’s acting ability: The Town and Argo to name two. Both of these films show that Affleck has matured into a far more grounded actor, capable of portraying complex, layered characters, than he ever was in Gigli or Daredevil. Look at Doug MacRay in The Town, for example: he is a brooding, violent criminal who hides the illegal side of his life from his new girlfriend, and strangely comparable to Batman in this way.
Similarly, in the ten years since Daredevil’s release, superhero films have changed to the point of being unrecognisable when compared to those of past decades. Simply because Affleck was in a sub-standard superhero movie a decade ago doesn’t mean he is going to ruin a contemporary superhero film which is also presided over by some of the most qualified filmmakers working today.
Moving on to actual expectations of the role, and I believe that at the very least Affleck will be a far better Bruce Wayne than Christian Bale ever was: Bale’s interpretation, while he had his ‘playboy’ moments over the course of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, was altogether more damaged, and constantly felt as though he was hiding his true identity. The Bruce Wayne of the comic books and earlier films is far cockier, more arrogant and generally charismatic than he is in Nolan’s films, and Ben Affleck has the skills to pull off a more faithful version of the character.
Elsewhere, various sources suggest that Affleck will be portraying an ‘older, more experienced’ Batman than Henry Cavill’s relatively green Superman, which means that the version of Batman we’ll be seeing in Batman vs Superman is going to be a very different beast to any other portrayal of the character we’ve seen thus far on the big screen, which means the role requires an actor different to those we have seen in the role before. And ultimately, who better to play an older, more experienced superhero than an older, more experienced actor?
The sad truth, however, is that there would have been a furore surrounding the news regardless of who was cast in the role: creators of comic book movies have long since learned that it’s impossible to please everybody when making these films, and a decision some people love is going to be hated and despised by others. But the naysayers out there would do well to remember that there was a very similar outburst of anger on the internet when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight, and that led to one of the greatest on-screen villains of all time. Really, we should just be thankful that we live in an age where we can get A-list stars like Ben Affleck playing a role like Batman, or that we’re even getting a Batman vs Superman movie at all.
As a final note, to the people who created and signed a petition to have the role re-cast: grow up, you’re making nerds everywhere look bad.