Warner Brothers has just announced that actor Ben Affleck (Argo, Daredevil) will be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the currently untitled sequel to Man of Steel. Below, the 24 Panels Per Second crew give their reactions.
DAVE: Placeholder Batman.
That might sound a bit mean, but honestly, that is my reaction to Ben Affleck as Batman at this point. I have no doubt that he will turn in a solid performance in the role. What I do doubt, however, is whether or not Affleck will bring a novel approach to Batman which will stand apart from what has come before. And while I hope I am wrong, right now my gut feeling is that the answer will be ‘no,’ and that we are going to be waiting a while for a really fresh take on the character.
That said, what is perhaps more interesting about Affleck’s casting as Batman is what it means for the future of the live action DC film universe, should one come to pass. I think we can all agree that from a career management perspective, Affleck doesn’t need Batman at this point. Right now, Affleck has been riding a wave of critical and commercial success as an actor/director, and it is hard to see him throwing that into the wind for the sake of being locked into a major franchise. As such, I wonder if the current plan is to utilize the Affleck-Batman in a manner similar to the Mark Ruffalo Hulk, where he pops up as part of a larger cast, but isn’t the focus of his own feature films. I can’t see the executives at Warner Brothers being happy with that idea, but it would allow Affleck to keep his schedule open for his other projects. At least, I hope so, as I would rather Affleck keep directing instead of playing Batman for the next ten-odd years.
What about you James? Where do you stand on this?
JAMES: I think Affleck is a terrific choice for Batman, straight up. Let’s just get that out of the way. I think he’ll bring something unique to Batman/Bruce Wayne that we’ve not seen on film yet. Certainly, Affleck is a strong enough presence he won’t be lost behind the cowl. Affleck has the experience, too: Besides playing Daredevil in 2003 (listen to our episode!), he played George Reeves in the almost-already-forgotten Hollywoodland in 2006. The portrayal of Batman has always been defined in relation to the villains an the universe around him, so I think what we’ll get with the ‘As-yet-untitled Man of Steel sequel’ (I’m not calling it Batman vs. Superman) will be something new. Typically, I’m in favour of origin stories to establish the character and the world, but a ‘seasoned’ Batman intrigues me. I hope the film isn’t too informed by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (which it probably won’t be if they want to keep this train a-rollin’).
I think at the rate studios are pushing out these films, Affleck will be able to maintain the character for about a decade — which seems to be how long these cycles seem to last — and afford to keep directing (Live by Night is slated for 2014). I only wish Affleck were directing this picture too.
DRU: We’re already all on the record saying that we think this movie is kind of a bad idea in general, but for some reason the fact that Ben Affleck has signed off on it gives me some hope. Affleck’s a smart guy, hot off an Oscar win for Best Picture, and his directing career is certainly still on the upswing. He’s also stated that he’s not all that interested in acting in films he’s not directing anymore (or maybe it was the other way around, I don’t remember); in either case, it suggests him as a very likely candidate to direct Justice League, and I think that project could definitely use an adult filmmaker guiding it. (I’m a bit of a Zack Snyder apologist, even while I think that a third of the films he’s made are pretty awful, but even I wouldn’t say that maturity is one of his strengths.)
Affleck was a good Daredevil (with a terrible script and direction). He’s going to be a terrific Batman, no question. Go back and read something drawn by Neal Adams and imagine Affleck’s face in that cowl. It fits. The question is, does Affleck have the clout to dislodge Christopher Nolan from his position of power and authority in DC’s cinematic endeavours? Does he even want to? I certainly hope so. For all its faults, the thing that bothers me most about Man of Steel is the cloud of Nolan that unnecessarily hangs over the project. If they depart from that with “Untitled Man of Steel Sequel” (I’m with James on this one), it’s going to be a welcome relief, but a bit jarring. I think it’s pretty likely that, given the “seasoned” Batman we’re getting here and the influence of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, we’re going to have a “loose continuity” situation here, where nothing in the Nolan films is explicitly addressed or contradicted. Affleck could still be the Bale Batman. I hope he’s not, but it’s still a possibility.
Now I hate to close on such a fanboy-ish comment, but I can’t resist. Can we please get a grey suit this time? Affleck can pull it off.