After the fuss dies down – Affleck as Batman

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As I mentioned earlier, the Chris Reeve Superman films were a huge staple of my childhood and I still think the 1978 Dick Donner film is the best superhero/comic book film of all time. I appreciate that for many, The Dark Knight takes that mantle and given that it references my favourite Batman book of all time heavily (The Long Halloween) I certainly put it at #2.

Bearing this in mind, and after the lovingly made but uninspiring Superman Returns, I was pumped for Man of Steel and it didn’t disappoint. Like with Batman Begins, you have to take the long view with the film and allow it to establish a grandiose second installment.

I was on a train from Amsterdam to Cologne, listening to the Hollywood Babble-On podcast. It’s one of the podcasts from director Kevin Smith that I love (the other being Fat Man on Batman) and both hosts are huge comic book geeks. It was there that I learned that during San Diego Comic Con that director Zack Snyder had confirmed Batman would feature in the Man of Steel sequel.

As if that news wasn’t big enough, they announced it by quoting text from the seminal Frank Miller book “The Dark Knight Returns“:

“You’re beginning to get the idea, Clark. We could have changed the world…now…look at us…I’ve become a political liability…and…you…you’re a joke. I want you to remember, Clark…in all the years to come…in your most private moments…I want you to remember…my hand…at your throat…I want…you to remember…the one man who beat you.””

It’s a pity Miller’s gone slowly insane because his work on Daredevil, on Wolverine, and on Batman (the other great one being Year One; even with the insight of Grant Morrison into Dark Knight Strikes Again, I can’t enjoy it) was so damn good it revoluntionised the characters.

Geeks and nerds, being what they (fuck it, we) are, were now faced with the task of finding a perfect actor to play Batman. Inevitably, the perfect actor would have to be Christian Bale or his genetic clone, and would not be any actor save Bale whom they cast. Factoring this in mind, Affleck was always going to encounter the angry spittle of internet rage from the get go.

It’s unfair on the basic level, because nobody has seen him as Batman (and he’s a huge Batman fan; Kevin Smith says the only reason he filmed Daredevil was because he didn’t think he’d get to play Batman and Miller wrote both characters so this was his chance). We’ve nothing to judge him on.

Secondly, it’s idiotic, because the entire premise of the nerdrage seems to be based on the shit films he made a decade ago.

The guy ate crow and came back with 4 films that deserve respect not because we’re happy Affleck went down a dark path and came back; but because they’re fucking excellent and if you haven’t seen them you should.

The obvious 3 of the 4 are Gone Baby, Gone, The Town and Argo. Directed all three, starred in two. Each showed a maturity and intelligence and the latter also showed a restrained, nuanced performance from Affleck. Mark my words – he’s the Clint Eastwood for this generation.

The other one is probably less seen but no less vital. In it, Affleck plays a tortured character who died under strange circumstances.

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It’s called Hollywoodland, and it tells the story of George Reeves – the actor who played Superman on TV in the 1950’s TV serial. Reeves was a bit of a tragic figure; limited by the role and frustrated by how it defined him, he died in 1959 from a gunshot wound. Whether the wound was self-inflicted or not remains contentious and is explored in the film.

If you watch this and have any doubt that Affleck has the range to play Batman, then I’m not sure I or anyone else can help you. Clearly nothing less than Bale will suffice, which means you probably enjoyed the atrocious disappointment that was the Dark Knight Rises and equate Batman with throat cancer.

The Snyder take will be an older Batman, a slightly more jaded Batman, and Affleck can do that in his sleep. Watch Hollywoodland if you don’t believe it. Hell, watch Argo too – he handles the pressure of the role with understated cool. And what Affleck will deliver is Bruce Wayne, in spades.

Finally, though, haven’t the enraged fanboys learned a damn thing? When Michael Keaton was cast as Batman, fans were furious that the comedic star of “Mr Mom” was going to ruin a “serious” take on the character. Want proof? http://articles.latimes.com/1988-07-03/entertainment/ca-8663_1_batman-bob-kane-sam-hamm-script

Keaton was a great Batman and as someone caught up in the fever I remember what a cultural watershed that film was. Casting director? 1. (Pre-) Internet fan rage?? 0.

Remember when Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond? People were furious (ahem: http://danielcraigisnotbond.com). I wasn’t happy, and I’m a massive Bond fan (to be fair, I thought Clive Owen was a better fit and that’s all). Craig is probably the best Bond of the lot, tied with Dalton (I know people say Connery and I’m sure it’s a lot of effort for them to take the easy option, but I’ll elaborate on the Bonds in a later post) and has revived the franchise more than any actor before him.

Casting director? 2. Internet fan rage? 0

Heath Ledger as the Joker. A radical take on the character that showed how hammy and dialled-in Jack Nicholson was. As a swansong, it was a testament to Ledger’s creative genius as an actor and Nolan’s insight in casting him. Perfect.

Fans, knowing best, derided the choice and Ledger was awarded a posthumous Oscar.

Casting director? 3 Internet fan rage? 0

I’m pretty confident Affleck will be a good Batman, but I think it’s fair to judge when we’ve seen him in the role and not based on his performance in GIgli.

Obviously, Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms.

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