Why Ben Affleck Is Not Going To Ruin Batman (But Batman vs. Superman Just Might)
Ben Affleck is a good actor and a gifted director and writer. If there are people out there who don’t realize he’s a triple threat after Good Will Hunting, Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, then these people aren’t paying close attention to modern cinema. Affleck is one of the strongest talents Hollywood has, and as an added bonus he’s traditionally handsome. He can pull off being a playboy, slide into the Dark Knight’s skintight suit and channel Bruce Wayne’s inner darkness while still finding time to pen his next screenplay between takes. He will not ruin Batman.
“But Daredevil!” you cry. Daredevil was a terrible a movie. That’s not Affleck’s fault. The superhero is one of Marvel’s best and he also represents one of the few heroes with a disability. Matt Murdock deserves another shot at cinematic glory, but his first venture didn’t fail because of the man behind his mask, it failed because of the man behind the camera (seriously, just take a look at writer/directer Mark Steven Johnson’s credits) and the studio behind the production. It failed because it was conceived right before Iron Man was released in 2008 and showed Hollywood what a superhero movie should and could look like. It failed because when an actor is given subpar material it doesn’t matter if that actor is Marlon Brando or Ben Affleck, the results are going to be subpar. The good ship Daredevil started sinking the moment it left the port.
All that being said, Batman vs. Superman will not, unless something miraculous happens, be the next great superhero movie. The reason why has nothing to do with Affleck and everything to do with Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer, who are the duo at the film’s helm. Riddle me this, dear readers: Did you really like Man of Steel? (Critics didn’t.) Did it feel like a Superman movie to you? While you ponder that let’s go further back, did you like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy because of the acting and direction? I’m guessing you did. Personally, outside of Heath Ledger’s stirring performance in The Dark Knight, I barely made it through any of the films because the dialogue and plotting were a hot mess. The trilogy has one transcendent, haunting performance and a lot of darkness surrounded by endless inane dialogue. Goyer, bless him, wrote all three films (he also created the television classic Flashforward— “Go, go, Squirrelio!”). He wrote Man of Steel too and he’s signed on to write Batman vs. Superman, yet another film that will surely go for bleakness over depth, or dare I suggest it– fun.
Meanwhile, we have Snyder directing, and I’ll give Snyder this much, the man has style. 300, Sucker Punch and Watchmen are all fun to look at it. There’s no doubt that he has a talent for world-building, it’s substance that his films have lacked. Each one began life as a comic book property, and I know from experience that Alan Moore’s Watchmen created a grim, spell-bounding experience for the reader that didn’t quite translate to the screen.
Now Snyder and Goyer are being tasked with taking two iconic DC characters and placing them in the same movie. If Batman vs. Superman is going to work, the dialogue is going to need to snap, the world-building is going to need to be cohesive and expansive all at once and if the film’s going to clock in at more than three hours, then holy zingers, Batman, that sucker is going to need to be something other than “moody” to keep the fanboy, fangirl and muggle butts in those seats.
The film’s best hope is the one the internet wants to jettison: Mr. Affleck. A skilled actor, director and writer whose career has been way up and way down, and who might just be able to redeem a film that is starting out in a precarious situation. If he can breathe new life into the role of Batman, rather than just providing Wayne with an increasingly comical growl, that in and of itself will be a win.
If the film fails, it won’t be because Affleck destroyed Batman, it will be because these two particular heroes need to be shelved until the right creative team comes along to make them the larger than life characters they are meant to be, instead of two sad men bumbling around a desolate, depressing world while the Marvel heroes are in the next theater having all the fun.
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