Ben Affleck as Batman: Audiences Need Imaginations Just As Much As Film-Makers

Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman! Sound the alarms! Bring the siege cannons! Line up the archers! Organise food supply lines, we’re going to be here a while.

What is it Lieutenant? Other pressing matters, you say? Get out of here with that nonsense! Ignore the fact that the world’s governments are eroding any semblance of privacy for its citizens! Forget about people being gassed to death in Middle Eastern countries! We don’t need to kickstart a documentary on Alice Guy-Blaché, the world’s first female film-maker; someone we’ve never heard of!

Ben Affleck

“How you like them apples?”

Yes, I’m mocking the disproportionate outrage of the internet at a movie casting decision. Can you blame me when the vitriol spilled in Affleck’s direction is so narrow-minded? You’d think Mr Affleck had attempted to stage a coup in Egypt, or cut NASA’s budget to shreds. But nope, he just wants to put on a bat costume. So what’s going on here? I think the crux of the problem is this: imagination. There is a lack of it.

Audiences need imagination, just like film-makers. The people behind the new Batman have a vision, one we’re not privy to just yet, but suffice to say they don’t make decisions lightly. And an actor in Affleck’s position coming off a recent Academy Award win and seven years of clawing back audiences attention and respect, does not decide to become Batman without thought and genuine passion for the project.

Rather than concentrate on the casting choice, it probably would have been more constructive for everyone to question Warner Brothers’ plan for their superhero catalogue by forgoing a sequel to Man of Steel and just jumping into a versus story. But that’s another discussion for another time. Let’s look at how the internet reacted towards Affleck.

A lack of enthusiasm for Affleck as Batman is an opinion. I respect that opinion. I respect people who hold that opinion and can civilly convey it to me with a sound argument behind it. I respect them even more if they remain open minded enough to wait and see if Affleck can rise to the challenge and prove them wrong. Sometimes we get burned. Sometimes we get George Clooney with bat nipples. But what could Clooney do? He didn’t write or direct his instalment. Maybe there was a decent Batman performance buried in him, or maybe there wasn’t. His star was rising back then and he followed Batman & Robin with a selection of damn good movies in the likes of Out of Sight, The Thin Red Line, and Three Kings. Personally, I’d love to see Jon Hamm as Superman and Karl Urban as Batman, but I’m not going to use these non-existent versions as a standard to judge other actors by.

"Don't look at them, I'm self-conscious."

“Don’t look at them, I’m self-conscious.”

A mass outpouring of disbelief, rage and scorn is also an opinion, as it is a flagrant lack of imagination. I understand that people critical of this casting decision are going by precedent, they’re going by Affleck’s past performances, but we’re not talking about an amateur here, I think Affleck should be given the benefit of the doubt, but more about that later.

The same complaints about casting Affleck, were hurled at Michael Keaton and Heath Ledger. I distinctly remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth when Ledger was cast, with people utterly stunned by the announcement, they simply couldn’t fathom a good performance of a beloved character by the actor. These days there’s a general consensus that Ledger has given the defining performance of the Joker outside of the animated movies. By the time Batman Begins was in production the franchise was dead so there was less online commotion, but even Christian Bale’s casting was met with caution by die-hard fans, who were vying for the likes of Johnny Depp and Jude Law.

The popular refrain to this line of reasoning, when comparing Ledger and Affleck, is that Ledger was an Oscar-winning actor and that objectively speaking there was proof he would inevitably act his socks off. And that Ben Affleck by contrast is not a good actor, and incapable of giving a good performance of Batman. To that I say: find Shane Carruth, borrow his time machine, go back in time and try telling this to the whining histrionic internet of 2006-2008, please. You’ll do us all a favour and prevent a lot of headaches.

Buried in here is the same guy who played Scott in Home And Away.

Buried in here is the same guy who played Scott in Home And Away.

All of this hoopla highlights a lack of imagination in people. In a bizarro world which I call Lack of Imagination Land, cinema is a sad sad place. Without imagination we wouldn’t have got Keanu Reeves as Neo, John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love. Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight. And yes, beloved Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man. Risks weren’t taken in this dark alternate universe. Is that the kind of universe you want to live in?

Yeah, Affleck was in Daredevil. Robert de Niro was in Meet The Fockers 2. Ben Kingsley was in Bloodrayne. Acting gigs are inconsistent! Good actors give bad performances. Bad actors give good performance. Get over it. Daredevil was ten years ago. This guy could have given up, but instead he bounced back with a vengeance, proving himself an adept director and matured actor. Yes, Affleck might end up being terrible in the role, but save your energy and judge his performance once he’s put on the cowl. You can be disappointed in a casting decision, I get the sentiment, but WB isn’t going to reverse their decision just because you signed a petition.

