Movie casting hullaballoo, it’s a fairly new concept. Folks didn’t give much of a toss when studios announced who would be playing who in the latest blockbusters back in the day. No one flung turds at their copies of Variety when news of Roy Scheider’s upcoming Chief Brody or Christopher Reeve’s soon to be Superman made headlines. But welcome to the twenty first century, where the world-wide-web gives every dumbass from Alaska to Osaka a platform to voice their opinions. So when the latest Hollywood sap steps into hallowed shoes or capes, by the time the press conference is over the world has already told them to go die a thousand deaths.
I’m aware of the irony of moaning about this on an internet film blog, but having read the amount of vitriol levelled at Ben Affleck this week you start to wonder where this amount of arseholery is going to lead us. If only these people put as much energy into lobbying something that actually mattered, such as gun control or peace in the Middle East. Since news of Affleck being the next Batman was released, there have been 10.5 billion Twitter and Facebook comments on the subject, probably. Imagine what that amount of pressure could do if we focused it on something worth while.
Instead people will continue moaning about stuff they aren’t even forced to go and spend money on as if their lives depend upon it, and filmmakers will wonder why they even bother. Just so Hollywood doesn’t give up altogether and leave cinemas with nothing to show but endless re-runs of Twilight (2008), and as an antidote to all the Ben-bashing doing the rounds, here’s an objective look at where this latest casting news leaves Batman fans.
- Christian Bale was a perfect Frank Miller Batman. He had the edgy darkness and Nolan nailed his feet to the ground so that Miller’s shady, reality-based take on Bruce Wayne was realised. There’s no point trying to repeat this or carry it on with another actor; it’s time for a different take. No one had superpowers in Nolan’s world so you couldn’t have Superman turn up out of the blue anyway. As much as we all loved Bale and Nolan’s films its time to move on.
- Affleck has turned in some great work lately. He had to go some to get back into movie fans hearts after the smug, self-indulgence of the "Bennifer” years and to be fair to man, he worked hard. Getting behind the camera he served up The Town (2010) and Argo (2012) two of the best thrillers of recent years. And even though the work has been great, he hasn’t crawled up the backside of the Hollywood establishment. The Academy shafted him big time in 2012 by not even giving him a Best Director nomination for Argo, the film that took the Best Film award, a move that made sense to no one. This no doubt placed a handy Bruce Wayne-esque chip on Ben’s shoulder.
- Most people have drawn the obvious parallels with the brouhaha that kicked up when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker for The Dark Knight (2008). I’ll own up to being one those that threw his toys out the pram at the time, only to be pleasantly surprised when Ledger took me to task and handed me my butt in a sling. I’m not going to make the same mistake here, and no one else should to. Let’s see what Affleck turns in before we all start getting pissy.
- Affleck has an awesome jaw / chin combo.
- What seems to have escaped most people is the teaser quote Man of Steel (2013) actor Harry Lennix read out at this year’s Comic-Con during director Zach Snyder’s Superman vs Batman announcement. "I want you to remember the one man who beat you” is a direct quote from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns Part II when an over-the-hill Batman knocks seven shades out of Superman. For those unfamiliar with the source material, Miller’s tale is set many years after the Justice League of America has been disbanded, with a silver-haired Bruce Wayne forced out of retirement following an escalation of violence in Gotham. Nolan nabbed some aspects of the story (namely, a reclusive, semi-knackered Bruce Wayne) for The Dark Knight Rises (2012), but Snyder has said Miller’s story will have a large influence on his Man of Steel follow-up. Affleck may be in his forties but he’s nowhere near old enough or bulky enough to play Miller’s TDKR Batman unless Snyder breaks out some grey Just For Men and rents him a room above Gold’s Gym.
- More to the point, with Miller’s story being set years after the JLA were broken up at the request of the government, how is Snyder’s film going to lead into DC’s movie realisation of the JLA?
- And does this mean Bale and Nolan won’t come out of Batman retirement to do their own The Dark Knight Returns? Because this is the film we all really want to see.
- Affleck may have turned in some great films as a director recently, but his acting style is still of the one note variety. No matter what the film Affleck plays the same character over and over again. Chuckie Sullivan, AJ Frost, Cpt. Rafe McCawley, Jack Ryan, Jack Dupree, Doug MacRay, Tony Mendez, they are all the slightly nervous, slightly flawed hero and you could interchange one with the other and it wouldn’t make any difference. Sure, he plays the part well and when a script calls for this sort of character there’s no one finer at doing the turn. But it’s no Bruce Wayne, and to date Affleck hasn’t shown the versatility in front of camera to suggest he’d make a good Dark Knight.
- And while we’re at it, Heath Ledger had a list varied and stunning acting performances to his name before he took on the Joker. Affleck hasn’t.
- Ledger may have been a pretty face, but he was considered an actor before he was considered a celebrity. That’s not the same for Ben. Thanks to years of hanging off the arms of pretty A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow and J-Lo, Affleck is still seen as a celebrity first and a performer second and its probably impossible for him to reverse this now. While Bale could become Bruce / Bats, when Affleck dons the cape and cowl most people’s reaction will still be "Look at that, its Ben Affleck in a Batman costume”.
- Daredevil (2003); lest we forget.
Whether Ben’s Batman will be a success or not is largely out of hands. It’ll be the script which will make or break his turn in the Bat-suit. If DC and Warner Bros. take some risks and allow Miller to have a large hand in steering the project it might work. But you have to assume that Man Of Steel set the template for the rest of the series, a bland movie devoid of any inspirational thinking, which relied on flashy Transformers style visuals to keep people entertained; yawn. Some people might be laying into Affleck to prep themselves for a similarly dull sequel, setting the bar low so they won’t be disappointed. That might be a wise move, but perhaps we can put the knives back in the draw until the point when Affleck actually puts a foot wrong. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.