When the news of Ben Affleck getting tapped to play Batman in the upcoming Batman Vs. Superman movie broke on Thursday night, I was watching something else that I was quite enjoying in a movie theatre. The second I stepped out of the theatre, everyone was on their phones and in an uproar about what they had just heard. It was a cacophony of moans, groans, and misplaced anger from people who read a single sentence about a casting decision and had all their dreams about casting someone else or Christian Bale coming back dashed entirely. It was like nothing else had happened that day in the lives of everyone around me. I broke the news to my friend – one of the biggest Batman fans I know – and he dropped to the floor screaming in agony.
As a comic fan and the resident movie guy here, let me be perfectly clear on one thing that should be read like Richard Jenkins admonishing Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers:
I don’t give a fuck who plays Batman or what anyone has to say about it.
One man does not a movie make. First there’s the story. Then there’s a producer who wants to tell the best story possibly. Then there’s the person making the film. Then depending on the project the lead actors or the technicians come into play. At best they are the third biggest element to making a movie.
For days now, I have had to endure and suffer through countless “Batman was the bomb in Phantoms” jokes, Daredevil references, cracks about how Matt Damon should play Robin coming at the same frequency that “Blurred Lines” is played on the radio, and ludicrous petitions about getting the Academy Award winner removed from going anywhere near Bruce Wayne’s mansion.
It needs to stop. Immediately. Save your rage for something actually worthy of it, or at least until the film is released.
At this time of year (TIFF), the most annoying question I get asked is normally: “So what movies should I see?” It’s annoying to be asked that because I have been watching so many movies that people will ultimately get pissed off and annoyed that I am not bringing up the titles that they want me to bring up because I probably haven’t seen them already and can’t comment on them. They will then throw a bunch of titles at me in hopes that I could even talk about them if I wanted to and wonder what good I am if I don’t have every detail on every possible film ever made. It’s overwhelming.
Now, on top of that futile bit of business, I have been inundated with requests to talk about Affleck’s casting of Batman and when I say I ultimately have no opinion, people again feel the need to get pissed off and try to get me to sway to one side of the argument or the other. It’s not going to happen, and here are nine reasons why I can’t bring myself to care.
(So everyone is clear, when I use the word “you” here it’s in direct address to everyone actively trying to sway any opinion I might have, and not the royal “you.” Some of “you” might actually have the same general feelings I do on the subject. Also, I would have picked Zachary Quinto for the role if that means anything to any of you. Think about it. Would have been a good choice, but even my point and fantasy casting was always moot.)
1. You haven’t seen the movie yet, and if you want to be irrationally and ignorantly angry, Affleck isn’t your guy to be mad at.
This should almost go without saying, and there’s a distinct difference between criticizing a person who makes a film versus someone who is tapped to star in one. While I think there were problems with Man of Steel that were greater and more structurally flawed than director Zack Snyder could have hoped to overcome, the scepticism levied against him makes far more sense than calling out someone who absolutely none of you (Snyder and Warner Brothers executives included) have seen a single frame of Affleckas the Dark Knight. You never know until you see it, and a decision like this isn’t simply reached overnight. It’s something that was set in motion ages ago, probably even well before the announcement of the project at SDCC. Affleck, a major director in his own right and still a working actor, has a schedule that needs to be worked around. He almost definitely wasn’t the only person considered, especially since he would be cast opposite Henry Cavill, who outside of Supes’ tights still isn’t very well recognized. They probably looked at plenty of people with a lower profile, almost all of which people would have found a way to complain and cry over. People did the same thing with Christian Bale. Now none of you want him to leave.
2. For all the things wrong with it, Daredevil was not Affleck’s fault.
Stop bringing up Affleck’s last comic book movie. It’s completely irrelevant. Daredevil isn’t a great movie, but it surely isn’t even close to being one of the worst comic book adaptations out there. It was a movie that was tinkered with, retooled, re-cut to avoid an R-Rating, had plot points excised from it on the fly, and contained studio mandated sequences (like that fight in the park between Matt Murdoch and Elektra) to make it all more kid friendly. It’s most assuredly not the film that writer and director Mark Steven Johnson wanted to make (just listen to his commentary on the film’s R-Rated DVD cut for further evidence) and not the film Affleck signed up for. Any hemming and hawing about Daredevil when saying why Affleck isn’t right for the job is completely useless. Affleck was fine in Daredevil. Everything else about the movie wasn’t right. Also, wasn’t Daredevil as a character really always just a Batman knock –off, anyway?
3. Come to think of it, despite looking over even his most marginal and maligned films, I can only see three movies where Affleck was one of the worst things about them.
