Casting the Dark Knight: Revisiting Ben Affleck as Batman
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When Zach Snyder announced earlier this year at San Diego Comicon that Man of Steel 2 would actually be a Batman and Superman team up movie, the internet instantly flooded with rumors and speculation at who would be the next Batman. With Snyder hinting that his movie would draw heavily from the Dark Knight returns (the classic Frank Miller Graphic Novel) and that he was looking at possibly casting an older actor to play the dark knight, just about everyone over the age of 30 was soon attached to play the Batman. With Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling starting to emerge as possible front runners, I started to ready myself for the inevitable; Warner Brothers was going to cast someone that I wouldn’t like. Then something surprising happened, Warner Brothers cast Ben Affleck. In one of the more secret negations in recent memory, Warner Brothers managed to cast a very polarizing star in one of their biggest roles without anyone ever catching wind. Ben Affleck was going to be Batman. To say that the internet exploded with outrage would be an understatement. I think the people on the Titanic liked that infamous iceberg more than the fan boys liked the idea of Affleck as Batman. I honestly wasn’t sure how to feel. I’ve never really loved or hated Ben, but this casting really caught me off guard. I was excited for Batman to go in a new direction with a Superman team up, but was Ben Affleck really the right actor to take Bruce Wayne to new heights? The more I thought about it, the more I realized the answer was yes. I truly believe that casting Ben Affleck was not only the right choice for Batman, but it might be the best thing for the entire DC movie universe
Casting Batman for the Man of Steel 2 was going to require a special kind of actor. It was going to be hard enough for anyone to follow up Christian Bale’s super popular turn as Bruce Wayne, but whoever was gonna play Bats would also have to reestablish that character while sharing the screen with Superman. This is why I believe casting Affleck made a ton of sense. Despite making a few bad movies (granted, some were epically bad), Ben Affleck has been one of Hollywood’s brightest stars for almost two decades. From Good Will Hunting to pretty much anything directed by Kevin Smith, Affleck has always entertained and even more has always had a strong screen presence. This was never more evident than in his two latest movies, The Town, and Argo. In The Town, Ben played a bank robber who wanted out of the life he felt forced into. His ability to go from good hearted every man to a ruthless criminal was fantastic. To be able to be charming one minute and dangerous the next, really showed what is vital to playing Bruce Wayne/Batman. Even with Costar Jeremy Renner turning in an Oscar nominated performance, Affleck never got lost on screen. He was able to hold his own in every scene, something he must do to make any Superman/Batman dynamic work. Batman must always be Superman’s onscreen equal. In Argo he played a CIA agent tasked with extracting American citizens trapped in Iran In 1980. In perhaps his finest acting job to date, Affleck wears the weight of responsibility for the people he’s promised to bring home. Throughout the entire movie he has an aura of unwavering confidence that he would get them home. Never once did I ever believe he couldn’t succeed, and by the end I hoped that if I’m ever trapped in Iran, someone would send in Ben Affleck to save me. All joking aside, his ability to make you believe in his character might be the single most important quality that makes him great for Batman. To be able to successfully play Batman in a movie about Superman, you are going to have to be able to convince the audience that you really ARE the Batman.
Lets also not forget that Affleck has played superheroes before. Daredevil was his first chance to play a dark hero. Now I’m not going to tell you that Daredevil was a good movie, because it wasn’t. But honestly Affleck wasn’t really the problem with that film, and his portrayal of Matt Murdock was surprisingly good. He gave the character some real depth and showed us the kind of toll being a superhero took on someone mentally and physically. In Hollywoodland, he continued to showcase his ability to bring a duality to the superhero role. This time he played George Reeves, the actor who played superman in the popular 1950’s TV show. Even though this wasn’t a traditional superhero movie, he superbly played Reeves, who iconically played Superman, all the while battling severe depression that eventually led to his suicide. Ben really did a good job at showing an actor who’s public persona was equal the man of steel he played, but privately he battled his inner demons and own shortcomings. Public faces and inner demons, who does that sound like? In all these movies Affleck does a good job at showing us a preview of what it takes to be Batman.
Ben Affleck can also look the part. Up till this point, the various actors have all lacked the physical presence of what Batman has always been in the comic. At 6’3” Affleck will be the tallest actor to be the dark knight by far, and if The Town was any indication, he should have no problem getting ripped for the role. One of my personal pet peeves with all past Batman movies, has been the lack of a physically imposing batman. Now I don’t think the role needs to be filled by a giant bodybuilder, but considering that Batman has trained to the peak of human performance and is basically the most dangerous man in the world, it would be nice if he actually looked like it when he walks in the room. Plus considering Henry Cavil is no slouch, any actor cast was gonna need to be able to look like he really could take on Superman.
I believe Warner Brothers hired Ben Affleck to be more than just the Batman. With already two Oscars under his belt (most recently winning Best Picture for Argo), Affleck has proved that he is also a extremely talented film maker . My guess is the reportedly multi-picture deal to play Batman that WB signed with Ben, includes him directing some of those films. The idea of Affleck bringing his intense, character driven style of directing to his own set of Batman movies, and possibly the Justice League movie, has this fan very excited. Not to mention a probable producer credit on the Man of Steel 2. Director Zach Snyder has been very open to collaborating with others on his movies; From having Frank Miller on the set of the 300, to having Christopher Nolan help with the original Man of Steel. I don’t believe Snyder would pass on the opportunity to have someone with Afflecks talent help make Batman vs Superman, a movie with already huge expectations, as good as it can possibly be. Personally, I hope Ben can give Zach a few pointers on secondary character development. That said; With Christopher Nolan being the DC movie universe overlord, Zach Snyder running all things Superman, and now adding a guy with Affleck’s ability to the mix to possibly handle all things Batman (and hopefully Justice League); Warner Brothers and DC will have set themselves up to really compete with that other comic movie franchise over at Disney.
Casting a Icon can be a funny thing. We all think we know who will be the best Batman, or Superman, or any other of the numerous Iconic characters that we all know and love, but rarely does Hollywood listen to our suggestions. Most the time the actors cast just do a decent job and then move on to the next movie. There are times that casting really does fail us; here’s looking at you entire cast of the abomination that was Batman and Robin. Luckily for us there are times when actors seem born to play a role, like Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. But every now and then we hear about a crazy casting, one we just knew would destroy everything we hold dear as fans, that ends up being the one iconic performance that defines a career, and captivates us as fans; RIP Heath. I don’t know what kind of Batman Ben Affleck is gonna be. He might be as bad as people fear. But I think if his past work is any indication, than we could be looking at one of those great casting jobs that we laugh about later, wondering how we ever thought it would be bad. As a life long comic book fan it’s been great watching Marvel succeed, now I selfishly want DC to do the same. If Ben Affleck is that Oscar winning piece that Warner Brothers needs to make that happen, than I can get behind that.