It’s been a couple of weeks now since the news hit that Ben Affleck accepted the role of the caped crusader in the Man of Steel sequel, the title of which writer David S. Goyer has said would be a toss-up between either Superman vs. Batman or Batman vs. Superman. (And it occurs to me now that I never posted my reaction to MOS. Well, I loved it. I could pick it apart and harp on this or that, but really I’d rather just enjoy it. To me, MOS brought Superman back into the limelight of mainstream, made him someone little boys want to be, and did justice to his story).
Anyway, as the story of Affleck’s casting spread like wildfire, reactions seemed consistently heated and so “Batfleck” was born (oh, Internet, aren’t you so clever?). Inexplicably, however, neither the announcement that James Spader would be Ultron in The Avengers sequel nor the rumor that the Shatner – i.e., the original James T. Kirk – wanted a role in the MOS Sequel, generated nearly as much venom. Damn it, Jim.
Honestly, my immediate reaction to Batfleck was somewhat similar to the masses (a “No, this hurts,” text to MorganMorganMorgan). I mean it wasn’t that long ago that I said I didn’t want Affleck as a super friend. But then I took a breath. I’m still not completely happy with the idea of Benny boy as the dark knight but not for the reasons it seems the majority of folks are in an uproar about. Mine is not a cry of foul, more of a whimper of worry.
Daredevil sucked. Yes, that’s true. But I don’t blame Affleck for that. Poor writing and directing prevented a good comic book origin story from translating well to the big screen. It’s not the first time dignity’s been lost in the translation, and it won’t be the last time a generally good actor looks bad because of poor packaging.
Yes, Affleck is a good actor. Yes, I’ve changed my tune on this; he’s a good actor, one who has gotten better with age. Did you see Argo? How about The Town (which I think is my fave of all his performances to date)? He goes all in, developing a look, a sound, a feel for a character; characters that aren’t all the same, and he’s believable in the different roles. Anyone who says Affleck can’t go dark should watch the scene in The Town when Rebecca Hall’s character tells him some guys harassed her so she takes the long way home now. He asks, with just a hint of edge to his voice, “What’d they look like?” The next thing we see is him telling Jeremy Renner’s character, “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re gonna hurt some people.” Yeah, he can go dark enough.
So do I think Affleck can pull it off? Yes. I think he’ll be just fine, maybe even great, as Batman. My problem, i.e., my worry, is about what this means for a Man of Steel sequel. It wasn’t long ago when Affleck said he wasn’t interested in taking on projects unless he could both direct and star in them. And it was about this very topic really, the idea of a Justice League ensemble. So here he’s already backtracking a bit because Snyder’s at the helm again. So what about the starring part? Coupling Affleck’s prior comments with Goyer’s title bombshell, I’m worried we’re awaiting more of a Batman reboot than a Superman movie. For someone who’s waited almost my whole life for a good Superman movie, I’m not ready to hand over my dreams of an awesome sequel of hope and home to yet another telling of billionaire-turned-bat. (And, seriously, I’ve nothing against Batman. He’s just not Superman).
But I’m tempering my response to Batfleck because I do still have hope.
I’ve complained early before and been happily proven wrong. I hated the idea of Marvel getting anyone other than Ed Norton to play Bruce Banner in The Avengers, only to eat crow and proclaim Mark Ruffalo the best Hulk ever. I didn’t like the decision to get some unknown (to me) British actor to play the symbol of truth, justice and the American way, only to declare Henry Cavill as MY Superman. (Sorry, Tom Welling, though you’ll always be my Clark Kent).
So, I have hope that Affleck will rock the bat mask and black cape, that Cavill will deliver the goods again, and that Superman vs. Batman (or whatever the heck they decide to call it) will be epic.