Let us all welcome Ben back to the wonderful world of superhero spandex.
It has been announced that Oscar winner Ben Affleck will be donning the cape and cowl in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel.
This huge news bomb brings a swarm of questions and possibilities regarding the future of both franchises. It also brings to question what of the Justice League film we all know is coming? Will Affleck stick around to be the brooding orphan leader of the world greatest team of heroes? (Yea I said it. What now Avengers)
(UPDATE: It seems as though Affleck will be hanging around, as he’s signed a deal for multiple Batman movies, according to IGN.com )
We should discuss the casting decision before entertaining any further flights of fancy. I’m an Affleck fan going way back to his days of terrorizing the Mallrats as the manager of Fashionable Male, through his writing debut in Good Will Hunting, and all the way to The Town. Hell, I even liked Daredevil (the K-Mart Batman). Affleck has writing and directing chops that can’t be messed with and his acting is top notch as well. So why the hints of skepticism in my literary voice you ask? I suppose it’s because I had some casting thoughts of my own, as did the world.
I saw The Batman as television’s Don Draper, Mr. Jon Hamm. In that defining role he has shown us that he can do dark and ominous. With the right height, build, and demeanor, I felt he was a lock. At the age of 42, Mr. Hamm would make a perfect Bruce Wayne. Wayne is the consummate bachelor and tactician, women want to be with him and men want to be him. Moreover, after the 2017 Justice League movie Hamm would be the right age to play in a film adaptation of the Dark Knight Returns. This is where an aging Bruce comes out of retirement to save Gotham and the world as it’s threatened by the now “government stooge” Superman. Some speculate that this 80’s comic storyline, popularized in the recent animated film of the same name, will be the plot of the next Man of Steel. I disagree. DC would be nuts to use up a moneymaker like that this early. DC is moving in the right direction, so let’s not blow it. Stick to the plan and keep taking pages out of the Marvel movie book. However, in any event, Hamm would have crushed at this part.
Now, having said all that, I have equal faith in Affleck. He brings several qualities to the character that will give it a positive face-lift. The Nolan Bat-trilogy was the Pulp Fiction-like adrenaline shot in the heart that DC needed. Those films are excellent but there is always room for a tweak here and there. First and foremost, thank God they didn’t decide to go younger. For a moment there it looked like we could have been cheering on a Zac Efron-esc Caped Crusader (at which point I would have started reading more Marvel Comics). Someone no younger than his early thirties should always play the Batman.
Affleck, a year younger then Hamm, is the right age yet that is only one of his vast qualities that make him right for the role. Affleck can emote more realistically then most actors I have encountered. That is the key. Nolan made the Bat real and we should keep him that way. That is not to say there is no room for laughter. We have had a very serious Gotham cave dweller to this point and I think the character could use an injection of humor. Of course we can never dip in the 60’s Adam West well but a more sardonic wit would due and Affleck can do that. The next thing to change is that voice. You all know that, try as we do to defend it (and I’ve tried), Christian Bale made an interesting choice with that gravely strained voice. I feel a better option is waiting to be decided upon.
Naturally Ben Affleck is a buff, well built actor that will fill the costume very well. But what will the Batsuit look like? All we know is, if we all have to go down there and bar his entry to the studio, we must keep Joel Shumacher away from the decision making process. This is the treasonous devil that put nipples, codpiece, and hindquarters definition on the Batsuit. Do not do this to us again. Half the battle of selling Batman is selling the suit. In this critic’s opinion, I would return to a Keaton-like uniform providing they don’t continue with the Nomeck Survival Suit provided by Mr. Luscious Fox.
With the particulars out of the way, let’s move onto the film itself. Obviously we need to come down several notches. It was my complaint in the last Man of Steel picture that the last 20 minutes was a blur of what was intended to be badass mind-blowing action. Do not underestimate your audience. We’re not just popcorn action junkies (not all of us). We want to see acting. Part of what made Nolan’s Batman work so well was the action-required acting. The interaction between Ra’s, Joker, and Bane during the climax of their respected films was moving. And in the case of Heath Ledger, it was Oscar worthy. Yes the effects didn’t exist then but the Christopher Reeve Super-quadrilogy wowed audiences without turning the titular character into the Tasmanian Devil.
Before this turns into another of my wildly entertaining but long-winded whine fests about what Man of Steel lacked, I’ll move to my closing topic. Like the Marvel universe, we must always be thinking of the next phase. The goal is a Justice League movie on par with the Avengers. However, there will be a marked difference as DC is grittier with slightly more gravitas behind its stories. All that means is the cast and writers need to step it up. The Man of Steel cast, who are all returning, was perfect and the writing adequate with room for growth. But direction needed work.
Snyder is a great director, but for a story about the greatest relationship in comic history, I would put the camera in Nolan’s hands. He builds characters using the talent of his actors, hence Ben being perfect for this, not through the use of overpriced effects and contrived flash backs.
I approve of Ben Affleck as I think we all should. He will bring the gravitas and acting chops needed to class up the MOS franchise.
Ben has a secret weapon. He can always call Kevin Smith. A comic book junkie, director, and once writer of an unmade Superman film from the Jersey burbs, Smith knows how to get the best out of Ben. Directing him in the majority his own movies and a dialog genius, Smith could give him some pointers on how to bring the Caped Crusader home to audiences.
Stay Glued to the Screen,