Ben Affleck’s got the darkness, the complexity and the chin to be Zack Snyder’s Dark Knight.
At the beginning of 2013, everyone loved Ben Affleck. After his topical Iran-thriller Argo failed to garner an Oscar nomination for Best Director, it seemed like the whole world rallied around Affleck. A quickly snowballing group championing Affleck’s work on the film had all the vehemence of a bunch of Save the Whales campaigners, jump-starting a backlash that led to Affleck hoovering up several trophies for the film. He didn’t get a Best Director nom, but Ben Affleck, former laughing stock and J-Lo accessory, was now the proud owner of a Best Picture Oscar.
Popular alternatives to Affleck include: David Hasselhoff, Del Boy, and cats
How the mighty do fall. Just in case Ben Affleck’s sense of self-worth had increased post-2013 Academy Awards, a large, vocal posse of web-dwellers today decided to rectify that by giving Affleck a digital uppercut to the nuts. As if Batman appearing in the next Superman film wasn’t bad enough, and as if Christian Bale’s refusal to return as Batman didn’t already see a mass of comic book-lovers do a collective shit, it was this morning confirmed that Ben Affleck would be playing an older Batman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel 2. Cue the internet exploding into a blind fury.
Reaction to the news can be found on almost every corner of the web. Confusion can be whiffed from the words of film journos, the general public appears miffed that there even is a new Batman so soon after Christian Bale’s departure, while anger strongly emanates from the nerd community. #BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck is already trending on Twitter, in case anyone had any doubt what the general consensus was (popular alternatives include: David Hasselhoff, Del Boy Trotter, cats, and one of those irritating minion things from Despicable Me).
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To put it mildly, Ben Affleck has not proved a popular choice as the next actor to don Batman’s gothic S&M gear. And maybe it’s understandable. After all, Affleck starred in one of the worst superhero movies of recent memory (Daredevil, not that you were wondering), and gave us one of the dullest, least memorable superheroes in it. Affleck also carried the reputation as something of a Hollywood curse throughout his early career, blanding his way through gutter fare like Pearl Harbour, Gigli and Paycheck. But things change.
Affleck has matured into a smart, adaptable actor – just look at Hollywoodland
Not only has Affleck matured into a solid director since then, but he’s transformed into a smart, adaptable actor, too. He hinted at a dark side in State of Play, went scene-stealing in Smokin’ Aces and let Terrence Malick pit him against the elements in To The Wonder. Affleck’s performances in his own films The Town and Argo are two of his best – in the former he was conflicted, quietly dangerous, whereas in the latter he was suitably restrained, playing a shadowy government spook as unknowable, almost to the point of being invisible – but it’s his work in the little-seen Hollywoodland that should most assuage fears.
Playing, somewhat ironically, Superman actor George Reeves, Affleck gave a performance in Hollywoodland that ran parallel to the idea of an older Batman. His Reeves was outwardly a hero, a confident and charming playboy, but inwardly a deeply sad and lonely figure, his insecurities eventually pushing him to suicide. Affleck played Reeves as someone aspiring for immortality, but losing out to the inevitable shadow of time and ageing, a theme that will purportedly be explored in Man of Steel 2′s aged version of the Caped Crusader. It’s almost like the producers watched Hollywoodland, clocked Affleck’s towering performance and gargantuan chin and found their man right away.
So what about the could’ve-beens? There are always dream actors for iconic roles; it’s very rare that the one the public wants to see filling the character’s shoes actually gets the part. It should’ve been Clive Owen for Bond rather than Daniel Craig, shouldn’t it? And Heath Ledger for The Joker over the rumoured Paul Bettany – which idiot came up with that idea? It just so happens that unpredictable, perhaps risky casting choices can pay off. Ten years ago, before he was Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr was an industry joke. Now he’s the highest paid actor in Hollywood. Sometimes the ‘wrong’ casting just works.
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Featured image: Focus Features
Inset image: Legendary Pictures