So, today, the internet is melting down because Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. Apparently this is a bad thing. Because, God forbid an Oscar winning writer, director and actor should be involved in a movie! That might make it good! Think of the children! Think of the children!
But here’s the thing; like the man says all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again and each time it does happen, there’s an overlooked group of people who get it right in the face, day in day out. I am of course talking about my homies, my people, comic store staff.
I’ve run a store, I know how this goes. Every single piece of news, rumor, disinformation and flat out click whoring gets discussed, ad nauseum, with you, every single day.
Now, a lot of time this is great. I’m a firm believer in finding joy in your work but, as someone who was once in a three hour ‘conversation’ about how Superman’s a bit like Jesus, it gets old. It gets even older if you’re not a superhero comic fan. So, I feel for my brothers and sisters of the till today. This weekend they’re going to have the conversation a lot and to help, maybe, I put together this. It’s part talking point, part UnCus (Unknown Customer, a much lesser known FBI term) profile and part script. Chances are you know a good chunk of it but even so, it’s here and if it helps? I’m thinking of you.
Why would they go with Ben Affleck?
Well, I’d imagine a lot of it has to do with his years of experience. Remember, this is a man who’s in the unusual position of being an extremely bankable writer, director AND actor. He’s won Oscars and, remember, he was shown the JLA movie script, offered the gig and turned it down. The studio trusts this man and for a studio as incredibly change/risk/daylight/delete as applicable averse as Warners are with their superhero movies? That’s an enormous deal.
So he did that because he secretly wanted to ruin Batman?!
No, because the last time we checked the only people intent on secretly ruining Batman are evil Wayne Corp executives and, on occasion, the Riddler. Remember, Affleck’s a hugely successful director but his movies are not themselves huge. He specializes in character pieces and the JLA movie is definitely bigger than that.
Also, the dude’s played Jack Ryan, Daredevil, an Angel and Superman already. It’s not like he has much left to prove.
So he’s doing this to try and resuscitate his career!
He starred in and directed the Oscar-winning movie Argo last year. He’s really, really good in it too, both in front and behind the camera. Dude’s not hurting for money or prestige right now.
But he’s awful! Because Gigli! And Jersey Girl! And Bennifer!
What were you doing, ten years ago? Now, compare what you were doing then, with what you’re doing, and who you are, now.
I’ll wager that you’re about ten years cooler, more together, smarter and experienced now, right?
Gigli was released in 2003. Jersey Girl was released in 2004.
To quote Jack Nicholson in a contextually appropriate manner; Think about the future.
But Daredevil was awful!
No, it really wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, lots of it? Not good. I’m rewatching it tonight and the CGI in the organ fight alone is going to be painful. Daredevil is another in a long line of movies that got butchered by the studio. There’s really good stuff in there you just have to dig for it a little.
Plus, the playground fight/flirt scene is so very clearly two actual people in the process of actually falling in actual love whilst pretending to be two other people in the process of falling in love it’s all weird and meta and incredibly sweet.
Seriously, if you can, track down and watch the Director’s Cut. It’s almost an entirely different movie. Alternately, if you can, rewatch the theatrical release. It’s a movie with real issues but none of them are Affleck.
I don’t watch crap films twice.
Can’t blame you for that one, matey, I watched Revenge of the Fallen once. Still have the nightmares…
So, how about I recommend some top notch Affleck flicks you haven’t seen that may reassure you?
Shakespeare in Love
He plays Ned Alleyn, the lead actor of Shakespeare’s company and nails it. He’s funny and articulate and absolutely holds his ground in a cast that includes Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow and about 8 metric tons of the best British comedians of the last twenty years.
The best Vin Diesel movie you’ve not seen. It’s a thriller starring Giovanni Ribisi and Diesel as extremely dubious back-street commodity traders. It’s also a fascinating combination of a coming of age story and a thriller. Affleck arrives half an hour in, does what amounts to a heavy metal cover version of Alec Baldwin stealing Glengarry Glen Ross, and then leaves. He takes the movie with him.
