Today’s a weird day for casting directors everywhere as Ben Affleck is set to take on Batman in the Man of Steel sequel and Elizabeth Olson is in talks to play the Scarlet Witch in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. One of these is stranger than the other.
Affleck would not have been on my radar let alone my first choice to play the Dark Knight (I was secretly hoping those rumors for a $50 million pay day for Christian Bale to reprise the role were true). However, Warner Bros. is behaving as if this was a massive coup on their part to snatch up Affleck. As if he were what fanboys the world over were clamoring for. At first I didn’t see it.
“Ben provides an interesting counter-balance 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,” director Zack Snyder said in a statement.
And Snyder is right, Ben does have the “acting chops”. Affleck’s first outing as a hero in 2003’s Daredevil should be relegated to the folly of youth and best forgotten. He has come a long way since then, been on both sides of the lens and taken on more demanding roles. However, it’s his role as George Reeves in Hollywoodland that gives me a glimmer of hope that he can pull this off.
In the movie Affleck plays an actor who’s star never shone as bright as he had hoped and was extinguished without anyone ever realising it ever existed. It was a crippling disappointment that Affleck not only managed to wear on his face but in his entire movement – he carried a body weighed down by regret that moved slowly and without consequence. This is most apparent in the three imagined scenes of Reeves’ death and in the home movies of him doing karate. While Batman is not a man crippled by his regrets he is a man filled with an ocean of them just hiding below the surface.
But the greatest task anyone portraying Batman will have to undertake is the creation of three characters – each a valid reflection of his fractured psyche. There is the face he shows the world (Batman), the larger than life mask he wears to his friends (Bruce Wayne) and the flesh and blood, human being yearning for a childhood he never had that only Alfred knows (Master Bruce). To make each portrayal believable and grounded in reality will require good writing and one hell of a good actor.
So, it is more than possible that Ben Affleck is up to the task of faithfully portraying Batman. He may not be the hero we deserve but he’s the one we need.
While you wait to see Superman and Batman meet on the big screen in 2015 check out some of their better small screen meetings:
The Batman Superman Movie (1998): This is actually three episodes from Superman: The Animated Series put together to make a feature length movie. It depicts the first meeting of the two DC titans. Also, Batman keeps Superman at bay with the threat of killing an innocent. Now that’s dark for a 90’s cartoon.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – There’s a sequel to this which I don’t recommend watching.
The Dark Knight Returns – Part 2: Watch part 1 first (duh). Or better yet, read the comic.
Also, if you feel so inclined checkout the entire backlog of the DC Animated Universe. While Marvel might have managed to master the art of weaving several superhero stories on the big screen DC has more than mastered the narrative in the animated world. Something Marvel has yet to do well.
But keep away from Wonder Woman, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse and All-Star Superman. There’s an ebb and flow to everything.