My question for everyone worried about Ben Affleck as Batman in the Superman/Batman movie is: Did you see Man of Steel? I’m less worried about casting news and more worried about Superman getting mad at Batman and breaking his neck.
Actually, there was a lot to like about Man of Steel, the casting was fun, well-directed, interesting action sequences, a new take on Krypton (they rode lizards!). I really like Zack Snyder. But man, did that movie leave me philosophically troubled, which is not the goal of a Superman movie. Superman broke General Zod’s neck to prevent him from flash-frying a nice American family– who had a lot of time to exit, stage left even, although they stood frozen, waiting for Zod to turn his neck. It was weird.
First of all, Zod killed– I’m estimating here– millions of people in this movie. He had some kind of turning Earth into Krypton machine and it completely destroyed Metropolis, leveling most of downtown. Superman, if someone killing people is the place where you start to kill yourself, many lives could have been saved by doing that earlier!
Secondly, I didn’t feel like the filmmakers did a very good job of manufacturing a moment where killing was the only option. “Hey, morons, get out of here!” might have saved them from Zod’s heat vision.
And finally, I don’t think that’s what Superman is about. Superman is about doing the right thing, finding a way to resolve a conflict without killing. Sure, comic book Superman has killed a few people over the years, but I don’t think those moments are nearly as interesting as they’re meant to be. They always seem like cop-outs to me.
I could go on and on about why I don’t think Superman should kill. But I won’t. I hate it when fanboys get all up in arms about comparing movie superheroes to their comic book counterparts. There’s a lot of stuff that 2013 Superman does that 1939 Superman would think was crazy, like flying. However, I don’t think there is any incarnation of Superman anywhere that couldn’t handle that situation with Zod, which is bound to come up a lot in his line of work.
Although I will suggest that you read “What’s so funny about truth, justice, and the American way?” for a modern take on a Superman who can still do the right thing.
Back to Ben Affleck as Batman
My next question is the one I feel people should be asking, why in the hell is Affleck going to play Batman? He has been on a great run of directing lately. I just watched Argo and it is a serious work deserving of its many kudos. I’m assuming that Affleck is going to play Batman because someone dumped a wheel barrow full of cash on him. But if Warner Bros. has any sense, they locked him in for a couple of movies– solo Batman, Justice League– so that’s a big time investment for Ben Affleck to be away from filmmaking. So maybe he is bringing more to the table than just playing Batman? Perhaps he has some input.
Casting Ben Affleck as Batman most reminds me of Danny Devito being cast as the Penguin in Batman Returns. Okay, he was nothing like the comic book penguin, but DeVito brought a lot to the table and made the part very interesting. I don’t think anyone walked out of that theater thinking that DeVito had just done a Burgess Meredith ripoff. In the same way, Affleck ups the game for all involved. I would be willing to bet that we get a better movie than Man of Steel because Affleck makes good decisions. I know. I know Affleck isn’t directing anything. But I assume that he’ll be collaborating. I’m just happy that he has a seat at the table. We know that Affleck met with the Warner Bros. people a few months ago. I’m betting that it wasn’t to audition, but rather to talk about what he thought these movies need. Warner Bros. has done great things with the Batman universe, everything else stinks. Green Lantern was awful. And, for my money, it was awful because there were too many mediocre voices at the table.
Mike Brown Note: In the previous paragraph, I might be engaging in conjecture.
You may or may not remember that before this casting news, there was a lot of sturm und drang about whether or not Affleck would direct whatever Justice League movie they are coming up with. Affleck categorically denied that the would be directing any such movie. But I think his casting means that he might. I still feel just a tetch lied to by J.J. Abrams who swore up and down that he wasn’t going to have anything to do with the new Star Wars movie. I think this is the same situation. Warner Bros. has brought in a smart person to their comic book properties. If Affleck could make a Justice League movie half as tense and fun as the last half an hour of Argo, I’ll take it.
