Saturday, 24 August 2013

So...Ben Affleck is Batman (and other interesting casting choices)

In an interesting casting move, the much anticipated followup to this year's Man of Steel movie, tentatively titled "Batman vs. Superman" will feature Ben Affleck playing Bruce Wayne/Batman along side Henry Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman.

Yes, that Ben Affleck.

And the Internet was torn asunder....

Coming as no surprise, the blogosphere in particular and most of the Internet in general has come out against Affleck donning the cape and cowl. I haven't seen many decent reasons why. Most of them just say "he sucks" or "did you even see Daredevil?". The trouble with that is, "he sucks" isn't anything I can work with and the whole Daredevil fiasco was a decade ago, a different studio and a different property altogether.

I'm not going to lie; my initial reaction was shock. I mean, Ben Affleck? He wasn't even on the radar as far as I knew. I had read that Warner Brothers was looking for a 40+ actor to play the role as a grizzled veteran of crime fighting. Affleck is 41, so he fits that bill. And while he hasn't won any accolades for his acting, he is coming off a best director Oscar win for Argo (2012), after directing the much applauded and critically acclaimed The Town (2010) two years earlier. 

But Batman? Really??? How can this be a good thing? Clearly, this is the worst casting mistake since....

Well, hang on a second.

Movie casting is a tricky business. Even in the world of comic book movies, casting an actor to play what is essentially a cultural icon can be a daunting task. This isn't the first time someone's been cast to put on a costume and fight crime and have the general public go into a frenzy over the choice. 

Let's do a list, shall we? Here's my Top 4 comic book casting choices that were initially met with scorn but turned out to be pretty great. 

4. Hugh Jackman - Wolverine
It's hard to imagine, but when the first X-Men (2000) movie came out, unofficially ushering in the modern era of great comic book films, Hugh Jackman was a relatively unknown Aussie stage actor known for his singing and dancing. Folks who had seen him didn't think he could bring the intensity and grittiness to the anti-hero Logan that was needed to really define the character. They couldn't have been more wrong. He's now appeared as the Wolverine a record 6 times and is about to put in his 7th appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

3. Christopher Reeve - Clark Kent/Superman
Similar to Jackman, Christopher Reeve was a virtual unknown, having only appeared in a few tv soaps leading up to being cast as the most iconic superhero of all time. The short list of actors that the studio wanted for the role reads like a who's who of Hollywood at the time. Names like Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Nick Nolte and Burt Reynolds were being bandied about. When Reeve was cast, he was such an unknown that he only received 3rd billing for the film (Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman getting spots one and two, respectively)! Now, find anyone born in the late 60s or through the 70s and ask them who they most associate with the role of Superman. Every single person will tell you it's Reeve. He's my generation's Superman.

2. Michael Keaton - Bruce Wayne/Batman
Ah, Mr. Mom as Batman. To say fans were outraged by this choice is putting it mildly. The backlash from this news was absolutely staggering, especially considering it predates the Internet. "Michael Keaton? Isn't he just, like, funny and stuff? He'll make a terrible Batman!". No, dear genre fans. No he won't. Keaton's turn as the Caped Crusader is still, to this day, the favourite of a lot of fan boys and gals. His quirkiness as Wayne and his dead seriousness as the Dark Knight lent weight to the role that could have come across as campy and cartoony as Batman had so often been portrayed prior to this. You never got the sense Keaton was winking at the camera or not taking it seriously.

1. Heath Ledger - The Joker
If there's one thing I remember most clearly about the time that Ledger was announced as playing the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008), it's all the comments that were made about how some Aussie pretty boy was never going to be able to fill Jack Nicholson's shoes. The single greatest comic book villain turn (one of the single best villain portrayals period, really) and a posthumous best supporting acting Oscar later and nobody can imagine anyone nailing the role of the Clown Prince of Crime the way Ledger did. It truly is a shame that we won't be able to see more of him in the future.

To sum this all up, let me just say this to the shocked and outraged fans out there wailing about Affleck being Batman. I, like you, was shocked as well. I've gotten over it and you should too. At the very least, give the man a chance to get in there and show you what he's got. If he's terrible in the role, I'll jump on the bandwagon with everyone else and write Warner Brothers a sternly worded letter. If he's great, like the actors I've listed here turned out to be great...well then I expect there will be a lot of crow served on the Internet that day.

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