When I first heard the announcement from Comic-Con in July that the sequel to “Man of Steel” would be a Superman/Batman team-up film, I was ecstatic, to say the least. Oh, the possibilities!
Like any geek-fan with Internet access, I combed the Web during subsequent days, searching for emerging tidbits of information about the upcoming film. The big question, of course, was, Who's going to play Batman?
In previous interviews, Christian Bale had seemed adamant that he would not put on the cowl again, and despite rumors that Warner Bros. was offering him crazy money to come back, it seemed doubtful to me that he would.
So who, then?
An A-list of supposed contenders began making the rounds online, with names like Josh Brolin, Jon Hamm, and Ryan Gosling being tossed about. Like most such lists, it was the typical blogger feeding frenzy. Something to write about in the absence of any real information.
Last week brought us the answer.
I first learned of the announcement from a Facebook friend. A quick Google search confirmed the news. And all my hopes for a wonderful movie starring DC comic's two most enduring, iconic heroes disappeared.
I tossed off a bitter, snotty comment on my friend's post. He was all about keeping an open mind. I was busy closing and locking the doors of my own. Later-on, I posted this on Facebook:
“'The Dark Knight Falls.' DC Comics and Warner Bros. have surrendered to Marvel Studios and Disney. Ben Affleck cast as Batman in the 'Man of Steel' sequel: 'Batman Vs. Superman!' And I thought George Clooney destroyed Batman on film! Oh well, no reason to continue seeing my cardiologist on a yearly basis!”
Shortly after posting that, a new question presented itself for my consideration: What, exactly, is wrong with Ben Affleck?
I do not dislike Mr. Affleck. I think he's a gifted actor,a talented writer and clearly a fine emerging director. I don't blame him for “Daredevil.” In fact, I've always kind of liked “Daredevil.”
And The accolades and awards he received for “Argo” were richly deserved.
So what's wrong with the casting?
Well, three things, in my opinion:
1. Since Frank Miller's pivotal 1986 graphic-novel reimagining of the Caped Crusader, “The Dark Knight Returns,” Batman has been predominantly presented as the ultimate badass. Dirty Harry, Mad Max, John McClane … these guys have nothing on the Dark Knight. I've seen many of Mr. Affleck's films, and I can't think of a single role where he projected anything remotely resembling the level of toughness necessary to evoke a proper Batman.
2. Even when he's trying to look serious, Mr. Affleck always appears to be smirking, slightly. Or, as a friend put it, “He always has a goofy look on his face!” Batman does not SMIRK! Ever. Certainly not perpetually.
3. He's too big a star. Being a major Hollywood player for a couple of decades carries a lot of baggage, some good (“Argo”), some bad (“Gigli”). The beauty of the Christian Bale Batman was that Bale was something of an unknown quantity when he started. He defined his Batman, and his take on the character defined him, to some extent. I question whether we'll be able to see Batman or Bruce Wayne or if we'll just see Ben Affleck? Clearly, the “Argo” beard is not going to work this time.
That being said, I feel compelled to try and be open-minded.
Back in the stone age, pre-internet days, Michael Keaton's casting as the hero in director Tim Burton's “Batman” supposedly prompted a deluge of more than 50,000 letters to Warner Bros, protesting Burton's choice. Few understood that in Burton's somewhat crazed cinematic world, where only a man of dubious sanity could dress like a giant bat and fight even crazier criminals, that Keaton was perhaps the only actor of his time capable of bringing the crazy while remaining likeable in the role. Most agree that Keaton pulled-it-off.
Some of us wish to this day that the scene where Keaton's Bruce Wayne smashes the vase on Vicki Vale's mantle with a fireplace poker and asks the Joker if he might “Wanna get NUTS? C'MON! Let's get NUTS!” would have resulted in a knockdown-drag-out fight between Keaton and Jack Nicholson, rather than ending abruptly with the Joker shooting Wayne.
When Christopher Nolan cast blond, Aussie pretty-boy Heath Ledger to play the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” many fans hated it. But apparently Nolan knew what he was doing. Ledger delighted fans and non-fans alike with his chilling portrayal of an anarchist madman, and Ledger received a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar. If you've seen the film, I doubt you'd consider it a “sympathy award.”
I can also recall some adverse reaction to Nolan's choice of Anne Hathaway for Catwoman, although I think that most fans at that point simply recalled the whole Ledger debacle and decided to keep quiet. If you admired Hathaway's complete ownership of the role in “The Dark Knight Rises” as much as I did, you'll agree that was definitely a wise choice.
This is the heart of the matter. If the director feels that a star is right for a role, and if said director knows what he or she is doing, then perhaps the rest of us should just sit back, relax and wait for the movie. “Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder seems excited about this next project and excited to have Affleck aboard.