For as long as I’ve been a movies fan, one piece of casting news annoyed me more than any other. One piece of news that made me rant for at least an hour about how a whole franchise had been ruined and how one of the greatest characters in the history of fiction had now been ruined too - Heath Ledger as the Joker. I heard this on the radio and was fuming; stunned that Christopher Nolan would make such a huge mistake.
Of course, I was proved wrong in a massive way and this is one of the reasons that I’m withholding my furious judgment on Ben Affleck as the new Batman. Many people have defended the choice and shot down the naysayers by making the same claim; comparing this news to the initial reaction that followed Ledger’s unveiling. That doesn’t mean I can’t give my calmer, more considered opinion though…
It’s the wrong choice. Affleck just doesn’t strike me as Batman. He doesn’t seem to have the presence, the mood or stature to portray a character that represents fear, anger and justice in one man. Building muscle is one aspect of the character and I know he can do a more serious and tortured role after seeing him in The Town but he has to make a man dressing as a bat to fight crime seem serious. Ben Affleck as Batman seems too silly.
The two most successful versions of Batman on the big screen have been when it is approached with a mature, darker tone. Of course that includes Nolan’s version but also Keaton’s Batman in the Tim Burton films. Ben Affleck seems to be a star casting rather than a character casting. It feels like a Val Kilmer or George Clooney decision rather than a Christian Bale one.
There is more to this than just the character though. The world that is created around him will play a huge part in Affleck’s version of Batman. This is where, Affleck aside, the character will struggle. Batman and Superman shouldn’t work. It’s a superhero that can fly, see through walls and melt objects with his eyes versus a human man who uses the shadows and fear as his major weapon. Its silly versus serious. One of my main complaints was that Man of Steel didn’t feel like a Superman film because of how serious and dark it had become but it will never be mature and serious enough to do Batman justice. The two won’t work on-screen together.
That isn’t to say it can’t be done in a somewhat decent way and the saving grace is the rumours that the story is taking inspiration from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. This has a great version of a Superman vs Batman story and also solves some of the issues surrounding Affleck’s version of the character. There is nothing to stop this Batman being a version that has been around for a while already. It would be great to have an older Bruce Wayne return from retirement to investigate the alien who promises peace. That way Affleck’s older, less intimidating and foreboding representation of the character would make more sense.
Overall, I think Affleck as Batman is a mistake. He doesn’t have the presence, attitude or stature required to pull off one of the most intimidating characters on-screen. It can be rectified by going with an older version of the character, inspired by Frank Miller’s comic, but even then, Superman and Batman together will always be a struggle. I have been wrong before though…