If you are not in tune with the nerd-o-sphere, then you probably don’t know that Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Batman for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel 2.
I spoke recently about my cautious optimism regarding the direction DC was taking with their movie division. This announcement has taken my nerd-terror scale rating on this subject from yellow to orange.
This is one of those announcements which causes the entertainment community of the internet to bubble and boil over in the kind of stubborn arguments which almost always lead to people questioning and thereby insulting the integrity of mothers and people’s sexual preferences as it quickly degrades per the terms of the Laws of the Internet. Controversy will likely be as abundant as it was when Heath Ledger was first cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight.
I’ve upped the alert level from yellow to orange because, on the surface, this seems like a Val Kilmer/George Clooney level move for Batman whereas Affleck does not have the same grit we’ve become accustomed to with Christian Bale’s Batman, at least not on the surface. Not to keep mentioning it, but this was my first thought about Heath Ledger as well and we all know how good (if not tragic) that choice was in the end.
While Affleck’s most recent works have garnished critical praise and while he’s currently riding high on Argo, his acting prowess seems to be dictated strictly through direction. He is a director’s actor and his best efforts have come while he was his own boss. Zack Snyder is a fair to solid bet to get a decent performance out of him, but there are still a few factors which lend heavily toward my doubts about this decision.
First, the obvious: Daredevil. I mean, really. Did you see Daredevil? I did. I paid money to see it. I paid money to see it knowing that Ben’s future wife-to-be Jennifer Garner was playing Elektra with her overly-squared jaw and typically emotionless, robotic, Stepford-esque quality. I went knowing that Michael Clarke Duncan was playing the Kingpin even though his best performance to that point was John Coffe in the Green Mile. Most of the time I can let these factors slide due to typical Hollywood re-imagining and truncation of the plot. I am in the minority of understanding nerds who get that some fan service has to be discarded for the sake of mass digestion when making the transition from comics or books to the big screen. Daredevil, as you know if you have seen it, was more than this. It was an inexcusable train wreck comparable to Ang Lee’s Hulk.
Second: Zack Snyder. Not that I didn’t love 300 and I was even on his side when the debates about Watchmen erupted but by doing such a good job with Man of Steel Zack proved one thing: He is a Superman Person.
Much like cat people and dog people, there are Superman people and Batman people. Typically, never the twain shall meet, moreso in the case of the superheroes than the pets. If you have a friend who is a dog person and you’re a cat person, you’re not going to get into drunken geek screaming matches about who would win in a fight. This happens quite a bit with Superman/Batman people.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you probably know I fall squarely on the Gotham side of that fence. I feel a twinge of disgust every time I see that big red S emblazoned on someone in whatever manner. I get proud when I see someone rocking the Bat-logo. This is the natural nerd order of things.
Zack Snyder, being a Superman person by trade if not by choice, may not give Batman the respect or care that the character deserves. This may lead into bad direction for Affleck which, as previously mentioned, could make the Batman in Man of Steel 2 back into the horrifying Matt Murdock of Mark Steven Johnson’s cinematic atrocity. I believe it’s against the Geneva Convention to subject someone to watching that movie. I would hate for the same fate to come upon Batman, even if it is truly a Superman movie.
I also have a sneaking suspicion that Affleck is really a Superman person. Bad news, if that’s the case.
Third: It is a Superman movie, after all. Though Bats will likely make up a big part of this movie, especially considering it’s partially based on The Dark Knight Returns, the branding used to the press has been fairly explicit: This is not the Batman/Superman Movie. No matter what the conjoined logo belies, this is Man of Steel 2. That is and has been the logline for this movie since SDCC. To me, that says that the “hate each other but team-up for the greater good in the end” angle may come in underplayed and allow Supes to take up more of the spotlight, it being his movie and all. Be it Affleck, Bale, or even Fillon (as the fans wanted), Bats is likely looking at reduced screen time even in the event of a potential (yet unlikely) note-worthy performance by Ben. The only benefit to this is, if his performance is ass, the limited screen time may do some (SOME) damage control.
I will continue to leave the terror alert at orange until I see a screen test or a trailer. I remain doubtful that this signals anything good for Man of Steel 2 or the Justice League movie afterward (in which, for consistency’s sake, they’d better get Affleck back for better or worse).
DC’s cinematic universe has always been a calamity. They’re good at destroying franchises before their time. For their sake, I hope they can keep it together to the end or else the Justice League movie is going to look as bad as the mid-90s JLA pilot, no matter how many big names they pull in.
Keep fighting the good fight.