Sunday, August 25, 2013
Dave-El here and welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You.
A few weeks ago, the big news from DC and Warner Brothers is that the next Superman movie was going to feature a face off between the Man of Steel and a certain Caped Crusader. Yep, trigger the fangasms, boys and girls. We're gonna get Superman vs. Batman!
Up front, we were told that Henry Cavill would reprise his role as from this summer's blockbuster Man of Steel. (See here and here for my thoughts on that movie.) What we did not know was who was going to be Batman. The just concluded Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan had put a capper on that version of the character and Christian Bale made it clear he would not return to don the cape and cowl once more. So who would get the nod to assume the mantle of the Bat for the next cinematic appearance of Bruce Wayne's crime fighting alter ego? Last week, that revelation was finally made.
Oh my God, you would think Warner Brothers had announced that a clone of Adolf Hitler had been given the coveted role of Gotham's masked avenger. The internet was rattled with derogatory comments about Affleck's talents and reputation and calls for Affleck to be removed from the role immediately. I guess any good will Ben Affleck was still carrying after his career defining turn as the director of Argo last year went POOF!
Of course, Exhibit A in the prosecution's case against Affleck as Batman is Daredevil. Yep, that one didn't do too well, did it? Some of that could be laid at Affleck's feet; he was at a point in his career that I don't think Ben was saying "no" to much with diminishing returns for his reputation as an actor and as a box office draw. But there was more than enough blame to go around to account for Daredevil's failure to launch as a super hero franchise.
In the last few years, Ben Affleck as been less ubiquitous and its been beneficial to his career. Turns behind the camera as a director for Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo made Hollywood take him seriously. And roles in front of the camera were less showy, either as a supporting actor or part of an ensemble. His role as George Reeves in Hollywoodland was outstanding and Ben Affleck received many accolades for his performance.
But all of this reputation rehabilitation seems to be for naught as the backlash against Affleck's casting as Batman has been almost overwhelming.
But here's the question that I'm sure is weighing on the minds of people of everywhere: what does Dave-El think about it?
OK, it may not be weighing on anyone's minds but I do have something to say.
If this was maybe 7 or 8 years ago, I would have been on the "Oust Affleck" bandwagon. THAT Ben Affleck was certainly not ready to play Batman. He had fallen too far into the pit of Check Cashing Action Star. But is he ready now? Who knows? But I would say that I have more confidence that the Ben Affleck who took charge of his career by backing off from the lead and subverting himself to the supporting or ensemble role is a wiser person and maybe a better actor for all that. Maybe Ben Affleck will crash and burn as Batman but I have a feeling he won't. I think the guy who didn't really know what to do with Daredevil is not the same guy who directed Argo 10 years later.
I say let the man have his shot.
Of course, we've been down this road before. 25 years ago, it was announced Batman was going to be a major motion picture; it was going to be dark and menacing, not light and campy like the Adam West TV show. And for this dark and serious interpretation of Batman, the man cast to portray the Caped Crusader would be....
Yeah, that can't be good.
Keaton was known primarily as a comic actor from appearances in such films as Night Shift, Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice. He was also not considered by any kind of stretch of anyone's imagination as an action-adventure kind of guy. This guy was going to Batman?
I dashed off an angry letter about that which was actually published in an issue of Amazing Heroes. (One of the highlights of my life, I must add. Which is kind of sad to think about.) I actually did not question Keaton's talents; even in his comedy roles, Michael Keaton always brought a certain edginess that might play well in portraying a super rich playboy who dresses up as a bat and beats up bad guys. Still, Keaton was a comedy actor and if the movie going audience couldn't take him seriously in the role, would studio execs see that as the problem or would they think super hero films just don't work?
When I saw the first trailer for Batman, though, my concerns were somewhat alleviated by one telling image: the scene of Batman crashing through a skylight, his dark cape expanding outward around him as if wrought from the hand of Marshall Rogers himself. I was really psyched for this move and when it came out that summer, I saw it three times.
Dear Lord in heaven did this movie suck! Plot holes out the wazoo! Inconsistent characterizations! Miscast actors! (Jack Nicholson may have set the world on fire as the Joker but really, he was just doing Ceasar Romero, except he got to actually kill people.)
But at the core of the movie, quietly going about his work bringing Bruce Wayne and his Bat-cloaked alter ego to life, was Michael Keaton.
Was it perfect casting? No. But Keaton's presence made everyone re-think who could be cast as a super hero. I would dare say there is a direct line from Keaton in Batman (1989) to Christian Bale in Batman Begins (2005). And this goes beyond just Batman: would Robert Downey Jr have been considered for Tony Stark/Iron Man if the ideal of casting a super hero had not been turned on its head by Michael Keaton?
So we find ourselves 25 years removed from that fateful year and it seems that history is repeating itself. Ben Affleck has been just short of being hung in effigy. Guys and gals, let's settle down and give Ben his chance. I think we will be pleasantly surprised.
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Panels from "Part 4" in Superman #400 (October 1984), script by Elliot S! Maggin, pencils by Marshall Rogers, inks by Terry A...