The Batffleck Debate


There was some news a few days ago…you may have heard it…Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. We didn’t see that coming. The internet’s collective shit hit the fan with an immediate outpouring of bile at the decision. Is this a valid complaint? Let’s examine the case for and against Battfleck.

The Case Against

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For any actor playing Batman, this is a bad time. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is still very fresh in people’s mind. Although the series ended on a weak(ish) note it was still a massive blockbuster and had redefined what the character was in people’s mind. Not only was the movie a huge hit but Christian Bale nailed the role. He was a perfect fit, essentially turning himself into Batman. He was seen as the definitive cinematic version of the iconic character. Any actor who is following on from this series is immediately going to be considered inferior until proven otherwise.

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Much of what made Bale such a good fit in the role is the physicality. The guy was a wall, and although Affleck naturally has a broad and tall physique he lacks the presence that other performers in the part had. Both Bale and Kilmer felt like imposing characters even without the mask. Batman also needs a certain intensity to be effective, which is one of the areas that George Clooney didn’t manage to bring across. When you’re reduced to eyes and a mouth much of your performance is limited to what you can do in those areas. Michael Keaton doesn’t look physically strong but his eyes were dark and intense. Ben Affleck, for lack of a better description, has droopy eyes. He looks sad, and a sad Batman is not a fun Batman.

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Not only did The Dark Knight Trilogy wrap up a pretty epic Batman story was very focused on the Batman origin story. If the new movie intends to establish a new continuity with a new origin story the audience is likely to be very impatient with it. On the other hand if they simply drop the audience back into the world of Batman, but with a different continuity, it will be confusing. The writers and producers are going to walking a double edged sword.

The Argument For

Much of the backlash aimed at Affleck feels like an echo of the sentiment from a decade ago when he was the target of attacks by the gossip rags. During the beginning of his career Ben Affleck became involved with actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, a relationship that became an obsession for paparazzi as both celebrities had recently joined the A-List. This came at a time when they featured together in two critically slammed movies: Jersey Girl and Gigli. It wasn’t a good time for either of them career wise, and their frequent appearance in celebrity gossip magazines turned them into a public mockery. On the whole Affleck has had a very strong career with many hits, accolades and awards yet public still sees him in a negative light, possibly has a shadow of the public strapping he got from the paparazzi. It was unfair to judge him on this public attention at the time, and still thinking of him in this light is just silly.

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This is just shitty.

Whilst on the subject of his bad streak, we need to take a close look at what Affleck has done in the last decade. Yes Jersey Girl, Saving Christmas and Gigli were awful and Clerks II was a day out with mates, but he followed them up with Hollywoodland. Did you see that? He plays original Superman George Reeves, and does it bloody well. Then we had Company Men and State of Play. Low key, great performances. Then there’s the movies in which he starred and directed: The Town and Argo were brilliant. Not just good, but brilliant. Obviously he’s got a good thing going at the moment.

Then there’s the elephant in the room – he has played a superhero before. And it was awful. This has been the most commonly used argument in the ongoing flip out of the fanboys and you know what? Who the fuck cares. Daredevil was fucking awful. It was badly written, badly directed and badly made but for some reason everyone lays the blame on Affleck. Mark Steven Johnson should be carrying the blame for this, being the writer and director. Instead we had geeks lining up to see his follow up Ghost Rider. Ben Affleck was in a shitty superhero film more than a decade ago. What bearing does this have on his future projects? Very little.

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Why do you want to remember this?

We noted above that Ben Affleck is fighting an uphill battle following on from Christian Bale. On the flip side of the double-sided scarred coin we have the fact that there have been many, many different versions of Batman. Everyone who has written Batman comics, or a movie, TV shows, games, etc puts their own spin on it. Eventually a new movie was going to come around and it’s always interesting to see a new take on an established character. Affleck will bring something new to the table whether good or bad. On that note, we have NO IDEA what direction the producers, writers and directors are planning on taking Batman for this movie. Let’s not forget the complete frigg’n meltdown that everyone had when Heath Ledger was announced as playing the Joker. In hindsight everyone looked a bit bloody stupid because we didn’t know how Nolan was going to approach the material.

The Obsessive Viewer has joined us to point out that Affleck isn’t just starring in this movie, but has taken on script writing duties and signed a multi-picture deal. OV quite rightly suggests that this indicates a true commitment to the part rather than taking the chance to cash a quick paycheck. There are other benefits to this arrangement, namely that Affleck as a solid background as a writer. Everyone knows that he picked up an Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting and recently penned the scripts for Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Both movies delivered on developing strong characters amid action and drama heavy films. If Affleck is having a crack at Batman, let him have a go.

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What’s the final word? Well, I have trouble imagining Affleck in the cowl. His droopy eyes and goofy grin don’t fit into my mental image of Batman. It’s also extremely close to the end of the Nolan trilogy and there’s nothing else I want to see from cinematic Batman for the time being. I’m more invested in the Batman: Arkham series of games. If the upcoming Superman vs Batman doesn’t look good, I’ll skip it.

On the other hand he might just pull it off. The above arguments for Affleck outweigh the argument against. We’re willing to give the guy a chance in the role, he’s got the talent. At the end of the day we’re happy to file this under ‘wait and see what they got’.