So the big news of the day going into the weekend is Ben Affleck being cast to play Batman in Zack Snyder’s Superman sequel. And as the Internet tends to do when things like this are announced, everyone immediately sounded off with how horrible an idea it is. I need not provide links to prove this point, they’re pretty easy to find.
For me personally, I’m very optimistic about this casting. To explain why let’s look at two things:
1) Ben Affleck’s career up to this point.
2) The men who have already dawned the cape and cowl.
I’ve been a supporter of Affleck’s ever since I first saw him in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. Being that I was fifteen at the time, and being that it was a restricted comedy, my father and I sat in the theater to way a day in the life of 1970s Texas adolescence. Of course I didn’t know who Ben Affleck was at the time and being as I was a kid just enjoying movies, I wasn’t looking to discover my favorite new actor at the time either. I missed Mallrats during its theatrical run, but did see it as soon as it came out on video. This is where my love for “The Aff” truly began. Mostly, I think, at the time because nobody knew who he was and I thought it would be funny to be the biggest fan of someone nobody had heard of.
But his career quickly took off and after few more indie films, including his second Kevin Smith film (Chasing Amy), his star was on the rise and he started getting big Hollywood type films like Shakespeare In Love and Armageddon. Now I must say, at this point my love of Affleck began to wane a bit.
But then he did Dogma and 200 Cigarettes and Boiler Room and I loved him again. Then he did Forces of Nature and Bounce and the ultimate career killer Gigli. Yeah, his acting career has been all over the place.
In 2003, he starred in a very mediocre Daredevil which I think might be providing a majority of the Internet’s concern in this whole Batman matter. But let’s look at what’s happened since DD:
After the whole J-Lo debacle came to a crashing end with Smith’s worst film yet, Jersey Girl, he took to the sidelines doing small roles and indie films. The first step in rebuilding his career came when he played George Reeves (best remembered as TV’s Superman) in Hollywoodland. It was a small but very well acted role that got him his first bout of positive attention in a long time.
Then he turned to directing and gave us three great films, Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, the last of which won him the Oscar for Best Picture, which was my favorite film of the year. It should be pointed out he did double duty behind and in front of the camera for The Town and Argo and performed well in both.
Ben Affleck seems to have gone through a metamorphism from the guy in front of the Hollywood spotlight that everyone started to loathe – especially with his seemingly ’round the clock coverage on ET or TMZ – to being a legitimate artist that one can look up to and admire. And frankly, that’s just the kind of guy I want playing Batman.
Now, Batman through the years.
Before Batman had a film all his own he had two serials back in the 1940s. First a 15-part series called Batman from 1943 that starred Lewis G. Wilson, then 1949’s Batman and Robin starring Robert Lowrey. The first two episodes of the latter have recently been riffed by Rifftrax.
Cut to 1968 where Adam West brought the caped crusader to color! This was a campy, silly version of Batman that you either love or hate. I think it’s fantastic. Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!
Batman went dark again for a long time until reemerging in 1989 with Tim Burton’s take on the character starring Michael Keaton. This was our first serious look at what a Batman film could be and this one is still one of my favorites. Keaton returned for Batman Returns and while I wasn’t as big a fan of that one, Keaton was still good in it.
Then we get to a truly dark time in Batman’s cinematic history. Joel Schumacher took the reigns from Burton and made two of the worst films ever! Batman Forever starring Val Kilmer and Batman and Robin starring George Clooney. Now I like both these actors but they were both terrible Batmen. For those who remember, this was a time when all was thought lost for the future of Batman films. Surely no studio would greenlight another one after what had happened here.
Then Christopher Nolan came along and completely changed the game. Not only for Batman films, but for comic book superhero films in general, giving us two amazing films and one okay one. Christian Bale redefined what it meant to be Batman and entertained us through three films that will certainly be remembered as the best Batman films ever. Well, maybe not The Dark Knight Rises depending on who you ask.
So that brings us to now. Yes, most of what I wrote above is known to most of you, but I restate it to make a point. There have really only been two good portrayals of Batman in all the years that they’ve been making films of his adventures: Keaton and Bale. It also goes to show that, like James Bond, it’s okay to change the actor and still make a great film.
Will Affleck be better than Bale or Keaton? Will he be worse? Only time will tell on that one. But will be better than Clooney, Kilmer or the others? Most certainly. He will bring his own take on the character. I think the Ben Affleck of today is not the same Ben Affleck who played Daredevil. He an older wiser Ben Affleck which, again, is just the kind of person I want step into the cape and cowl and usher in a new era of Batman films.