Paycheck, Surviving Christmas, and Forces of Nature are inherently dreadful movies where Affleck gives a terrible performance. He seems like the kind of guy who in hindsight now understands the error of his ways. Absolutely none of the other films people like to give him crap for (including Gigli, Pearl Harbor, and Reindeer Games) are bad because he is bad in them. He was taking jobs for the sake of taking jobs, and probably because whoever was representing him at the time had a head injury and just thought of what was best for business instead of sending quality projects to his client. There’s this grand misconception that actors of his calibre at the time get the luxury of choosing their roles. It’s not true, and in fact, very few who aren’t named George Clooney, Brad Pitt, or Leonardo DiCaprio will ever have that luxury. At the point in his career that everyone likes to jump all over Affleck about, he wasn’t on that level. He is now, but back then he had to put in the work like everyone else, and working means having a bunch of projects thrown at you by an agent who wants to make you the most money possible and not necessarily help your career. If you think those were bad, I would shudder to think about the stuff he turned down that came across his desk.
4. The last truly unwatchable film Affleck made was almost a full decade ago.
Again, that was Surviving Christmas. A film about the holidays that was so awful it was released in September. He hasn’t made anything even close to being that awful since.
5. Deep down, he’s as dorky as you or I.
When Affleck got the job to play Daredevil he was actually excited. Most any fan of the comic would be. No fan and no actor would actively take on a job just to sabotage something they truly enjoyed. I’m definitely not the world’s biggest Kevin Smith supporter (and I believe Jersey Girl was his last truly great movie his greatest accomplishment was the Clerks animated series), but you don’t spend the early part of your career being friends with and hanging out around someone like that without having a heck of a lot of shared interests. He knows what a comic book should feel like, and hopefully now he has something worthy of his talents.
6. He’s essentially already lived through his Bruce Wayne phase.
Much like his future big screen counterpart, Affleck is a multi-millionaire playboy who made headlines for goofy behaviour, dated people with equally high profiles that end horribly, made poor business decisions that he held no accountability for, and yet he still finds time for humanitarian causes that he would actively fight for and support. Now, he still has the philanthropic side of things, but he’s become a much smarter, more accomplished businessman with a family. If there’s one thing Affleck could readily tap into, it’s Wayne’s sadness and remorse for the things he’s done wrong in his life. Also, does anyone truly believe that anything anyone will say about him could honestly hurt his feelings at this point or give Warner Brothers pause? Probably not.
7. He probably wants a crack at directing the Justice League movie just as much as he wants to play Batman.
For a minute or two there before J.J. Abrams was tapped to direct the next Star Wars entry, Affleck was under serious consideration for the job. That’s not only because he’s a fan, but because he’s, you know, an award winning director at this point that people by and large tend to like quite a bit. Something tells me that Affleck’s involvement is part of a much larger deal that probably involves another directorial effort at some point. Warner Brothers already likes him after he gave them The Town and a Best Picture Oscar for Argo. It would be in their best interest to keep him happy, and giving him a high profile acting gig and an even higher profile directing job. It’s also cheaper than cutting a $60 million cheque (plus God knows how much off the back end profits) for someone who has made it adamant that they don’t want to do the job again.
8. Batman will survive regardless of what happens.
If Batman could survive lesser Frank Miller entries, Joel Schumacher, the Batusi, and comics that sent the character to space numerous times and turned him into a baby once, I THHHHIIIIIIIINNNNNNKKK the franchise can overcome this if it turns out to not be very good. Again, you have seen absolutely nothing. I assure you all that this will flare up again the second a still or costume design or clip will pop up on the internet.
9. These announcements are purposely designed to draw your ire and attention because you just gave them free advance advertising at absolutely no cost.
The majority of the internet – both positively and negatively – seems to have played into this one quite nicely. That outrage and indignation from fans who think they know what’s best for their beloved franchise were exactly the people they needed to reach in order to get the announcement out to the world at large. It might comes as a shock to you and I, but a large percentage of the human population – even in North America where the news was bound to make the biggest waves – could care less about movies and care even less about comics. Those are the people who will wait until they see a trailer or a poster hanging up somewhere to get their interest piqued. Those are the people who are the majority of the buying force, not you guys. Your anger and indignation is free press for them. You turn it into a talking point and make it newsworthy. The more complaints it gets the more newsworthy something becomes. It no longer becomes controlled by the people complaining about something in pop culture: it becomes a gold mine for the people who get paid to spin it into news. Yes, there is such a thing as bad press (like committing a crime, for instance), but backlash is something that fuels marketing campaigns like you wouldn’t believe. So all of this sight unseen complaining means that the very people you are rallying against have won in a landslide because the counterargument looks silly in comparison. And almost agreeably so to the outside observer. Plus, how many people who are complaining are just going to pay the money to see it anyway? Petition and scream all you want. The war was over before it began.
So why am I even doing this? Because I’m annoyed, I have been pretty much forced into say something about it, and I know the majority of the people reading this far only read this far because it was outlined in list form. If there are two things the Internet loves, it’s superheroes and lists. That’s the way of the world. If you all want to analyze pop culture like you have a doctorate in it, the least I can do is deliver the truth.