If you have any access to the internet at all then you cannot have helped but notice that just under a month after Warner Bros. announced that Batman would feature in the next Superman film set to be released in 2015. They have now, after a long month of rumors and speculation, announced that the lucky actor to play Batman is going to be Ben Affleck.
Yeah that Ben Affleck. From Pearl Harbour.
Unsurprisingly this has caused a massive split in the comic book community, with some calling for Zack Snyder to rethink this, some have even started a petition on Change.org calling for his removal, while others have urged calm and for people to wait until we have seen a little more of him before judging. The Batman Universe Facebook group is a perfect example of this. With Rob from Bat-Fans arguing for calm while Don from the comic cast not so much. However in my opinion this is actually a very clever move for WB. Let us not forget the exact same reaction was given when both Michael Keaton, Heath Ledger and Anne Hathaway were announced as being part of the Batman movies. Then once it was shown that they had understood the character and fans were blown away by their performances they quickly became cemented as fan favourites. Heath Ledger to such an extent that there were numerous rumours that the Joker would somehow be super imposed in to the Dark Knight Rises. And I think that provided that Ben Affleck understands the character then there is no reason that he would not be able to gain the same place as Bale, Keaton or even Adam West.
While there are some who question his acting abilities, his roles in The Town, Argo and a number of films that he has produced recently has garnered him praise from the film critics. While they have not always been box office smashes they have still done well. Long gone are the days of wooden dialogue from Pearl Harbor and Good Will Hunting. What he now is able to do is understand and commit to his films in a way that as a more inexperienced youngster he was unable to do. Not only that but also his time as a director has helped also develop him further as an actor. By being behind the camera has allowed him to look at other people’s performances analyse and review them. Something he has been able to use for his own work and once more increase his acting ability.
It is not only his acting abilities that he brings to the film. He is also a recognised and established household name. This will help the film as well. While Henry Cavill and Amy Adams are excellent actors I would argue that they do not have the same box office draw as Ben Affleck, who I would argue has a bigger draw than say Karl Urban. Now while there is not a problem with casting unknowns in the roles. It has risks in that for a film company as they rely on the film having a good reputation, critical praise and more importantly good word of mouth reviews. One example is Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, a film that by all accounts was terrible. However the box office draw of Jonny Depp allowed it to do well and it means that they are making a fifth one. That is not to say that the next Superman film will not do as well or be as bad as Pirates. But you have a successful actor attached to the film it draws in a large commercial crowd than it would do otherwise. Which as much that last statement will cause some consternation WB is a business and their main focus is not to please the fan but look at what will make money. But part of that includes making a great film as this means that there is a bigger chance of sequels, something that means future Superman films are less of a risk for the company, meaning they make more of them, which ultimately is what fans want.
However I think that not only casting Ben Affleck is a interesting casting choice. But it also means that the next Superman film has some interesting results for its possible storyline. By casting someone who is noticeably older than Henry Cavill we have a number of possibilities for an interesting story line. First it ties in much more with the New 52 that DC are keen to continue with. In the reconstituted comic books Batman has been operating in the shadows much more than before and is rumoured to be a myth and legend much more than before. He is also the first superhero to have come into being and was operating at least a year longer than Superman.
Yet it also throws up two more interesting scenarios for the plot. The first is that, as Dustin suggested on the last podcast, that Superman is sent to take Batman down once and for all. However the two team up to bring down a villain, probably Lex Luthor, and Superman learns more about what it means to be a hero. Thus continuing his journey, set up in the first film, to being the hero we know from the comics. The other is that while recovering from the effects of the last film Superman seeks out further training and advice from someone who has been a hero much longer than he has. In his search for a hero he comes across rumors of a hero in Gotham. Superman goes to investigate and discovers Batman who has been operating for a number of years in Gotham as an urban legend. However Batman’s methods are not something that Superman feels he can follow. Determined to bring him Superman attempts to do so but on discovering a villain much stronger and more dangerous than him Lex Luthor! With his use of Kryptonite Superman has to turn to the one person he wants to bring in.
I prefer that the first option is followed as this has the bonus of continuing from the end of the previous film and also introducing Batman. However I think that the major issue with both plots is that it ends up making Superman the secondary character in his own film. With much more focus given to Batman and action that, while pleasing Batman fans, will annoy Superman fans. Something that I think is a much bigger risk than whether Ben Affleck can actually play Batman.