I got a call last night while I was driving to meet up with some friends. The call was from my friend Arune, a fellow hardcore Superman fan. He was calling to ask me what I thought of Ben Affleck as Batman. I thought, at first, that this was just the latest rumor circling the web, but Arune told me that Variety had just announced that Affleck would be playing the Caped Crusader in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel.
“That’s a terrible choice.”
That was my first knee-jerk reaction to the news. I like Ben Affleck as an actor, and I like him even more as a director, but Ben Affleck is about the least threatening guy I can imagine. I was trying really hard to imagine him in a cape and cowl intimidating someone – anyone – and I just couldn’t see it.
But as I let the news soak in, I realized that this casting choice was everything that I wanted in new Batman casting, and that it provided the most opportunity for all the things that I want from a new reboot of Batman. There are a handful of reasons that I have backed way off of my initial reaction to the news and begun to see what could be.
- This reminds me of Michael Keaton. While Bale’s performace has made almost everyone very happy, Michael Keaton was great for the Bruce Wayne and Batman that were written for him. When Keaton was initially cast, fans went crazy, and not in a good way. Mr. Mom was going to play Batman? What? And while not everyone was ultimately happy with Keaton’s Batman, I was. It’s one of the most formative movies of my youth, and I think that at the bare minimum, Keaton surprised everyone.
- A large portion of the bat-fandom lost their minds about the casting of Heath Ledger as Joker in The Dark Knight. We all know how that turned out.
- Affleck represents the studio going in a different direction from Bale’s Batman. WB faces a huge challenge rebooting Batman so soon after the wrap-up of the Nolan franchise. The absolute worst thing that they could do would be to try to mimic that franchise’s Batman. The new Batman will be compared to that no matter what, so your best bet is to go a totally different direction with the character, try new things, and cast away from Christian Bale’s type. Affleck’s Batman could be as far removed from Bale’s Batman as Bale was from Keaton’s Batman. And that’s a good thing.
Ultimately, what I see in this casting is a brilliant opportunity for Batman fans. An opportunity for something that they’ve been asking for for a long time. You see, in a world where Superman exists, there’s very little point to focusing your Batman character around his physical abilities. What does it matter that he was trained by ninjas if he’s hanging out with a man that can lift freighters over his head? The pairing of Superman and Batman might finally necessitate that Warner Brothers give Batman fans the Dark Knight Detective. No film version of Batman has yet properly focused on the character’s superior intellect, his deductive abilities, and his strategic mind.
For me, in a perfect world, the ideal Batman and Superman story is one in which Batman devises a plan that only Superman can execute. In this scenario, each brings something of value to the table, each learns to understand that while the other is different, he has valuable contributions to the greater good. A story like this requires a different Batman than we’ve ever seen before in movies, and Affleck may very well be the guy to finally give us the detective we’ve all been waiting to see.