Holy Overreaction, Batman! Why Ben Affleck Deserves a Chance
The nerd community is in a fit over the recent announcement that Ben Affleck will be donning the legendary cowl in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. Here are 10 reasons why they should give the man a chance.
1. He's a talented actor.
Not only did he do an excellent job in the Oscar-winner Argo (although he was snubbed for his acting as well as his directing in that flick), he also impressed in movies like Shakespeare in Love, Dogma, Boiler Room, and To The Wonder. Before anyone tries to dredge up Daredevil as a means of rebutting this assertion, bear in mind that most of the problems with that movie had absolutely nothing to do with Affleck's performance. Indeed, if anything, the main criticism that can be made about Affleck is his penchant for picking bad scripts (Armageddon, Reindeer Games, Gigli, Paycheck, Surviving Christmas, to name only a few). No matter how skilled a thespian might be, a shoddy script and sub-par directing will always tank their film, a fact that anyone who has seen George Clooney in Batman & Robin knows perfectly well. Speaking of which...
2. He is a fitting entry on the litany of celluloid Caped Crusaders.
Ignoring the Batman movies of the 1940s, which I've never seen, the current roster of silver screen dark knights includes Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale. When you slide Affleck's name onto that list, it's pretty hard to argue that he is unworthy of being there. Certainly no one wants the kind of camp-fest you'd get with a West movie (and given that Zack Snyder is helming this project, the odds are you won't get one), and Affleck's chops are certainly on par with those of Keaton and Kilmer any day. While I'd agree that he hasn't proven himself to the same degree as Bale, the same is certainly true of Clooney, who has turned in much richer and more complicated performances than anything we've seen from Affleck (Three Kings, Solaris, Syriana, The Men Who Stare At Goats)... and yet headlined the abysmal aforementioned Batman & Robin. Of course, his performance wasn't the issue in that movie, which reinforces what should be our takeaway lesson here — i.e., as long as the star is competent, which is certainly true of Affleck, the writing and directing will be far more important in determining the quality of this movie. This brings me to...
3. Ben Affleck is a critically acclaimed writer and director.
Don't believe me? Just check out the Rotten Tomatoes scores for Good Will Hunting, which he co-wrote with Matt Damon, or Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo, which he both wrote and directed. Given the writing issues that many felt plagued Man of Steel (which have been brilliantly broken down by Mike Stoklasa and Jay Bauman in their online review), fans should not only be more worried that the sequel will contain more of the same (especially since director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer are slated to reprise their respective roles), they should actually hope that Affleck has some measure of creative input. Of course, there is no way of knowing whether that will actually happen, but it seems far more valid to worry about the spotty writing of the people pounding out a script than the demonstrably decent acting of one of the new stars.
4. Remember Michael Keaton.
As the creators of the classic 1989 Batman recalled in Shadows of the Bat, the fan backlash when Michael Keaton was announced was enormous, with over 50,000 letters of protest being sent to Warner Brothers at the time. As Tim Burton later explained, "I think they thought we were going to make it like the 1960s TV series, and make it campy, because they thought of Michael Keaton from Mr. Mom and Night Shift and stuff like that." Instead Keaton's subtle and introspective performance utterly transformed the franchise's image in the popular imagination (Frank Miller had already revived the darker Batman ethos with his early graphic novels in the 1980s, but the popular conception of the character remained that of the campy 1960s TV series), so much so that the Nostalgia Critic has convincingly argued that Keaton was superior even to Christian Bale himself. In short, history has shown us that we shouldn't jump the gun in reacting to potentially controversial casting choices. If Keaton deserved the benefit of the doubt, Affleck undeniably warrants the same treatment.
Is this my way of saying that Affleck will do a great job? Absolutely not — it is entirely possible that, two years hence, I will look back on this article with chagrin shortly after I wander dazed out of the theater playing Batman vs. Superman. That said, the hyperbolic reactions are premature at best. Indeed, we should apply the sage words of the Bale Batman to the upcoming Affleck incarnation:
"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me."