The collective reaction last week was so over the top, it was both hilarious and depressing. Hilarious for the awesome gifs that resulted. Depressing for the simple fact that if studios weaken their resolve in the face of such behaviour, the big screen will become populated by the same faces playing the same kind of roles. Trust me, we don’t want that.

"Seriously, how do you like them apples?"

“Seriously, how do you like them apples?”

We should want risks. Unconventional casting choices. Second chances for actors who’ve hit rock-bottom. Faith in actors with a string of flops behind them. Opportunities for newcomers to tackle big roles.

Be glad we’re getting an older Batman and are hopefully bypassing yet another origin story, with an actor we’ve yet to see wielding batarangs. Nolan’s trilogy isn’t going anywhere, they can’t take that away from you. The beauty of superhero comics is that there really isn’t a cannon. Multiple artists and writers have had their own take on Batman, and likewise cinema will continue to experiment with the dark knight. Sometimes it will pay off, sometimes not.

The tidal wave of disbelief in Affleck’s ability to pull off Batman was too cynical. As cynical as people not giving Chris Evans a chance as Captain America. But amidst the din there have been heartening comments from people like Joss Whedon and Patton Oswalt, rallying not just behind Affleck, but behind the idea that people can overcome expectations. Imagine that.

There are 4 comments

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  1. Sam-D

    Hey Cihan, its eyerok from MAL.

    Its a good thing you wrote on this, because I’m sick to death with people complaining about Affleck becoming the new batman. I can relate to what you wrote because I was one of those people who complained when Christian Bale was cast as Batman. And I was one of those who laughed off the choice of Health Ledger as the Joker. Christian Bale turned out to be, in my opinion, the best batman of them all, and health Ledger’s Joker was stunning. I was also among those who were skeptical about Robert Downey Jr. being the Iron Man (although at that point I had already learnt my lesson about judging casting choices, and decided to wait and see how Iron Man would turn out to be).

    So I’m just going to wait and see how the movie turns out. My main problem with the project is not Affleck being caste as Batman, but whether the idea of batman/superman live action movie can actually look good on screen.

    Oh by the by, I really liked Daredevil and Affleck’s performance in it. If they made a reboot or a sequel, I don’t think I can imagine anybody else as the Daredevil. I personally enjoyed it more than the Spiderman movies, and I feel that it is one of the most underrated super hero movies. It was one of the first superhero movies that made me realize how good a comic book adaption can be on the big screen.

    • Cihan N

      Hey Sam, glad you’re open minded about the casting choice! Honestly, I haven’t seen Daredevil since 2003, and haven’t seen the director’s cut at all. But I recently reviewed Born Again, which is the first Daredevil comic I’ve ever read, and can see more potential in the character. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of him on the big screen.

  2. Jimbo Vincent

    I have read and digested your thoughts and opinions on this subject. One that sits close to my heart as you very well know.

    All I will say is this. I will no longer hold the film makers responsible if the Bats/Supes team up film flops because of the casting of Affleck. It is solely because of you that I’m willing to allow (yes, ALLOW) Benji baby a chance to cast new light over Wayne Manor and brighten up the Bat Cave.

    You have provided within this opinion laden blog reasonable argument that at the moment has my brain frozen, unable to come up with any validated response.

    Quite simply, I just dont like Affleck and love all things Superman and so I can not process this mix.

    As I said, its is soley down to this blog and our conversations that I’m giving Affleck a chance. Therefore I will hold YOU responsible for the box office failure…..should there be one of course.

    By the way, best part of this blog? The picture of
    Heath Ledger as The Joker and the caption ‘Buried somewhere in here is Scott from Home And Away’. Classic.

  3. Adrian

    Great article!!

    I have to be honest I was in two minds about Ben Affleck playing Batman. On the one side I was a bit skeptical about him playing a superhero again. He wasn’t bad in Daredevil but I didn’t think he was that good either. As in the case of this sequel, when I heard who was in the running, I was more veering towards Josh Brolin. On the other hand, however, I do agree with you, he has come a long way since Daredevil and has become better as he has got older. I just watched Argo and I thought he was really good in that. I also think that recently he has been doing well and if he didn’t have faith in the character or the script I don’t believe he would do it. Also I much prefer him than Ryan “I am a cardboard cut out with no emotion’ Gosling!!!!

    If I am honest I was concerned with the casting choice of Henry Cavill as Superman before “The Man of Steel” came out, from seeing his other movies……..but he was great in “The Man of Steel” and I am really glad that he proved me wrong.

    I agree with you, the online petition was bang out of order and I really hope that he proves everyone wrong when the movie comes out. I myself will only make judgement until I see the film and I hope everyone will chill out about it and do the same. I have faith in Goyers script and in Snyders directing of this sequel. I trust his judgement in his choice and I have a hunch that people may be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

    Bring on 2015 I say!!!

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