Star Wars Note: New Star Wars movie with Harrison Ford as Han Solo! Maybe we should thank Lucas for The Phantom Menace. There is simply no way this new movie will not be better than that. Han Solo, baby! Luke as an older Jedi! Carrie fricking Fisher! You can’t see it, but I’m dancing!
And I’m not just copping out saying that it’s smart to make friends with a good director. Affleck’s a big guy, great jaw, great actor, I think he’ll be a great Batman, maybe our best. I like Christian Bale a lot. But he was so in the middle of the Nolan Batman universe that I never really thought of him as Batman Batman. He’s like a great, great Elseworlds story about what if Batman was a real guy. You know what comic book Batman would never, ever do? Quit. That actually left a bad taste in my mouth about the whole trilogy. But don’t get me wrong, those three are easily the best Batman movies we have ever gotten. But Affleck has a great intensity as an actor that he can bring to bear sometimes. The Town, man. The best Batman stories are always crime stories.
Nolan brought an intelligence and respect for the material to his movies. Superman certainly could use that. I don’t think we’ve really had the great American Superman movie yet. The trick of Superman is not the fighting, not the powers, not the costume, it’s the bravery of doing the right thing. Superman has a perfect moral compass. We need to be able to put Superman in a situation where it will be difficult for him to do the right thing, but do it he must. And defeat the bad guy. And not break anyone’s neck.
I saw Superman in the theaters. What was that? 1978? I thought it was great. Although even though I was arguably the target audience, I still was like, “pfft, that wouldn’t work” about turning the world the wrong way to turn back time. “We’d all die,” I think I thought. But the thing about Superman and all the Christopher Reeve movies is that they didn’t age well. They were fun movies at the time, but now they seem so, so, so stupid. I think it’s because we’ve had more serious fare, like Spider-Man 2, which makes a lot of older movies seem stupid. I remember really liking the Keaton Batman movies. But now when I see them, they seem like a confused mess. But I see that the Richard Donner Superman and the Burton Batman movies started us on the path to where we are now. So… they’re a middle ground. We needed them to get where we are. And at the time they came out, they were the best thing out there.
Oh, you know what bothered me more than Superman breaking Zod’s neck? Superman super stalking Lois Lane and her boyfriend in Superman Returns. I mean, what the hell? Hanging outside her house? Supercreep. I thought he might use his heat vision to burn her name in their yard.
Superman Returns actually brings up an interesting point. Kevin Spacey was perfect casting for Lex Luthor. Just perfect. And he knocks it out of the park and the movie is terrible. Don’t try to predict how a movie will be by the casting. I’m not the first person to make this point, but everyone hated Michael Keaton as Batman before the movie came out. And remember when everyone was crying about how pretty boy Heath Ledger was no Joker?
A lot of the commentary I’ve read brings up Daredevil as the reason Ben Affleck as Batman will fail. I will acknowledge that Daredevil wasn’t a great movie. But I never for one moment blamed Ben Affleck. As a matter of fact, as I recall, he was great. I’m certainly not going to watch it again to refresh my memory. I think that it is challenging for an actor to do blind, but I thought Affleck really pulled it off. But the movie had a serious tone problem, which is, for my problem, a director problem. (Fun playground fight with kids around, older woman murdered on airplane because Bullseye didn’t like her yapping).
Hey, you know who else was in Daredevil? Jon Favreau. And he directed Iron Man 1 and 2 and he’s in both of those and 3. And he’s awesome. Remember when the Black Widow whomps him in that boxing ring? Did Michael Caine being in Jaws 3: The Revenge somehow destroy his acting ability? No. Actors are in bad movies. Nobody has a perfect track record.
So let’s cut Ben Affleck as Batman a break. He’s great! He’ll be fine. As long as Batman doesn’t break anyone’s neck.
That should be the end of this, but I feel like I would be remiss not to say that if you’re interested enough in Batman to read this far, you should be reading Scott Snyder’s comics, which are a huge high point for Batman. Get your hands on The Black Mirror or The Court of Owls, or any of Scott Snyder’s Batman’s work.