WASHINGTON, August 23, 2013 — Back in late July, Warner Bros. Entertainment announced that the sequel to the wildly successful Man of Steel would, in fact, be made.
But the announcement didn’t stop there.
They announced that it would be a very specific movie. It would be a movie that has lived in the Hollywood rumor mill since at least, 2002. Man of Steel 2 would be a Superman/Batman adventure.
The crowd went wild.
Yesterday, Warner Bros. Entertainment made another announcement. They told the world who their new Bruce Wayne would be. After 11 years of speculation on how wonderful a Superman/Batman team-up movie would be, the world finally was going to be able to put a face to the mask, and get an idea for what the movie was going to be like. Batman, we were told, would be played by Ben Affleck.
And yet again, the crowd went wild, but in a very, very different kind of way.
If you have ever had the thought ‘oh, let me just go on the internet here real quick and read all the nice things the people in the world are thinking’, you have clearly never actually been on the internet. The internet is not a nice place. It is not a happy place. It is not a place where you should feel safe.
It is dark, and dirty, and mean, and hateful, simply for its own sake.
The internet is, in many regards, just like Gotham City. And last night, Gotham City tore apart the man who would be Bat.
Of course, there were plenty of jokes to be made. Affleck’s film history just leaves him open for a couple quick stabs. You could reference Daredevil, a costumed hero Affleck has already played, who is not unlike Batman in many regards, and a film that scored a solid 45% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Or, if you wanted to be trite, you could just wonder what an interpretation of Bruce Wayne as a poor kid from South Boston would be like.
But, if you didn’t want to give in to the dark underbelly of Internet City, you could look deeper at the situation and, perhaps, give it 3 minutes of intellectual time. Then you might find you are more pleased with the outcome than you originally thought you would be.
Rumors of a Superman/Batman movie have existed for a very, very long time.
In 2001, it was announced that Wolfgang Peterson was leaving a project that was eventually destined to become a DC crossover film, in order to direct Troy. After that, we never heard of it again. And now it is back. And we should be thrilled. But apparently we can’t be because people are worried that Affleck can’t carry his side of things as the dark and gritty Bruce Wayne. How well founded is that concern? Should we, in fact, be praising the choice Warner Bros. has made?
If we’re going to indict Daredevil, then let’s give full credit where it’s due. The film was written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the cinematic genius behind such masterful works as Jack Frost (20% on Rotten Tomatoes), Electra (10%), and Ghost Rider (26%).
Daredevil is, in fact, the best super hero movie he’s ever made. And why is that? Well, these things are often hard to judge. But it might have had something to do with the association of Oscar winning Director and Screen Writer Ben Affleck in the title role.
The transition also isn’t unprecedented. We need not look any further than other awful Marvel property films made by other companies to find a stellar example. Chris Evans co-starred as one of the painfully off point Fantastic 4 in that film series and then transitioned into a lead role in one of the most successful movies of all time as Captain America in The Avengers. So we cannot make the assumption that, just because Affleck has been in one terrible super hero movies means that he cannot make a fantastic one.
The final thing we need to remember is the most crucial sign of Affleck’s assured success: he is a fan of the material. Modern cinematic history has given us a great deal of material to work with in terms of superhero film models. In the last few years, we have seen a lot of movies staring people we wouldn’t necessarily have expected. Robert Downy Jr. as Iron Man, Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk, (the virtually unknown) Chris Hemsworth as Thor, (the British) Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, (the British) Christian Bale as Batman, and (the British) Henry Cavill as Superman were all wildly successful in their roles when the general fan base said they would be awful.
What was the common thread that tied these actors together? They were all fans of the material! Affleck is no different, and we should not anticipate his failure just because we were not expecting his success.
Unfortunately for fans of the Batman series and super hero fans in general, the amazing Chris Nolan Dark Knight films are over. Man of Steel never had anything to do with them, despite what we were all hoping. For those who were fans of The Dark Knight, think back to what you thought when you first heard that the guy from 10 Things I Hate About You was going to be playing The Joker, then decide how you feel about Affleck as Batman.
In Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce Wayne is an old man, long retired from crime fighting. But he sees a city that still needs him, so he takes up his cape and cowl to once again save the day.
President Reagan, in an attempt to crack down on vigilantism, sends in Superman to stop him. Superman has long since resigned himself to working for the government, a professional point that he and Batman disagree on.
In one, amazingly well done comic, the two engage in an all out war in the streets of Gotham. And Batman wins. He is an old man, and he knows his time has come, but in a cloud of Kryptonite gas, he pins Superman against a wall and says “I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come. In all your most private moments. I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.”
And then Bruce Wayne dies, of old age.
It is not realistic to think that Ben Affleck will be the greatest interpretation of Batman off all time. It is not appropriate to hope that Man of Steel 2 will prove all the residents of Internet City wrong. But hopefully many years from now, when we have all forgotten about this, we are able to look back at the 2015 release of Superman/Batman and remember when Ben Affleck beat Internet City at its own game.
Because he is a fan of the material, and an Oscar Winner, and a proven improvement to any super hero movie.
And that makes him a legendary choice.
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