Stepping out of the iconic Cineramadome theatre in Hollywood for a breather after a film screening last weekend, I booted up the Twitter application on my phone and what hit me was a slew of feeds telling me “Ben Affleck is Batman” in the sequel to ‘Man of Steel’.
My first thought: “No, my Batman vs Superman casting article just went up.” And that made me look incredibly stupid. At least I know now from The Hollywood Reporter's latest report that Warner Brothers (WB) approached Ryan Gosling, but the actor disliked the idea of multiple sequels and turned it down. Hopefully, we're not far off with the rest of that list.
Anyway, various tweets followed, which can be summarised into three different types:
- The crowd that went, “NOOO!”
- The “Matt Damon for Robin or Joker!” jokers
- The “Remember how bad Daredevil was?” critics
Apparently, a group of fans even sent a signed petition to the WB offices, where it will eventually end up in an executive's waste basket with a pair of gum wrappers.
So now that the dust has almost settled... let's take a look at what the casting of Ben Affleck means to everyone: the fans, Affleck himself and WB.
1. The internet is... the internet
First, let’s hear from Ben Affleck as he explains the internet in “Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back” (Warning: explicit language)
The online backlash was utterly predictable, since fan sites have evolved into a series of snarky “we hate everything”-style commentaries on entertainment news. Given Affleck's infamy from the Bennifer phase of his life when he was with Jennifer Lopez and made a movie together that bombed, he was an easy target.
But this is all just very typical, isn't it?
Remember how the online world let out a collective “Huh? He's still around?” when Robert Downey Jr was cast as Tony Stark?
Or the time when fanboys collectively cried foul over “James Blond” when Daniel Craig was cast as the famous British secret agent?
Or hey, when Heath Ledger took on the role of the Joker for ‘The Dark Knight’?
We could even go back to pre-internet days, when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman for Tim Burton's take in 1989 and people thought he was just the funny guy who was Beetlejuice.
The point is, the internet has allowed everyone to have a voice, and often, the loudest voices are those of bedroom-dwelling fanboys who aren't right most of the time.
Most of all, we're talking about a fictional character, so calm down.
Despite the ugly costume, Ben looks great in tights
2. About that Daredevil
So Affleck previously played another superhero back in 2003. Yup, 10 years ago.
But superhero flicks weren't as popular then and the only real successes at that time were Sam Raimi's ‘Spider-Man’ (2002) and Bryan Singer's ‘X-Men’ (2000). Since then, we've come a long way. So don’t base your judgments on a movie that happened a decade ago.
Besides, Ben Affleck's acting really isn't the worst thing in that movie. Some have commented on how terrible it is, but I'm on the fence.
Off the top of my head, here are a few things in that movie which are way worse:
- The CGI rats at the start of the movie
- The suit
- The script
- Director Mark Steven Johnson
- The playground wire-fu scene with Elektra
- The shuffling and cutting of scenes that caused the movie not to make sense at parts
Mark Steven Johnson went on to direct ‘Ghost Rider’, and we all know how that turned out. Anyone who knows anything about filmmaking will understand that a bad film is not just dependent on the actor.
For that matter, Zack Snyder who directed ‘Man of Steel’ is good at many things, but creating emotional pull in a movie is not his strength. So one can only hope he does better with Affleck on board.
No one should ever watch 'Gigli' again.
3. He has grown since ‘Gigli’
‘Paycheck’ and ‘Gigli’ in 2003 could have been the worst one-two punch in the history of bad movies and Affleck was in both of them. That and the whole J-Lo fiasco led to him taking a break for a while before he re-emerged as a director.
Since that ordeal, he has been quietly doing some great work as an actor. He has chosen roles and projects in a wiser manner.
In ‘Hollywoodland’ (2006), he portrayed actor George Reeves, who played Superman in the 1950s television series. Like Affleck, the actor struggled in real life with audience expectations that came with fame. Playing Reeves as a tough guy who is essentially broken underneath that formidable exterior... wait a minute, doesn't that sound like Bruce Wayne.
Then, Affleck played a corrupt senator in the 2009 political thriller ‘State of Play’, before taking on the role of a white-collar worker who faces retrenchment in 2010's ‘The Company Men’.
Last year, he produced the Oscar-winning ‘Argo’ and played CIA agent Tony Mendez in there with a reserved cool, never hogging the ensemble piece while still being layered enough to keep the audience interested.
Playing these multi-dimensional characters isn't easy and Affleck has demonstrated he has plenty of range.
As Snyder himself said, “He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him."
Check out Ben's abs
4. He's not physical enough?
Fanboys have trumpeted the “he's just a pretty boy!” card, saying he is not buff enough to be Batman.
Have you seen this photo of the 1.9m-tall actor playing a bank robber in his self-directed movie, ‘The Town?
Yeah, take it back. He can do it.
Besides, to be Batman isn't just about filling out the suit, there is also the portrayal of his alter ego Bruce Wayne, the multimillionaire who can turn people off with his playboy status. Given Affleck's ability to polarise people, this could translate very well into the role.
While we've been used to relative unknowns taking on superhero roles in recent years such as Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Chris Evans as Captain America, this scenario is one where a known name would not be a hinderance to how believable the character would be. Batman is supposed to be seasoned and senior to Superman, and if anything, Affleck has shown he can rock a suit well.
5. It's Superman's movie
With all the hype around the casting of Batman, people forget that this still-untitled movie is a sequel to ‘Man Of Steel’.
Affleck won't be carrying this movie. He has nothing to lose by taking the role and almost nothing to prove, having rebuilt his career after it completely flatlined.
He still has a hot wife and two Oscar statuettes sleeping by him at night.
6. Warner's Play
Warner Brothers has always been a studio that has preferred to work with people they know. When rumours of a Justice League movie first surfaced, frequent WB collaborators such as Christopher Nolan, David Yates, Zack Snyder and yes, Ben Affleck were all floated.
Having delivered to WB a Best Picture Oscar with ‘Argo’ and worked together since his directorial debut ‘Gone Baby Gone’ (2007), it would make sense for WB to want to continue this successful relationship by involving Affleck in its top franchise.
Affleck has stated previously that he is likely to only direct movies where he is also part of the cast. It could be a smart move on his part that in securing the Batman role, he may get to direct solo Batman flicks and perhaps, that pesky Justice League movie everyone has been talking about for years now.
It would seem that the executives don't remember that brief period of ‘Daredevil’ or ‘Gigli’ as vividly, and have chosen to focus on Affleck's more recent and impressive resume. Whatever happens, this Batman vs Superman sequel just became a lot more controversial and interesting.