Martin Deer on the casting of Ben Affleck as the new Dark Knight in Batman vs. Superman…
When Batman vs. Superman was announced back in July, honestly, I was none too pleased. My suspicions were that this was a rushed decision based on the negative critical reaction to Man of Steel and it not making as much money as Warner Bros. had hoped – currently around $700 million. As it turns out, with a script for the Man of Steel sequel still not finished this seems very much the case. So with Superman off the ground again but being short changed due to lack of faith in the character in the hearts and minds of Warner Bros., and not being much of a fan of the idea of Batman teaming up, or fighting against as the case may be, a demi-god in a live action film, my enthusiasm was scraping bottom.
Then Ben Affleck was cast at Batman. That changes everything. This is a casting which is not only good from the perspective of the man donning the cowl, but this is a casting which has bigger, greater implications for the project as a whole. To me this casting has to be for reasons more than simply finding someone to play Batman, as there were potentially several other stronger candidates for the role from a purely acting standpoint.
But Affleck can act. Whilst he may not strike everyone immediately as The Dark Knight neither did Michael Keaton. Nor did Heath Ledger as The Joker. But Ben Affleck can act, and he has earned respect as an actor with several of his recent roles. Forget Daredevil and Gigli – these are irrelevant, and frankly if you’re focusing on these films your perspective is skewed and you need to look at his other more recent work to get a better picture of the man’s abilities. Films like The Town show the more layered performance that Affleck is capable of, and I think he’ll handle a veteran Batman very well.
One of the reasons Affleck’s involvement has caused me to do 180 is because of who he is other than an actor, and what he can bring the project as a whole. Earlier this year he was offered and rejected Will Beall’s Justice League, so there must be something about this particular project that he likes. With a script still in development Affleck likely may have some creative involvement when it comes to the script. As much as I loved Man of Steel it had many a problem and having a talent such as Affleck involved will only help to ensure that the script for Batman vs. Superman is as tight as it can be and that the film is as good as it can be. He turned the job down once, which included a chance to direct, there’s something in this for him more than just starring as Batman.
That could be that he may get to direct a solo Batman film further down the line. If anyone were to get the job to direct a Batman solo film it would presumably be Affleck – unless he’s really only in this for one film, which is doubtful. One would have to assume then that a Batman solo film might part of his contract if it is part of Warner Bros.’ plans. Which means two things: 1) Future directors of the new Batman reboot will not be held back by what David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder create as the director of said solo film will be involved in the creation of this iteration of the character, and 2) Ben Affleck would be directing a Batman film – who didn’t want to see that before this announcement was made?
Then there’s what this could mean for the wider DCU on film. With The Flash getting his own TV show fans lamented Warner Bros.’ impotency when it came to their DC franchise, as it seems likely we will not be seeing the Scarlet Speedster on film anytime soon. But with the acquisition of Ben Affleck things could be heading in the right direction. Affleck knows Warner Bros.’ plans for a larger DCU – he was offered to helm it – and now he is involved. Goyer, Snyder and Affleck to me seem like Warner Bros.’ answer to solving their DCU problems. Depending on how Batman vs. Superman turns out it’s likely that this trusted triumvirate will be asked to put in place a plan to build the DCU. With The Flash heading to TV I wouldn’t get any hopes up for seeing any peripheral characters getting solo films, but I would imagine a Trinity film – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman – would not be too far down the line.
Honestly, I can’t now hide my excitement at this project. This decision has won me over. Ben Affleck is a talented actor, a great writer – two of my favourite films were written by him – and an even better director. Everything about this casting choice makes sense, not just from an acting perspective, but across the board for the project. Things are on the up, folks. I can think we can begin to get excited by this now.