Written by: Chris Spicer, Special to CC2K
Fanboy Comics‘ Chris Spicer shares his thoughts on the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman.
Well, I hope you’re all satisfied. You broke the internet. Again.
Recently, Warner Bros. announced that multiple Oscar winner Ben Affleck would be playing a re-booted Bruce Wayne in their Man of Steel sequel/Batman vs. Superman thingy. Holy crap, did the fanboy universe not take that well. There was whining and crying and gnashing of teeth. Like spoiled middle school kids determined to get pizza back in the cafeteria, geeks created online petitions demanding Affleck be fired from the movie. (I know the internet can be a wildly unreliable source of information, but it’s being reported by multiple sites that Affleck has signed on to make as many as 13 film appearances as Batman. Affleck’s not going anywhere.)
As is so often the case, this sort of temper tantrum makes us all look bad. First of all, it’s painfully predictable on our parts. This is just how we react when people who make their livings as casting directors defy us. Secondly, we’re usually just coming at these things from a place of complete and total ignorance. Anybody remember what it was like on the internet when they announced Heath Ledger would play the Joker. At that point, the most high profile role Ledger had played was one of the gay cowboys of Brokeback Mountain. It didn’t matter how great he was in the role (and he was great in it), fanboys, most of whom hadn’t seen the movie, took to the web and howled in the digital wilderness. Anybody remember who the almost unanimous choice among geeks was to play the Joker? Anybody? I remember. It was Crispin Glover. Yes, the fanboys were rejecting a recent Oscar nominee in favor of George Effing McFly. How’d that work out for everybody? Ledger’s Joker isn’t just the definitive take on the character, it’s the stuff of legend. Ledger’s Joker is one of the great screen villains in movie history. It’s a towering piece of work, and those who were so violently opposed to it (largely because Ledger had recently played a gay character, but rampant fanboy homophobia is another topic for another time) had to eat some major crow. Not only were they wrong, they were spectacularly wrong. And, don’t even get me started about the frenzy of disapproval that erupted when a blond-haired guy got cast as James Bond. It turns out Daniel Craig is, by far, the best actor they’ve ever had in the role.
To be honest, I think the whole Ben Affleck bashing thing got old for me around 2004. When I see him on talk shows or in interviews, he always seems like a pretty decent guy. He didn’t deserve the beating he took in the press back in the day when he was dating Jennifer Lopez, and I commend him for his rebirth. For people to continue to bash the guy is to willfully ignore the last ten years of his career. Affleck has had a pretty incredible second act. He reinvented himself as a high-quality filmmaker. He’s directed three films so far (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo) and none has received a Rotten Tomatoes score lower than 94%. Hell, he just directed the most recent Best Picture winner and was in discussions with Warner Bros. to shepherd their Justice League movie to the screen. I wouldn’t be surprised that his take on Batman in those meetings didn’t inform their decision to hire him to play the character. His acting work in The Town alone puts me at ease for him as Batman; there he’s playing a hardscrabble career criminal and balancing that as a romantic leading man. I liked him a lot in The Company Men (I’ll bet his detractors haven’t even seen it.), and he’s worked with Terrance Malick and is about to work with David Fincher.
Yes, he was in Daredevil. Yes, he was in Pearl Harbor. And yes, he isn’t very good in those movies. But, you know what? Those are terrible movies and nobody is particularly good in them. I love Colin Farrell, and he’s terrible in Daredevil. Michael Clarke Duncan is terrible in Daredevil. It’s a poorly made film. And, why stop there? Josh Hartnett is awful in Pearl Harbor. Even a consummate pro like Alec Baldwin is pretty bad in Pearl Harbor. Michael Bay is almost as bad at directing actors as George Lucas is. Actors are usually only as good as the projects they are in. It takes somebody special like Meryl Streep to rise above questionable material like She Devil. I think it’s patently unfair to go back and look at subpar work he did in crap movies over a decade ago and not give the guy any credit for the vast artistic growth he’s clearly demonstrated since then. Everybody loves Matthew McConaughy these days, but ten years ago that guy was making one awful rom com after the next. Should we ignore McConaughy’s impressive career turnaround, as well? Is The Wedding Planner somehow a less egregious attempt at co-starring with Jennifer Lopez than Gigli was? At least Gigli was an opportunity to work with Martin Brest.
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece about this whole Batman/Superman mash-up, and I still don’t think it’s such a great idea. I still think they need to make another film in this Superman continuity before they start throwing Bruce Wayne into the mix. And, I’m not the biggest fan of David Goyer as a writer. So, let’s withhold judgment about this casting until there’s an actual acting performance to look at. Maybe having an Oscar winning writer around might help them form a better story. Rumors are circulating that Warner Bros. has cast Bryan Cranston to play Lex Luthor for as many as ten films. Maybe having Cranston’s Argo director on board helped convince him to take a part that’s largely derivative of Walter White. And, speaking of Cranston, who would have thought of him to play a drug kingpin based on what was his most famous role to that point, as Hal on Malcolm in the Middle? See, that’s the crazy thing about actors. They can play so many different roles! So, relax, internet. Everything’s going to be all right.
Chris Spicer is a Contributor for Fanboy Comics, an online conglomerate of geek media, providing its readers with daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts that span the pop culture spectrum. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Chris and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at www.fanboycomics.net.