The Dark Knight Returns…. Again

Last night around 10 pm Eastern standard time the news broke that two time Academy Award winner Ben Affleck had accepted the role of Batman in the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel.  It was also finally confirmed by Warner Bros. that this take on Batman will NOT be connected to the Nolan/Bale Batman, but will instead be a fresh take on the character.  This news sent shock waves throughout the internet, and geek culture, ranging from joy to sadness, from the anticipation of great things to come to the anticipation of the apocalypse.  Much of the negative reaction, to my surprise, centered around Affleck’s previous venture into the world of comic book movies (2003’s Daredevil).  2003 was a rough year for Affleck as it also saw the release of the much-maligned Gigli, a movie which while critically panned I can say nothing about because (like most people I’d bet) I never saw it.  That same year he released Paycheck which appeared to be both a paycheck movie for Affleck and perhaps director John Woo’s worst film.  This also appears to be the year that most people formed their opinions of Affleck and, many, never bothered to check back in.  While the early 2000s were no doubt a rough time for him, the last five years or so have been a rebirth of legendary proportions.  Affleck has gone from the doghouse of Pearl Harbor to Oscar gold for Argo and massive critical acclaim for The Town (both fantastic movies which if you’ve not yet seen, fix that).  Artistically, critically, and financially he’s “back”, but now with his next journey into the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight his return may bring him to his greatest heights yet.

In my humble opinion, I believe this to be good news for both the future of DC comic book movies and a positive sign for how these properties are being viewed by Warner Bros.  I’ll give a view of my reasons listed below in no particular order of priority.

  • Batman is being played by an actor who, I’m certain, has actually read Batman comics before.  Affleck didn’t have to be convinced by his children or a nephew that the part was cool.  His prior movie connections to comic books give me hope that he won’t be as ashamed of the source material as the Bale/Nolan Batman appeared to be, and might actually embrace some of the comic roots.
  • You know he’s going to actually appear to be enjoying himself next summer at Comic-Con.
  • Daredevil wasn’t really as bad as many think it was.  Taken for the time it came out DD was a solid B to a B+ action movie with two mediocre villains and some script problems.  Affleck was one of the bright spots of the film (along with his wife Jennifer Garner’s costume) who played an interesting portrayal of both the devil and his blind attorney counterpart Matt Murdoch.
  • Affleck has experience in tights, and I’m not just talking about Daredevil.  After you’ve checked out The Town and Argo, checkout Hollywoodland where Affleck plays the TV Superman George Reeves.  That’s right, Affleck will be the first actor to play both Superman and Batman on screen.
  • Don’t picture him as Batman, picture him as Bruce Wayne.  If the trend holds, it’s likely that for about 85% of the movie Affleck will not be playing Batman, but will instead be his alter ego.  That is really the part he was cast to play, a: rich, handsome, surprisingly intelligent, ladies-man who underneath his tailored tuxedo can kick butt.
  • Warner Bros. actually seems to give a damn about this project.  I’ve complained for years that it didn’t feel as if there was anyone at WB was really invested in the long term quality (not just box office) of these properties.  The casting of Affleck demonstrates that they are willing to shell out the big bucks to bring in someone who has some passion for the material and is a big name actor to boot.  I have no doubt that Affleck isn’t coming in cheap, but the likely multi-picture deal will also (I’m fairly certain) give Affleck the weight within the studio to get some of his other passion projects to green-light.  This casting represents a huge investment for the studio not just for this movie, but for years to come.
  • Do you think some of his movies were bad? Check out the tripe that Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans did before they got into the Marvel movies.
  • This is kind of a coup for WB/DC.  For over ten years every time a comic movie has been in any stage of pre-production his name has been thrown out as a strong contender for the part.  Before leaving to film Troy Affleck was one of director Wolfgang Peterson’s choices for either of the title roles.  Before Zach Snyder got Man of Steel, the directing chair was offered to Affleck.
  • If Zach Snyder doesn’t work out they’ve got a backup director on set.  Don’t be surprised at all if in 12-18 months you hear rumors about the studio using Affleck to direct second unit stuff, or threats to have him replace Snyder completely.
  • It means that Lex Luthor (the assumed baddie for the movie) doesn’t have to be big stunt casting.  With one of the two main characters being played by an A level actor, the studio could take more of a risk on the main villain rather than having to choose from the list of established older male leads.  I was afraid that the studio would cast one of the kids from Twilight or some ex Disney Channel “star” as a younger Batman in order to save money and appeal to teenage girls.
  • Give the guy’s filmography an honest look and I’ll bet you’ll find a lot more hits than misses.  No one’s perfect, except Joss Whedon.

As you can tell, I’m quite happy with the casting choice.  What do you think?

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