Predictably, the announcement of the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel instantly generated controversy, opposition … Internet kvetching of all stripes.
But, just as the announcement of J.J. Abrams as the director of the next Star Wars film met with an immediate firestorm of hatred for the idea (and vows of boycotting), you know what? It’s all rather moot—because everyone’s going to see these movies anyway.
And really, let’s all calm down about it. The casting of Ben Affleck as Batman is … well, it’s fine. I’m not jumping up and down with joy about it, but I don’t think it’s going to be the death of the DC movie universe as some are no doubt predicting today. I think it’s going to be just fine. And will I go see the movie? Hells yeah!
Let’s look at some of the concerns over this casting, and why it’s ultimately going to be a good thing, OK?
1. The Daredevil Factor
The first time I heard about the news, it was followed with a mention of how crappy Affleck was as Daredevil.
OK, let’s examine that.
The 2003 Daredevil film was, in the opinion of many, a mediocre film at best. But was that entirely Affleck’s fault. The script and direction (both by Mark Steven Johnson) were weak. The costume was silly. The film was filled with hokey, unintentionally comic moments. Affleck did seem stiff and miscast. It was not his shining moment as an actor by any means.
And given that Affleck followed this epic with some more middling performances in bombs like Gigli and Jersey Girl … well, let’s just say this wasn’t the peak of his career.
But Affleck is certainly riding high these days. Anyone remember a film called Argo? It won the Best Picture Oscar in 2012, and deservedly so—it was awesome. Affleck not only directed and produced it, but also acted in it. And you know what? He was awesome in it. The guy can act.
2. The Chris Evans Factor
OK, so Daredevil sucked. And an actor who starred in a crappy superhero film can’t make a good one, right?
Wrong. Case in point, I give you Chris Evans, who starred in not one but two crappy Fantastic Four films. He was the human torch, and he tried, but ultimately he was just a forgettable character in a forgettable film, right?
Not exactly the start of a brilliant superhero career phase. That is, until a couple of little films called Captain America: The First Avenger and its follow-up The Avengers. Maybe you’ve heard of them?
When Evans’ casting as “Cap” was announced, his previous stint as the torch was certainly cited as a cause for concern. Turned out, he was great as Captain America in his own film and the blockbuster team film. Now he is Captain America. Human Torch who?
One good performance in a good film or two can certainly change opinions!
As in Evans’ case, if Affleck does a good job as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman Vs. Superman (or whatever they end up calling it), all past sins (Daredevil et al) will be forgotten, and he will be Batman moving forward, and everyone will anticipate his return in the expected Justice League film.
3. There Are Business Reasons
Speaking of Justice League, let’s consider the possible bigger picture behind the Affleck announcement. Reportedly, Warners wants Affleck to direct the in-the-works Justice League film (which would unite numerous DC characters) really, really badly. Makes sense—he’s an acclaimed, skilled director. So let’s take a leap and speculate that perhaps his Batman casting is part of a bigger deal—that Warners wants to lock him as a figurehead in the DC Universe films plan, much like Joss Whedon has become the grand master of the Marvel film universe after his triumphant direction of The Avengers. While Man of Steel auteur Zack Snyder is set to direct Batman Vs. Superman, is it too much of a leap to predict that Warners is still looking at Affleck to direct Justice League, and this is a good way to solidify his relationship with the franchise? Pure speculation on my part, but don’t be surprised if we hear an announcement along those lines at some point.
Beyond that, it makes good business sense to cast a proven, successful actor/filmmaker as Batman. Sure, superhero films have a good track record of making stars out of relative unknowns (a tradition that started with the casting of Christopher Reeve in the original Superman film and continues with that character’s recent smash reboot, Man of Steel). But when a movie is going to cost in the neighborhood of $200 million, why not hedge your bets?
Besides, it doesn’t really matter who they cast as Batman, because …
4. He’s Batman, Dammit!
While the role is not actor-proof or bad movie-proof (case in point: the atrocious George Clooney-starring Batman and Robin), Batman is the coolest. When the casting of Michael Keaton in the first Batman film way back in 1989 was announced, it was met with controversy not unlike what we’re hearing about the Ben Affleck news. Folks thought that with Keaton’s comedy background, it was going to be a silly, campy film like the 1960s Adam West TV show. But once photos came out of Keaton in that cool black costume, we took it seriously. And he was a great Batman, and the film was a smash, and it started a huge franchise, which was taken to a new level with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Christian Bale took the role to new heights and for many became the definitive film Batman, deservedly so (even if he went overboard with the growling voice). It was reported that DC was going to cast an older actor as Batman for this version to go up against the younger, less experienced man of steel. So we get Affleck, who is reportedly working out to get in buff shape for the role. I’m confident that many of the gripes we’re hearing about his casting now will be silenced once we see the first pictures of him in costume.
And if the movie is good—and you can bet Warners is lining up top talent to make sure it is, retaining most of the Man of Steel creative team—we’ll all be looking forward to further Batfleck features, just as we did with Michael Keaton.
5. Affleck Gets It
While many actors, once cast in a superhero film, will quickly let the public know they never read comic books (lest anyone mistake them for a fanboy nerd), Ben Affleck loves comic books, and has gone on record about it. Besides the Daredevil debacle, he’s acted as a comic book artist in his buddy Kevin Smith’s films. He gets it. Do you think he will take this movie anything less than seriously or give it anything less than his all? I sure don’t.
6. Forget Those Silly Casting Rumors
I guess it’s no surprise that the announcement of Affleck’s casting has prompted rumors that people associated with him will be in the movie as well. There was the image of Matt Damon as Robin by Batfleck’s side. I also saw a piece speculating that Affleck’s wife Jennifer Garner (whom he met when she played Elektra in Daredevil) would be cast as Wonder Woman. Forget about it. As a follow-up to Man of Steel, this is going to be a serious film—count on that. So stunt casting would just make the whole thing trite. Don’t count on it. (Plus Damon’s too old to play Robin, and Robin’s a girl in the storyline that’s rumored to be a source for this film’s story—Frank Miller’s iconic The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel).
So that’s my take. I’m absolutely fine with the Affleck casting, because I’m confident it will be a good, serious film that’s going to make huge bank and could be the gateway for Warners/DC to establish a film universe that rivals Marvel’s. Are the haters really going to boycott it due to Affleck? I seriously doubt that—they’ll stand in line with the rest of us on opening weekend, even if just to be the first to hate it online.
I’ll see you there.Buy Man of Steel (Blu-ray+DVD+UltraViolet Combo Pack) on Amazon