When the news that Ben Afleck had been cast as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel hit Twitter last night, I honestly thought Kevin Smith was having some fun.
When I realized it was not a joke, I was suddenly very depressed, but not perhaps for the reasons you think.
Let me preface this by saying that I like Ben Afleck. I even liked him in Daredevil, and wish he’d been given a better script. I’m not a big fan of Gigli, or Reindeer Games, but the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed Argo, and The Town. Part of the reason I’ve enjoyed seeing his career the last couple of years was because it seemed like after a rocky early adulthood, Afleck seemed to be coming into his own- as a director, but also as a force in politics. It was nice to see him representing my generation as a grown up.
So, yesterday’s announcement surprised me, because as much of the Twitterverse has commented, it’s an odd career choice. It feels like a step back. Worse, it seems like a trip in a time machine. If this news had come ten years ago, maybe it would have seemed more plausible, but this just feels like a complete one-eighty.
None of this is to say that I don’t think Ben Afleck is a good actor, or can’t play dark, or that he can’t play a man with a past that affects him. He can, and has. But I can’t think of a single Batman arc that I see him in. He’s not old enough to play craggy, retired Bruce Wayne, and he’s certainly not Dark Knight material. I think the issue is, that while Afleck has played characters who have had rough lives, or touch breaks, he’s still always a version of the guy next door. And that’s not Batman.
I also can’t help but wondering that against Henry Cavill, who successfully gave new life to Superman this summer in Man of Steel, Afleck will fall short. It doesn’t seem like a plausible match up.
My other issue is a general issue with the movie industry- Dark Knight Rises only came out a year ago. And yet we already feel the need to sweep aside Nolan and Bale’s characterization, wipe it from our memories, and replace it with something new. Why? Why are studios (and fans) incapable of letting a good movie hold its place for a while? On the flip side, Cavill’s portrayal of Superman was phenomenal in multiple ways- why can’t we see him in a sequel on his own? Is the studio so desperate to try and make some Avengers cash that they are willing to just throw crap together in a rush to get to a Justice League movie? If so, they’re missing the reason that Avengers was successful- it worked because Joss Whedon cares about story and characters more than anything else. And even in a blockbuster movie full of superheroes and aliens, good story and characters are still what make a great movie.
I do agree that a lot will depend on the story. Which Bruce Wayne will we see? Will we see both Superman and Batman finding their way together? We’ve been surprised before, as a fellow 8DAG writer pointed out last night, Heath Ledger was considered an incredibly odd choice at the time. And then he blew everyone’s expectations away and became an iconic character.
Who knows. I do know that fans will be salivating over each and every crumb and clue that they get. I guess we’ll all have to wait and see.
But I still think someone made a devil’s deal with Kevin Smith