If you’re seeing your more geek-inclined friends stumbling about in a stupor this evening, it’s likely because of the breaking news that Ben Affleck has been picked to play Batman in the upcoming Batman/Superman movie (or Superman/Batman if your loyalties lie in a more Kryptonian direction). Expect many months of over-reaction, over-analysis, and general wailing and gnashing of teeth as a parade of actors who should have been cast gets tossed around by wounded Batfans. It’s like casting the Doctor, except Batman is a good four regenerations behind.
Personally, I’m okay with it. I’ve been completely lukewarm on every single big-screen Batman film, so there are no fond memories being trodden on here. Affleck isn’t tarnishing anything for me. And to be perfectly honest, between the most recent Batman films and Man of Steel, I’m really not all that interested in the cinematic DC universe. While Marvel is sprinting confidently forward with whatever the hell if feels like, DC’s been scrambling to catch up and still managing to fall behind, and blowing the Batman/Superman wad so soon is a sign they’re a little desperate. So I don’t blame them for going with a name for the role.
Because that name does have me interested. I like Ben Affleck. He’s a heck of a director — news of him directing the film would have probably been more favorably received — and he’s never come across as someone enamored at the idea of his own fame. He’s a good guy, which may be why fans aren’t taking to his casting. They want some grizzled tough guy who’ll give Christian Bale’s Cookie Monster depiction a run for its money. Well, there’s a reason it’s called acting, and Affleck can do it. And there’s certainly no reason to believe he won’t be able to pull off the Bruce Wayne side of things.
I’m also hoping this casting signals a change from the increasingly dour tone of DC’s superhero films. Not that I want to see the second coming of Adam West up there, but you can have a brooding, deliberate Batman that’s still fun to watch; the animated series more than proved that was true. I know people are expecting some apocalyptic showdown ala The Dark Knight Returns between Batman and Superman, but maybe they’re going for a more spirited rivalry between the two of them. Before grim ‘n gritty became popular, theirs was a more friendly rivalry, and translating that to the screen would be a welcome change from the growling and neck-snapping we’ve been subjected to lately. And that’s something Affleck can do in his sleep.
Of course, knee-jerk reactions will be the order of the day. Knowing nothing about the planned story at all, it’ll be determined that Affleck is completely wrong for it. He just won’t fit in the thousands of movies being imagined in thousands of heads right now. No one’s willing to wait and see. Opinions must be formed instantly and firmly. With fans conveniently forgetting that not everyone was on board with Bale getting the part eight years ago. And now he’s the gold standard those same fans will hold Affleck up to. It just feels like it would be easier to wait for the movie to come out than to be angry for the next two years. But at least it’ll give them a chance to work on their Batman voices.