What we’re saying about Ben Affleck’s Batman

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For Ben Affleck’s brief superhero past, look no further than “Daredevil,” the colossal flop starring Affleck in 2003 that immediately preceded the horrendous “Gigli” the same year. For Affleck’s rip-roaring successes, look no further than “Pearl Harbor,” “The Town” and of course “Argo.” Like any actor, he’s had his ups and downs, but the elaborate reactions to this weekend’s announcement that he’ll play Batman in the “Man of Steel” sequel was unprecedented and established a fact that we’ve known for a long time—Batman is the most popular superhero, at least of the ones that are movie-made.

It speaks to the pressure on the shoulders of the people behind the upcoming sequel, set to start filming in 2014, but amid all of the instant backlash director Zack Snyder actually gives solid reasoning for their choice:

“He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne … We knew we needed an extraordinary actor to take on one of DC Comics’ most enduringly popular Super Heroes … His outstanding career is a testament to his talent and we know he and Zack will bring new dimension to the duality of this character”

All respect to Snyder, but I haven’t heard a positive response on the radio, on TV or in my circle of friends. There’s a lot of finger wagging going on; however, one positive response came from the acclaimed Joss Whedon, who said Affleck will “crush it.” Also, former batmen are showing support for the A-lister, which would seem to be automatic responses by the members of the fraternity.

Where I come in, though, is wondering why Affleck would be interested in Batman. Look at the recent superhero stars, Andrew Garfield, Henry Cavill and Robert Downey Jr. Sure, Downey, but Cavill and Garfield aren’t at the level of Affleck. I mean, yes, Garfield was pretty freaking good in “The Social Network,” but he’s lost all of that steam.

Moreover, you can bet one thing for sure: Affleck is definitely going to steal the screen from Cavill one way or another—because he’s Ben Frickin’ Affleck—but the franchise doesn’t even need a credit-making star like Affleck, as evidence of its $600 million box office explosion for the first film.

Likewise, Affleck doesn’t need the franchise. His improbable rise to becoming one of the most respected directors in Hollywood has given him the option to do anything, but he chose to play Batman. Vulture argues pretty effectively that the reason for Affleck’s interest is because he still wants to be a huge movie star in front of the screen, rather than behind it even though he baked his cake and ate it too in “Argo.”

After the success of “Argo” and all of its Academy Awards and Golden Globes, I don’t want to see Affleck put on a cape; rather, I’d like to see him break out another declassified story on the big screen—especially as a director.

I compare this to Bradley Cooper’s outstanding performance this winter in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Deservingly, Cooper was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. After the Oscars, people awaited the third installment of “The Hangover” franchise, but seeing him in Silver Linings made me want Hangover 3 to go away, far, far away.

For Heaven’s sake, this is like my disappointment in Justin Timberlake returning to music when I thought (and Alec Baldwin publicly thought) that he should stay in the movie business as he was becoming a sought-after star and excellent actor.

I can mope all I want about Affleck returning to a pay-check role rather than sticking to his directing chops, but I can’t judge him solely on the fact that this is Batman. It’s important to remember that he’s appearing as Batman in a Superman movie—this is first and foremost a movie about Superman, or at least it should be. Hopefully, Affleck’s presence on screen doesn’t take away from that, but that’s a reason to question the moviemakers’ choice, too.

I’ll hold out judgement until I see how it all comes together in the sequel, but I don’t blame people for looking at “Daredevil” and then back at the rare pearl the Batman franchise is and cringe. For some reference, read these two excellent pieces by Mike Ryan and Jeff Jensen, and here’s what two people (and one petition) are saying:

“His acting skill is not even close to being believable as Bruce Wayne and he won’t do the role justice. He’s not built, nor is he intimidating enough for the role of Batman. His portrayal of Daredevil was atrocious and he’s not remotely close to an action star. Please find someone else.” — according to a petition at Change.org to strip Affleck of his role

“This would be like Barack Obama deciding that after his second term is over that he would like to host The Tonight Show. It’s trading high-profile prestige for the high-profile middlebrow. (By contrast, Christian Bale traded low-to-medium profile prestige for high profile middlebrow, which was a smart career choice.) It’s a strange choice for Affleck, who can do pretty much anything he wants right now. Apparently what he wants to do is play Batman.” — wrote Huffington Post’s Mike Ryan

“Two quick things to never forget here: The man who directed the latest Oscar winner for Best Picture is going to be directed by the man who did Sucker Punch, and Ben Affleck already did Daredevil ten years ago.” — wrote Vulture’s Zach Dionne

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