Late last night, Warner Bros. broke the news that the Academy-Award winning multi-hypenate has signed on to play Batman/Bruce Wayne in the sequel to this year’s Man of Steel (you can find my quick review on my Tumblr). Social media ignited into a frenzy, singing the WB’s praises in one camp, while another camp slung vitriol and hatred, bringing up Affleck’s role in the much maligned Marvel comic book adaptation of Daredevil.
Batman, without question, is my favorite comic book character. Growing up with Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s interpretation of The Caped Crusade, I praised Batman and Batman Returns as the best comic book films during that time. I held onto that believe after re-watching Batman Forever and Batman And Robin, which were overly flamboyant (thanks to the direction of Joel Schumacher) to say the least. Then, everyday after school, I had to pleasure to watch the classic Batman: The Animated Series with the incomparable voice talents of Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker. Mind you, this was before rumblings of the Batman character getting Christopher Nolan got his hands on the reigns and brought us a trilogy of films that made the average moviegoer realize that comic book films can be taken seriously.
When I saw the announcement online, I was surprised. The first reason as to why I was surprised is because Ben Affleck was one name that most people didn’t think of when the Man of Steel sequel was to include Batman. Many fans bandied about numerous names (Karl Urban, Jon Hamm, Josh Brolin). Even Christopher Nolan weighed in and suggested Wes Bentley as a successor to Christian Bale. Reason number two is one, I admit, thought about when I heard Ben Affleck: Daredevil. He was unfairly blamed for a film that was poorly written, directed and photographed. Affleck himself has taken responsibility for the travesty that was Daredevil, even though the blame should not rest solely on his shoulders. Even though the film was a critical failure, it grossed $180 million dollars worldwide and was considered a financial success against a $78 million dollar budget. Besides, I had more problems with Colin Farrell as Bullseye than I did with any element of the film.
Every actor has done a terrible film (or several, depending on the actor). Halle Berry made Catwoman. George Clooney starred in Batman and Robin and Attack of The Killer Tomatoes. Brad Pitt was in The Mexican. Tom Hanks did Bonfire of The Vanities. Each of these actors have held successful careers and have not been defined by one terrible choice. Ben Affleck can be considered in that same category. Building on his mistakes, he has acquitted himself quite nicely. A two time Academy Award winner, Affleck has become one of the most respected and sought after filmmakers of the last decade. The Town, Gone Baby Gone and Best Picture winner Argo have cemented his legacy. It is this exact reason that Affleck was chosen as Batman/Bruce Wayne for the foreseeable future.
Batman is a great detective and that was one aspect of his character that was sadly underused in each of the character’s live-action interpretations. Ben Affleck is a respected film director now and since he signed a long term deal with Warner Bros., my guess is that they will ask him to direct the standalone Batman reboot. In his previous two films, The Town and Argo, Afflecktook on writing, producing, directing and acting duties. Not many actors tackle multiple duties and succeed (i.e. George Clooney, Clint Eastwood). In this sense, Affleck’s casting as Batman/Bruce Wayne is an inspired choice.
In closing, I think Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman/Bruce Wayne was an overall solid choice for the Man of Steel sequel. Affleck has earned his keep in the film industry and should be given a chance to show what he can do with the iconic character. The backlash that Affleck and the filmmakers are receiving is nothing new, as it has happened to other actors in the DC Universe, namely the late Heath Ledger, who many a fanboy decried the worst casting decision since George Clooney in Batman and Robin. In the end, everyone saw the performance he gave as The Joker in The Dark Knight. The biggest tragedy was that we would never be able to see him act except through his earlier work.