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For the first time in his nearly 80-year history, Batman is being brought to life by an Academy Award-winning Screenwriter, Director, and Producer.*
This should be a cause for celebration, right?
Yet Ben Affleck’s selection as the next man to don The Dark Knight’s cape-and-cowl has been met with a magnitude of nerd rage powerful enough to register 5.5 on the richter scale.
Why are we so quick to dismiss Batfleck before we’ve ever even seen the film?
Here’s a shamelessly click-baity article on Top 5 Reasons For The Batfleck Backlash!
#5 – ZACK SNYDER
File this under guilt-by-association. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not admissible in a court of law…yet it’s also unavoidable.
Bat-fans don’t trust Batfleck because we don’t trust Zack Snyder.
Zack Snyder’s directorial decisions can best be described as, paradoxically, “Surprising, yet Predictable.”
Case in point – Casting Jesse Eisenberg, most famous for playing billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, as billionaire Lex Luthor.
…gee Zack, how relevant. I see what you did there.
Ben Affleck follows the same “Surprising, yet Predictable” pattern.
Cast a tall, good looking guy with an edge as a tall, good looking guy with an edge. The most surprising part of this casting is that we allowed ourselves to be surprised by it.
This isn’t a call for stunt casting, but smart casting. Using sound judgment, not gimmickry to generate headlines.
In hindsight, casting Ben Affleck as Batman is about as obvious and boring a choice as it gets.
#4 – BEN AFFLECK DOESN’T LOOK LIKE HE CAN BEAT UP ANYBODY
Seriously. He doesn’t.
Yes, Ben Affleck as Batman is a beast. To paraphrase John Cena in Trainwreck, he looks like “Ben Affleck ATE Ben Affleck.”
Yet to paraphrase another pro wrestler, Triple H, Ben Affleck “doesn’t look like he could beat up anybody” – a quote made while answering why wrestlers like The Rock were finding success as action heroes.
Dude has a point.
There’s just something…not tough…about Ben Affleck. Could it be lingering Bennifer hangover, that long-ago (12 years) cultural dark age when our entertainment media frothed at the mouth over the blue collar beantowner’s transformation into the epitome of metrosexuality?
That’s part of it, absolutely.
But it is wrong to blame J’Lo for the fact that poor B’Aff just seems, y’know, not tough. Movies are about suspension of disbelief, and personally, my disbelief is pretty solidly not suspended.
You may postulate “Riddle me this Hunter, you skinny twerp you, how tough were fan favorites Michael Keaton and Christian Bale?”
I’m glad you asked…
#3 – BEN AFFLECK ISN’T THAT GREAT OF AN ACTOR
He’s just not.
Michael Keaton and Christian Bale are.
In fact, they are such good actors, they didn’t rely on mere bulk, brawn and biceps to create their performance. Through mastery of their craft, they created a Batmen that were psychologically damaged (Keaton), or permanently traumatized (Bale), but who rose above – a sleight of hand so skillfully employed it convinced us in the audience that, you guessed it, Batman was tough.
After all, you’d have to be tough to triumph over the personal anguish their respective Bruce Wayne’s were clearly enduring.
Based on Ben’s lesser abilities (none of his three Oscars were for acting), I don’t have much faith that his performance will be much more than “Look at me – I’m big and scary and angry and I’m in a batsuit. Rawrrr!”
I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But history has shown that Affleck, while a capable actor, is one who always makes the most obvious choices. For example, if the script said –
You can bet that Ben is going to say, in a scary voice, “I’m going to plant my foot in your ass.” Perfectly capable, but profoundly predictable. You may buy it, but more likely you’ll feel like you’re watching Hunter in a community theatre play.
Perhaps we bat-fans have been spoiled by the talents of Keaton, Kilmer, Conroy and Christian, but we just kinda’ want more.
But no matter how chameleon-like and capable an actor may be, first impressions matter.
This leads to my next point…
#2 – B’AFF COMES OFF LIKE A DOUCHE
“You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you?”
Joker’s observation as he dangled from a cord at the end of The Dark Knight perfectly summed up the appeal of The Caped Crusader to me, and I’m sure millions of others — Batman is good.
Fallible, flawed, but fundamentally good.
God bless him, but Ben Affleck just doesn’t carry that kind of gravitas.
Granted, few actors do anymore, what with our cynical, shades of gray culture. So this criticism is not unique to Batfleck, but it is nevertheless valid.
There’s a reason Christopher Reeve as Superman (different character, I know, shut up) was the greatest comic book movie performance ever – because you believed not only that he could fly…but that he was that preternaturally decent and good.
Batman should have that same quality of fundamental goodness – or at least he shouldn’t come off like he’s the polar opposite. A d-bag.
I don’t know Ben Affleck personally, and he may be a wonderful man. This isn’t a personal attack. But as an actor on screen, he just seems kinda’ shady.
For this very reason, my favorite Ben Affleck role was in Gone Girl , in which he played a man who was…kinda’ shady. To quote David Fincher on the commentary for the film:
Oh yes, and this…
Damn David. Ouch.
Ben Affleck may or may not be duplicitous in real life, I don’t know. But the shark suit sure does fit Ben Affleck well on screen. He’s kinda’ like Michael Douglas in the late 80’s, early 90’s (Wall Street, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct). Nice guy, probably, but comes across like someone you wouldn’t want to leave alone with your wife or gal pal.
You can make a good living being an amoral asshole on screen. Again, see Michael Douglas.
But that’s not Batman.
Ok, our countdown is almost complete – so what is the #1 reason for all the Batfleck Backlash?
#1 – INTERNET FILM FANS ALWAYS BE HATIN’
This seems like the most obvious answer. If my decade and a half of debating pop culture on the internet has taught me one thing, it’s that haters are always gonna’ hate. Sadly, I’m one of them, and you dear reader probably are too.
Consider that fans were making “Brokeback Batman” jokes right up until Heath Ledger seared the screen with his Academy Award-winning performance as the Clown Prince of Crime.
Haters gonna’ hate.
Anything for a laugh or smirk. That’s just how we are. Hell, this article is testament to that (as is my self-imposed nickname The Snark Knight…Lord have mercy, I’m incorrigible)
Will Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman be seminal? Or even that good?
I doubt it, for all of the reasons articulated above.
But the title of this article is asking the question “Why All The Hatin’?” and the simple answer is – “IT’S THE INTERNET! HATIN’ IS WHAT WE DO!”
Still, I’ll be there next spring like the rest of you. Because we’re Batman fans, and that’s also what we do.
* If you say “George Clooney and Christian Bale are Oscar winners” I’m going to throw a batarang at you – they won their Oscars after first playing Batman, not before.
SHOULD THE WORLD GIVE BATFLECK A CHANCE — OR IS THIS THE WORST DECISION SINCE BAT-NIPPLES?