Ben Affleck is the newest actor to take on the dual role of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman, taking over from Christian Bale. He’ll be taking on and/or teaming up with Henry Cavill as Superman in a new dueling-superhero epic coming in 2015.
Is it good news?
The first thing I’d like to say, because I think it’s important to contemplate, is that this news does not affect my actual life one way or another.
The only time the casting of a superhero movie has ever affected me directly is when they cast a guy who looks like me as Spider-Man, and that’s only because since then, people have occasionally followed me around on the street asking for autographs. Believe me, the fact that most strippers somehow think I look like Eminem has made more of a difference in my personal and private affairs. Sorry. Real talk. But even if they cast Ben Affleck in a remake of 8 MILE, it still wouldn’t cause a ripple in my day-to-day .
Now the longer answer to the question:
Personally, I’ve rooted for Ben Affleck from way back. I don’t know how many times I saw SCHOOL TIES and DAZED & CONFUSED by the time Kevin Smith decided to put him front and center in MALLRATS, CHASING AMY, and DOGMA, the kind of one-from-the-heart movies which at the time I adored. There are film actors who dedicated cinemaniacs put on a pedestal, such as Bill Murray and Clint Eastwood in my case, and then there are those you dig because you first encountered their work around the same time you became entirely dedicated to film as a full-on cinemaniac. These are the actors of your generation, a few years older, but the actors you’ve grown up with. That’s Ben Affleck for me, and Matt Damon too. (Also Ewan McGregor, and Leonardo DiCaprio to a lesser extent.)
GOOD WILL HUNTING came out when I was in college, and the story of Damon and Affleck getting that movie made and finding the success they did was so inspiring to me. I didn’t expect to be as committed, as industrious, or as lucky, but it was still something to aspire towards. Likewise, it’s been gratifying to see Affleck turn around the public perception with his smart, eminently capable directing career to become known as a neo-Eastwood actor-director type. I’ve never crapped on the guy. For better and sometimes for worse, I’m very loyal, both in life and as a movie fan. Unlike most people who make GIGLI punchlines, I actually saw GIGLI (it’s not remotely that bad, and the parts that are, are certainly no fault of his.) I always liked him, if I didn’t always like the movies. I would bet there was a time I’d have been the one suggesting he play BATMAN.
I started writing about movies online not long before GONE BABY GONE came out. My post on that movie is lost to time (or lack of know-how), but it was one of my favorite movies that year, as was THE TOWN afterwards. [Click here for my rave review!] By the time I saw ARGO I was a bit underwhelmed, because I had nitpicks with it that I didn’t have with his previous two films, but I still admired the wider global canvas Affleck took on. It’s still a very solid film by a very promising director, one with an interest in human stories and sociopolitical issues. What I’m leading up to is that getting back into superhero movies feels like a lateral move at best. The analogy would be Clint making a Dirty Harry sequel after LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA.
When I said Ben Affleck is a talent I’ve grown up with, that implies something which may or may not be entirely true: that I’ve grown up. I’m much more interested in more adult stories now. I still love superhero stories (I recently called Batman the coolest pop-culture character ever) but not remotely as much as I used to. I’ve seen plenty of superhero movies by now, particularly this summer. There are plenty of guys lining up to do those, and plenty of people lining up to see them. But there aren’t as many filmmakers making movies like GONE BABY GONE, THE TOWN, and ARGO, certainly not with Ben Affleck’s profile and clout. We need him fighting that fight. In a weird way, Ben Affleck going back to superhero movies feels more like a victory for the bad guys than the good — unless, as some have speculated, he’s doing it to get more freedom to make the kind of movies he wants; in which case, suit up, my brother.
The real problem for this production, as far as I’m concerned, is that the whole question is totally irrelevant. I don’t have an issue with Ben Affleck as Batman. Under different circumstances, I’d be all for it. No, for me the issue is that I highly, highly doubt I’ll pay to see a Zack-Snyder-directed Superman movie after MAN OF STEEL. I haven’t gotten around to writing about that movie, primarily because watching it once quite literally gave me a headache and I’m concerned thinking about it at length may cause similar symptoms. MAN OF STEEL is a migraine movie, overlong, overwrought, and overloud. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was a migraine movie, same deal. Now you’re telling me those two headaches are going to be merged into one big loud mega-movie? I’m not interested. The last thing they need to do is make these superhero movies any bigger. They need to scale this motherfuckers back. I’m pretty sure I’d rather see a movie where Zack Snyder plays Batman, with Ben Affleck directing, rather than whatever they’re planning now. I’m not anti-Ben Affleck. I’m anti-BATMAN VERSUS SUPERMAN, or whatever goofy title they end up slapping on the thing. Ben Affleck is in point of fact the only major player here I have any investment in, and I’m afraid even he may not enough to get me through those doors.
You might say, “Yeah sure, you’re complaining now but when it comes out in two years you’ll be in the front row.” I say, “Try me.” I almost didn’t see MAN OF STEEL, believe me or don’t. I was coerced. Left to my own devices it may never have happened. Why? Because I’m weary of superheroes onscreen, something the 15-year-old me would never in a million years imagine he’d one day be putting into print. In two years I’ll only be that much closer to being a grown-up! Barring major regression, which is always possible, I can’t see myself more excited for “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN” than LIVE BY NIGHT — unless it’s a Mamet-scripted courtroom drama of course.
Some related articles which may be of interest:
My take on Zack Snyder’s last three movies pre-MAN OF STEEL:
And find me on Twitter, where I will hopefully not be talking about this subject any further: @jonnyabomb