This past August marked the 2nd anniversary of the announcement of Ben Affleck as the man to replace Christian Bale in the Black (and sometimes very, very, dark grey) get-up of Gotham’s Dark Knight. At first there was outrage and an almost total backlash against the decision from hardcore fans, and there has since grown a pessimistic acceptance of his casting and a huge sense of dread (at least among comic book enthusiasts) heading into what will surely be one of 2016’s largest Blockbusters – Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice. What I aim to do in this article is open your eyes to the potential of a Ben Affleck Bruce Wayne and ultimately convince you that it’s time to get over it.
Since the announcement came to us nearly 2 years ago, Ben Affleck has appeared in a grand total of only 2 movies: Brad Furman’s Runner Runner (2013); and David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014). In the former he expanded his horizons as a loose cannon mafioso character with a lot of mouth and a lot of power. In the latter, he played on the deep intimacy of how we were invited to witness him as a subject of interrogation with an almost majestic silence. In each film he was completely different people, and these roles were coming off the back of his 2013 “Best Picture” Oscar win for Argo and some work alongside legendary auteur Terrence Malick in To the Wonder (2012). Basically, Affleck’s proved he’s capable. Heck, you can even stretch back to 2010 for another Oscar nominated movie – The Town – a picture he co-wrote, directed and starred in, if you’re looking for more evidence. The fact is that there are only 5 movies Ben Affleck has acted in, in the past 5 years; a figure that isn’t set to increase before Batman vs Superman. He’s picking and choosing his projects with an almost faultless success rate, expanding his worth as an artist in every appearance. When you compare Affleck’s five year period before Batman vs Superman to Christian Bale’s five year period before Batman Begins (2005), it’s easy to draw a comparison in quality of performance and the type of “high-art” films they’ve each been in:
2010 – The Town
2012 – Argo
2012 – To the Wonder
2013 – Runner Runner
2014 – Gone Girl
2000 – American Psycho
2000 – Shaft
2001 – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
2002 – Laurel Canyon
2002 – Reign of Fire
2002 – Equilibrium
2004 – The Machinist
2004 – Howl’s Moving Castle
Arguably, each of them provided top quality leading performances in 4 of the movies they each starred in during this time period, with Affleck’s success rate of at least 4 out of 5 being much more efficient than Bale’s 4 out of 8 for the same time frame. Don’t get me wrong, Bale was at an entirely different place in his career back then, but the point stands because it is evidence that Affleck has nothing to prove as a talented artist of film, whether he’s in front of the camera or behind it, and if you’re continuing to judge him for what he did in the early to mid 2000s then you’re at least 5 years out of date, not to mention completely neglecting his good (and award winning) writing and acting work on the likes of Good Will Hunting and Dogma in the late 90’s. Just because he spent 10 years as one half of celebrity gossip magazine power couple J-Fleck doesn’t mean he’s not worthy.
The marriage of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez was played out in front of the public more than it could’ve ever possibly been behind the scenes. The gossip column gold mine of an empire was probably terrific for Affleck’s bank balance, but it tinted perceptions of him and ultimately led to the dire 2003 “drama” (if you can call it that) Gigli which made our 10 Career Sinking Movies list and was the final damage to the sinking ship that was Affleck’s legitimacy as an actor in the 2000’s. I bet you can name one of the other movies that helped. Yes, it’s Daredevil (2003).
Daredevil was poorly produced, poorly written, poorly directed and poorly acted. It was an awful film. Affleck led the line of legitimate actors looking for their own stamp on the emerging comic book movie phenomenon as the head of a cast that also included Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Favreau, Jennifer Garner and Colin Farrell. It just didn’t work out. It was so bad that there has never been any solid evidence that anyone is looking to revisit the character on screen again, despite Daredevil being one of the more beloved comic book heroes of the Marvel Universe.
It is understandable then for fans of the genre to be pessimistic towards Ben Affleck after his disingenuous performance as the blind hero. But, the truth is that he shouldn’t really be to blame for the lack of success in his Marvel outing at all. Director of Daredevil – Mark Steven Johnson – managed to turn the likes of Colin Farrell into bad actors too (no easy feat), and one bad superhero film doesn’t make a career, just ask George Clooney.
My conclusive thoughts are this: Ben Affleck deserves the opportunity to don the suit. He’s not only proven himself as one of the top artists of hollywood over the past 5 or so years, but he’s also the perfect look for Bruce Wayne and is one of the hottest commodities in the industry right now. If Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice is bad, it’s not going to be because Ben Affleck is inside of the suit, it’s going to be because it’s poorly written or directed, and it’s that simple. When I started this piece I aimed to convince you to “get over” Ben Affleck being cast as Batman and I hope that I have managed to help at least some of you work through those post-Nolan and post-Bale feelings, because (trust me) I’ve been working through them too.