In case you have not heard, Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Batman in Zack Snyder’s follow up to Man of Steel. And the internet is treating this as some sort of hate crime, with demands for justice echoing far and wide. Obviously, such a disaster must not go unpunished.
And those people are wrong.
I must admit, I was skeptical about the casting. Affleck would not be my first choice to play Batman, although I think he could direct a great Batman movie. But to treat this choice as something that requires intervention and indignation is silly, for so many reasons. Hopefully I’ll be able to address some of them here.
First, I personally reserve final judgement until I see the film. It’s a distinct possibility that Ben Affleck may be a terrible Batman, one who does not realize what it is about the character that has connected with so many generations. But that was also a danger with Kevin Conroy and Christian Bale. It is never a guarantee that an actor will give an effective performance.
Now, Affleck has given bad performances in his career. The characters he’s played do not fit the usual Batman type. He’s been in one superhero movie, Daredevil, that was roundly trashed on its release. Affleck’s made a great comeback as a director, but as an actor, many still view him in a very negative light. How could play a character that, on the internet, has a following that rivals major religions?
The answer is that that’s the point of the character. Batman is about transformation and masks. Bruce Wayne and Batman are not the same man wearing a different costume. Rather, they are completely separate personalities that inhabit the same body. No one is supposed to be able to realize that Bruce Wayne is the Batman. The reaction to Affleck’s casting is actually a good thing. It means that that people are already responding to this aspect of the character. That was one of the problems I had with Christian Bale. He made a very strong Batman, but his Bruce Wayne was nothing more than a kooky loon. He was so obsessed with pretending to be a billionaire playboy that it came across as a hammy facade.
That was what worked about Michael Keaton’s performance and why he is still the best cinematic Batman. Keaton was so surprising as Batman because there is no one would picture him as dressing in a costume and beating up criminals. But he did, and he was absolutely terrifying (see that scene in the first Batman where he dangles a criminal over the ledge of a building). He was able to capture the dichotomy of the role and realized
Besides, while many see Affleck’s Daredevil as proof that he cannot play a superhero, the flaws of that film were not Affleck’s. Indeed, Affleck made a great Daredevil and was able to capture the essence of the character well. The problem was that he was stuck in a poorly edited film with bad action scenes and very little time devoted to his other personality as a lawyer. The director’s cut supposedly solves some of the problems (I have not seen it) which further demonstrates that the people involved were aware of Affleck’s potential. In the right hands, he could play a great super-hero.
I will reserve judgement until I see the film. It is entirely possible that Affleck will be as bad as the fanboys predict. In which case, I will be ripping him to shreds. But just because Affleck is an unconventional choice does not mean he will be bad. There are many other factors to make a memorable Batman film and we will just have to wait until it is released.
And there is no chance that Affleck can be worse than Adam West. So we don’t have to worry about that.