Monday, August 26, 2013

Reel Facts & Opinions: The Next Batman - The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Late last week, the partnership between Warner Bros. Studios and DC Comics announced that Oscar-winning director/writer and actor Ben Affleck has been selected to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in their 2015 Superman/Batman crossover/team-up movie. Affleck will be the fifth actor to play the Caped Crusader on the big screen since 1989, and will be joined by Henry Cavill who will be reprising Superman from this year’s MAN OF STEEL. 

The casting of Affleck and the project itself offers a lot to talk about; ranging from good, bad, and ugly.
The Good: Over the past decade, Ben Affleck has re-invented himself as an actor and as a filmmaker. His acting chops have proven that he can do dramatic and funny, and the opportunity to play Bruce Wayne/Batman will offer him the opportunity to stretch his abilities even further. Beyond that, what Affleck will be bringing to the set is the mind of a gifted and talented filmmaker. The three films that Affleck has directed have all been critical and Oscar success stories and you can bet your utility-belt that he will be bringing his experience to the set. Much like Christian Bale (THE DARK KNIGHT) and Robert Downey Jr. (IRON MAN) kept a close watch on things in their respective superhero roles, Affleck is sure to not let any poor decisions pass on his watch. 

The Bad: The casting of Affleck in the role presumably will be a long-term commitment, which may rob us of a great director putting together equally-great films. Affleck clearly enjoys directing, and he may very well have negotiated time to do his own thing, so this may be a non-issue. What sticks out even more is that this move seems to be a fresh take (reboot/restart) on the Batman character, which would come only three years after WB/DC’s very own successful DARK KNIGHT TRILIOGY, directed by Christopher Nolan. With the success of Nolan’s Bat-films so fresh in all of our minds, it will be difficult to accept a “new” version of the character so soon. The sudden restart on the character makes WB/DC seem a little shameless, as they are clearly don’t care about wiping out their own successful Batman legacy in favor of possible big-buck$. This leads us to…

The Ugly: In 2012, DC Comics’ rival Marvel Studios rocked the box-office and critical world with their massive superhero-team up film, THE AVENGERS. Minutes after AVENGERS made bank, WB/DC immediately set out to finally bring their properties under one film, which started with MAN OF STEEL this past summer. While fans of the comics and the movies have certainly been looking forward to a Batman/Superman flick for decades, WB/DC seems to be in a big damn hurry to get this done now that they’ve seen dollar signs. It took Marvel five years to build up worldwide interest for AVENGERS; interest that WB/DC may be taking for granted. Batman and Superman may be the most popular superheroes ever created, and the fans will certainly show up…but history has proven that nothing good comes out of a rush-job…or trying to copy your peers and rivals.

The casting of Affleck in the role has generated reactions ranging from great-to-dismal; reactions which are ironically (and hilariously) similar to the mixed-to-negative reactions to Michael Keaton as Batman in 1989, and to Heath Ledger’s casting as Batman’s enemy The Joker in 2008…casting decisions which worked out pretty well. A good friend of Reel Speak often says that Batman is a complex and interesting enough character that it can survive several versions and reboots. Since Keaton brought us the eccentric and Christian Bale brought us the mood, the stage is set for Affleck to take the big-screen Dark Knight into new territory. It’s obviously much too early to pass final judgment, but the Bat Signal is far from dim.

The Batman/Superman team-up is being directed by Zack Snyder (MAN OF STEEL, WATCHMEN, 300), and is slated for a July 2015 release date.

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