This is a thriller that fictionalizes the events surrounding the death of George Reeves, the first actor to play Superman on screen. Affleck plays Reeves in flashback and is utterly fantastic. If you’re worried about his inability to play dark and troubled, watch this movie.
Affleck directed and starred in this account of the CIA mission to evacuate US diplomats from Iran following the storming of the US embassy there in 1979. He plays Tony Mendez, the CIA agent whose plan was put in place and who ended up on the ground in Iran coordinating the escape. It plays fast and loose with the facts in places but as a piece of film making it’s extraordinarily accomplished, gripping as hell and has the best double act in years, John Goodman and Alan Arkin, in supporting roles.
Oh also? That escape plan hinged on a fake movie adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light including storyboards by Jack Kirby.
So that’s Superman, Daredevil and one of the greatest comic creators of all time in Affleck’s resume to greater or lesser degrees. Even assuming you hate Daredevil with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, you can’t accuse him of being a stranger to the field.
But he’s too old!
Well that’s kind of the point isn’t it? It’s been explicitly stated that this version of Batman is older than Superman and I think that’s a really good idea. I’m more than a little concerned by the implications that they’re adapting/borrowing heavily from The Dark Knight Returns but that isn’t Affleck’s fault.
Also, he’s 41. Henry Cavil’s 30. That instantly sets up a really interesting older brother dynamic that I don’t think these two characters have had before. The idea of Bruce being a little older, a little more experienced has real dramatic potential on both sides. You have Clark reawakening Bruce’s idealism after years fighting in the trenches of Gotham City and Bruce helping Clark find the moral centre he and half the internet think he lost at the end of Man of Steel. That’s even before we get to the question of who gets to be the new Alfred (Alan Arkin or we riot! And by we I mean me!) to say nothing of whether or not we’re getting Batman in this movie at all. After all, there’s a lot to be said for Bruce’s encounter with Clark leading to initial hostility and, ultimately inspiration. If nothing else that would be a twist on the ‘Heroes misunderstand each other and fight then team up’ dynamic that’s a couple of decades long in the tooth now.
Look at these two guys.
They even look alike. There’s infinite potential for ‘day/night’ style explorations of their approaches and pasts here. Clark’s an idealistic farm boy. Bruce is a playboy with a tragic past. Clark’s home is the wide open plains of Kansas. Bruce’s home is the claustrophobic nightmare of Gotham City. They complement as much as they conflict and that has so much potential I’m honestly very excited for this movie now.
Okay but the film will still be awful
Maybe. Zach Snyder is the definition of a Marmite director and always has been. For the record I like a lot of his stuff and saw a real attempt to evolve as a director in Man of Steel but your mileage may vary. However, one of the few things most people agree on is that his cast was rock solid. Add Affleck to the established ensemble of Cavill, Adams, Fishburne and Russell Crowe and you’ve made a strong cast even stronger.
But this will ruin the comics!
No it won’t. Nothing in the past has, at least not permanently. Batman may look a touch more Affleckian for a while but I don’t see much else changing. Besides, even if DC do decide to completely upend the Bat continuity, bring it solidly into line with Man of Steel 2: Man Steelier and draw the characters as Affleck and Cavill for the rest of our natural lives?
(And face it, it’s DC. That’s probably been considered).
Decades of Bat comics will remain forever untainted for you to enjoy. And even better, if you wanted to try something new now’s a perfect time.
And that’s where I hand over to you because no one on Earth hand sells better than comic store staff. Go forth and sell Strangers in Paradise or Saga or Chew or Transmetropolitan or any one of the thousands of amazing books there are out there. Go be magnificent. And remember as you do, that before long, people will realize that Affleck may not be the Batman fandom thinks it needs, but he is the Batman it deserves.