Thursday, March 31, 2016

Flashback: ‘I’m down with it’: Ben Affleck cast as Batman for ‘Man of Steel’ sequel

Despite the mixed reviews and reactions to "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," it sounds like the general consensus is that fans really dig Ben Affleck's take on Batman.

Many fans are saying on social media that "Batfleck" may be better than Christian Bale's portrayal. That's saying something since I consider the Batman in the Christopher Nolan trilogy to be one of the definitive takes on my favorite character.

In July, I wrote an op-ed in which I said I firmly believed Affleck would deliver a very different take on Batman. Regardless of the many ugly reviews for "Dawn of Justice" — or even whether you're Team Batman or Team Superman, Affleck's Dark Knight is the clear winner.

(Keep in mind I haven't seen "Dawn of Justice." Yet. Look for a review — and of course an op-ed focused on the new Batman once I see it.)

Soon after director Zack Snyder announced his casting decision, there was a great upheaval.

Fans instantly got their underwear in a bundle.

Thoughts of "Daredevil" — a happily maligned film by both fans and critics, which I very much enjoy (just sayin'!) — started near online pandemonium and rants when it was heard Affleck would be "Batfleck."
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne on the set of
"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"

But from the beginning, I was "down with it" — as I expressed in the following Aug. 29, 2013 op-ed that I've reposted below. I hate to be an I-told-you-so but … Who am I kidding?! I told you so!

‘I’m down with it’: Ben Affleck cast as Batman for ‘Man of Steel’ sequel

Aug. 29, 2013 — Think about that headline.

Breathe. Consider it some more. Take another breath or two. … Now would be a good time to respond to the news.

That’s exactly what fans should have done before they reacted to the casting news.

But noooo, they went off half-cocked and spouted their disbelief, disgust and what-have-you.

And that was just on Facebook.

The genre fans I’ve talked to certainly have been less than thrilled. One diehard Batman fan told me he is so opposed to Ben Affleck being cast in the 2015 “Man of Steel” sequel, which will co-star the Dark Knight, that it will be the first Batman film he won’t see in the theaters.

Really?! All this over an unpopular casting decision?
Obviously, my friends know I’m a lifelong, diehard Batman fan and have asked me my opinion. My answer probably has surprised them.

Who knew?! Ben Affleck sports a Batman T-shirt on the set
of one of his movies — long before he was cast as the Dark Knight.
I’ll be clear: I’m down with it. I may not be excited per say about the choice, but I definitely will be giving Affleck a chance to prove himself. 

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and predict he’ll do a fine job.

First of all, on a superficial level, Affleck passes what my best friend David Hudson calls “the eye candy test.” He’s a good looking guy with a great jaw.

I have no doubt he will pay his dues in the gym to be significantly buff enough to be Gotham’s grim guardian.

Probably the only thing the doom-sayers and skeptics have agreed with me is that Affleck will be good as billionaire Bruce Wayne. With his onscreen charisma and delightful smile, Affleck won’t have any problem bringing those same characteristics to Batman’s alter-ego.

He also brings an intensity to each role he does — which Christian Bale most notably did with Wayne in the “Dark Knight” trilogy.

I know I’m in the vast minority here, but I firmly believe Affleck did a fine job as the blind crime-fighter Daredevil. My problems with the 2003 film don’t have anything to do with its star. (See my second-take review of "Daredevil" — titled "Giving DD his due" — by clicking here.) 

Double D: Ben Affleck played Daredevil (right) in the 2003 film and Charlie Cox plays Daredevil in the Netflix series,
now in its second season.
Image courtesy of The Playlist
Our new Batman has another screen credit that gives him even more superhero/fanboy credibility.

In the 2006 drama “Hollywoodland,” Affleck plays the troubled actor George Reeves (aka TV’s Superman from the 1950s). He brings an honesty to the role.

Affleck, who doesn’t spend a lot of time in the Superman tights, plays Reeves as a man who presented a positive persona to the public, but struggled with overcoming his personal demons.

Doesn’t that sound a bit like Wayne, a man obsessed enough with witnessing his parents’ double murder as a youngster that he undertakes a lifetime vow to rid the world of crime?

This is a close-up of Ben Affleck as Batman (commonly nicknamed "Batfleck")
from the second trailer for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
But here’s the most important reason fans have nothing to fear from Affleck taking on the role of Batman: He has a proven track record. For the last several years, Affleck has honed his craft — as an award-winning dramatic actor and director.

One could make the plausible argument that Affleck isn’t nearly as talented as Bale, but there’s no doubt Affleck is the real deal. It’s also a no-brainer to say Bale’s performance as Wayne/Batman will be a benchmark for any subsequent actor — similar to Christopher Reeve’s Superman/Clark Kent, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man/Tony Stark and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine — for years to come.

Inevitably, Affleck’s take on the Dark Knight will be compared to Bale’s. But why can’t we give the new guy a chance to prove himself?

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