When Batman was announced as a part of the impending Man of Steel sequel at the end of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, a great deal of excitement could be felt from comics and film fans all over the world. When it became clear that Christian Bale would not be returning as the Batman, and rumors swirled about the studio looking for a more experienced Caped Crusader next to Henry Cavill’s Superman, speculation ranged from actors like Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling on through Joe Manganiello in terms of who might take up the cape and cowl. That speculation was laid to rest last night with official word coming down that the team-up film would feature none other than Ben Affleck in the role of the Dark Knight detective.
Among friends, colleagues and thousands of fellow fans, it seemed that the immediate reaction to Affleck’s casting in the role was mixed, with some singing the praises of the studio's genius, and others still lambasting the “assured” death of Batman on the silver screen. Much of the divided reaction apparently comes from Affleck’s performance as Matt Murdock in the 2003 Daredevil film, directed by Mark Steven Johnson. Many of the fans’ thoughts about that film seem to be shared by Affleck himself, in that he doesn't seem to like it very much. For some fans, it seems to be easy to forget that the Daredevil film came out over a decade ago, and while Affleck hasn’t been attached to a proper superhero role since then, any Hollywood observer can see that his career has come a long way since 2003.
It’s a little shortsighted to think that fans can’t accept the same actor in the role of a new superhero, as Chris Evans successfully jumped from the Human Torch in Fantastic Four to Captain America in The Avengers. Beyond this, though, Affleck has become a respected storyteller in recent years both in front of and behind the camera. After starting his career as a celebrated director for films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, Affleck’s name was briefly attached to Justice League as a possible director, but he said that it never went past a few meetings (which also made him excited for the direction the studio was taking with Man of Steel). Since then, many of the perceptions about Ben Affleck are that his career has come back in a big way, and he’s gone from a regular appearance in tabloid magazines to a worthy contender on Oscar night.
So, that begs the question: why Batman? And with the baggage that fans seem so willing to hoist onto his back, can he effectively be Batman? To answer this, let’s look at some of the facts: Ben Affleck has gone from primarily whimsical roles (at least for which he was most well-known) and being a regular staple of close friend Kevin Smith’s “View Askiewniverse” to becoming a deft, respected storyteller, weaving tales of darkness and intrigue. The Town is a primary example of this, a gritty crime drama focusing on the machinations of a family in a city bound to a narrow life, in an environment dripping with atmosphere.
Upon my first viewing of The Town, I thought of the atmosphere and feel of another film more than once: The Dark Knight. Even if there was no inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s work, it’s pretty easy to see that Affleck’s mind went to similar places. The role he’d taken in both that film and even in Argo help illustrate, to this Bat-fan at least, that there is more than a little potential in looking at Affleck to embody Batman.
In regards to his past work in more whimsical and comedic roles, these have the potential to serve a dimension of Batman’s character as well, namely that of the public Bruce Wayne. Think about it! Would it be so weird to see Affleck’s smiling, perhaps drunken face plastered across TMZ with the headline, “BRUCE WAYNE AT IT AGAIN”?
At least one person would seem to agree with me: the upcoming film’s director, Zack Snyder. In a statement, Snyder said of Affleck’s casting, “Ben provides an interesting counterbalance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.”
Given Affleck’s recent resurgence as both actor and director, speculation is bound to come around to Batman’s next solo installment. On more than one occasion, Affleck has stated his preference for acting in the films he directs. If Affleck is going to be Warner Bros.’ Batman going forward, then the possibility may exist that the first post-Nolan solo Batman outing may also end up being a Ben Affleck film. This possibility really excites me, and I know I’m not the only one to feel that way.
With all of these facts and intriguing possibilities out in the open, when I revisit the question of whether or not Ben Affleck can become the new Batman, I’m forced to only one conclusion: yes. As Batman fans, we’re definitely lucky to have an actor and storyteller of his caliber in a part that so many of us care about, and the thoughtfulness he’s put into other stories he’s constructed might be exactly what Batman needs when he stands toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel in 2015.
Let’s give him a chance. If it doesn’t work out then we’ll all know, but if it does, then there’s no danger in feeling emotions beyond those of anal retentive fanboys and actually liking something. I think there’s superheroic life for Affleck after Daredevil, and a great deal of fans (and probably the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) will likely agree with me.
This, though, is just one fan's opinion. Can Ben Affleck become the new Bruce Wayne effectively? What do you think? It seems like Ben Affleck, one way or another, is in for a very long knight.