It was recently announced that Ben Affleck will be playing Batman/Bruce Wayne in Zack Snyder’s as yet untitled sequel to this year’s summer hit Man of Steel. This, of course, has whipped the internet into a frenzy that is remarkably reminiscent of 2006’s announcement that Heath Ledger would be playing The Joker in The Dark Knight.
I feel that the negativity directed towards Affleck is, today at least, completely unfounded. The main argument people seem to be throwing around is “He was shit as Daredevil!” And for the most part I have to agree. Personally, I enjoyed the Director’s Cut of Daredevil, but the cinematic release was absolute garbage. However, was that Affleck’s fault?
Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the same guy that brought us Jack Frost, we should have known that Daredevil was doomed from the start. The movie also hails from a time when comic book movies as we know them were in their infancy and no one seemed to have a clue how to approach them – fortunately, a lot has changed since then.
Marvel have formed their own film studio and have seized control of most of their own franchises, in turn, making the various Avengers Phases not only possible, but very real. Arguably, the most important thing to emerge out of this comic-to-movie renaissance is Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. The trilogy completely changed what was possible with a comic book adaptation, and showed Hollywood how it should be done. It’s Nolan’s involvement with the Man of Steel sequel that has me quietly confident about Affleck donning the cape and cowl.
It’s all down to Heath Ledger. When it was first announced he’d be playing The Joker way back in 2006, there was outrage. How could this mop-haired, pretty boy, most famous for ‘chick flicks’ and Brokeback Mountain, be The Clown Prince of Crime? Rather well, as it turns out. Nolan managed to extract from Ledger a version of The Joker we had never seen before, and it was incredible. This earth-shattering performance made the events of 22 January 2008 all the more tragic. Just five months before the release of The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger was found dead in his apartment. He was 28.
This darker, grittier, more realistic Joker is Heath Ledger’s cinematic legacy, and in my opinion, his true swan song. This is down, in part at least, to Christopher Nolan’s direction. Nolan will be returning to produce the next Superman and I honestly believe that when it comes to that universe’s version of The Caped Crusader, Snyder will be listening to every piece of advice Nolan has to offer. If Nolan could turn Ledger into the darkest version of The Joker ever to grace our screens, the combined efforts of himself and Snyder should be more than enough to bring The Bat out of Ben. The only major obstacle Affleck has in his way right now is his past, or more precisely the audience who refuses to let go of it.
Up until Good Will Hunting Ben Affleck was best known for his roles in Kevin Smith’s movies, before later finding himself being cast as the vanilla hero with a heart in cinematic mistakes like Armageddon and Pearl Harbour. At this point, his reputation for sketchy movies was already well established, and it was with Daredevil that this reputation was cemented, and firmly planted in the minds of movie-goers everywhere.
Now bear in mind, Mallrats was released in 1995, and although it was by no means his first movie, it is certainly the one that sticks in most people’s minds. Daredevil came out in 2003, and admittedly, he’s made a few questionable choices since then (I’m looking at you Gigli), but most of his ‘bad patch’ took place within the eight year period between these movies. It’s been ten years since Daredevil, and people still use it as the prime example of his acting capability, which is not only a shame but incredibly ignorant.
Since 2007, Affleck has been writing, directing, and starring in some truly fantastic movies. His latest offering, Argo, even went on to win him his second Oscar. In the last ten years, he has more than proven his acting capabilities time and again, yet people still seem intent on bringing up this black mark on his history.
Using his performance in Daredevil as a basis for how he’ll be as Batman is ludicrous. Have people forgotten that before he was Captain America, Chris Evans was The Human Torch in those dreadful Fantastic Four movies? Ryan Reynolds has been Hannibal King, Wade Wilson and The Green Lantern all within the last ten years. Most importantly, Christian Bale himself had no prior ‘superhero’ experience, yet excelled with his interpretation of Batman, even though his performance became a parody of itself by the end of the series’s epic conclusion.
I’m not saying that Ben Affleck is the right choice for Batman, but the truth that people seem blind to is that in the hands of Snyder, and to some extent Nolan, he is more than capable of portraying The Dark Knight on the big screen. Come July 2015, we may all be pleasantly surprised.