The Rational Argument Against Batfleck


A big part of me feels for Ben Affleck, and sympathizes with those who have stepped up to defend his casting as the next Batman. The news that the Oscar-winning director will play Bruce Wayne in the forthcoming sequel to Man of Steel was greeted with a groundswell of negativity. Though I'm not elated with the choice, the vast majority of that negativity seems to be rooted in nothing other than knee-jerk fanboy reactionaryism. To put it another way: people just don't like Ben Affleck because ... I don't know why? Because he's good looking? Because he was in that awful music video with Jennifer Lopez? Because like almost every other big Hollywood star he's been in some terrible movies? (Seriously, Johnny Depp has been in four Pirates of the Caribbean films and The Lone Ranger -- really, really bad movies -- and it's hard to imagine this type of reaction if he was named the next Dark Knight. Do people just not like Affleck's face or something?)

Whatever the reasons for detesting this news, almost none of them seem to be rational -- one of the worst, by far, being that he was terrible in Daredevil, a film that came out a decade ago, has no bearing on the role he's taking on and for which, y'know, a whole bunch of other people were responsible, including a director and screenwriters (aka the people who actually have the most influence on its quality).

So, yeah, Patton Oswalt, when you say this of Affleck, you make a great point:

Ben brushed himself off, realized he'd kept his eyes open on the movies he'd done, and started directing. And he's become a damn good one.

A Batman portrayed by someone who's tasted humiliation and a reversal of all personal valences -- kind of like Grant Morrison's "Zen warrior" version of Batman, post-ARKHAM ASYLUM, who was, in the words of Superman, "...the most dangerous man on the planet"? Think for a second and admit that Ben Affleck is closer to THAT top-shelf iteration of The Dark Knight than pretty much anyone in Hollywood right now.

But the thing is Affleck's personal story of redemption also doesn't have much bearing on what he's getting himself into. I guess he might be able to channel some of it into his iteration of Bruce Wayne, but making Argo isn't exactly the same as becoming a crime-stopping vigilante after watching your parents get gunned down.

My discomfort with Affleck as the Caped Crusader stems from the fact that he's never displayed the necessary darkness to fill the cape and cowl of the Batman director Zack Snyder seems intent on bringing to the big screen. And while we've now wandered well into conjecture at this point, Snyder has strongly hinted that this Batman will be inspired by the one Frank Miller wrote in the seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. If that doesn't mean much to you, just know that that Batman is an extremely dark one -- a much darker one than the one Christian Bale portrayed in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

Who knows? Maybe Affleck has never gotten to play that type of character before and is perfectly capable. Maybe this is his eff-you moment, as Grantland columnist Bill Simmons wrote this week:

On the face of it, Affleck taking a massive risk like this makes no sense whatsoever. He just spent the past six years rebuilding his career, reestablishing himself as an A-lister and completing one of the greatest comebacks in Hollywood history.

But here's the thing …

I don't think it was enough for him. I think he's still in "Eff You" mode from all the abuse he took during the Bennifer era, for people writing him off, and for the Academy not giving him that Best Director nomination for Argo. And obviously, he's been on fire with career decisions for the last few years and feels like he can't do anything wrong. So this is part hubris and part "Eff You" — Affleck knew taking that Batman part would be polarizing, he knew he didn't need it financially or professionally, and he didn't care. If he pulls it off, now it's not just one of the great Hollywood comebacks ever, it's THE GREATEST Hollywood comeback ever.

I certainly can't doubt Affleck's judgment much these days. But I also don't have to bestow upon him blind faith. (Ditto for Snyder, who has his flaws as well.) Yes, I'm quite concerned about The Batfleck. Unlike the folks who have been hyperventilating about this for no good reason, I'm happy to be proven wrong. I even think there's a decent chance I might be. But that doesn't mean I'm hopeful.