People like to predict that Ben Affleck will fail as the Batfleck. But what this blog post presupposes is, maybe he won’t?
The fact is, Ben Affleck is a good actor who is actually positioned better than any of his predecessors in terms of his ability to play Batman. Here are some of the reasons why.
It’s easy to forget that Ben Affleck was in comic book movies when no one cared about comic books. He starred in several Kevin Smith films during the ’90s and ’00s in which the characters were either readers or writers of comics.
This includes Affleck as Holden McNeil, a New Jersey comic book writer in Chasing Amy. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a good reference point if you want to see that Affleck knows a thing or two about the comic book world. He also plays the villain in Mallrats, another comic-centric movie by Kevin Smith.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
He reprises his Chasing Amy role in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but, more importantly, he portrays himself on the set of Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season. This is where we see how Affleck might portray Batman and Bruce Wayne in a way that no other actor has been able to quite nail: he has a sense of humor about himself.
I’m not saying this movie is good. Actually, the exact thing I’m saying is that it’s not good.
In 2002, Affleck was part of one of the worst comic book bombs of all time: Daredevil. But this is the exact reason that we can be optimistic about Affleck as Batman. He isn’t going to make that level of mistake again. He’s learned… or at least I’m assuming he has.
Affleck wasn’t just in the worst comic book movie of 2002. He was in one of the worst movies of all time in 2003. This was during a stretch during which, if Affleck was in a movie, you were better off avoiding it. I’m referring to not just the two aforementioned films but also The Sum of All Fears, Jersey Girl, Paycheck, Reindeer Games, Surviving Christmas, etc. If Ben Affleck was in a movie between 2000 and 2004, chances are that it was a movie you did not want to see.
This won’t happen again. It can’t. Take a look at the films he’s made recently: David Fincher’s Gone Girl, the surprisingly-good and cliche-avoiding He’s Just Not That Into You, and the three suberb films he’s directed: The Town, Gone Baby Gone, and Argo. He’s obviously learned his lessons.
Let’s talk more about The Town, because we’re talking about Affleck’s ability to play a complicated, outside-the-law, tragic-childhood figure. His character in The Town is probably the closest thing he’s ever played to Bruce Wayne, with one key difference: he lacks Wayne’s privilege, finding himself trapped in a life of crime.
There’s one scene in The Town in particular that strikes me as the kind of moment that can be channeled into a Batmanic performance: Affleck comes home and says:
I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re gonna hurt some people.
He’s out for justice in an unfair world. But his character (unlike those around him) believes in a line and does not cross it, trying to hold himself to ethical actions while also being a guy who robs banks.
It’s also one of the films in which Affleck plays a teetotalling character, which is a trait that Bruce Wayne often has as well.
There was one movie during the early ’00s that Affleck made and that was good. In Changing Lanes, he squares off against Sam Jackson in an escalating violent spiral of revenge and a twisted vision of justice. It’s a good film and a great performance, and its plot resembles the upcoming Batman v. Superman film: two men trapped in a fight against one another, when they should be allies and not enemies.
He’s an old Batman
The other thing I like about this new movie is that it is definitively NOT an origin story. I like that we are stepping into a world where Batman and Gotham are fully-formed. Some of the best Batman stories are about a mature, aged Batman trying to continue fighting his hard fight, and it’s something we’ve only seen on screen in The Dark Knight Rises.
I’m optimistic about this film. I’m glad that we are getting a new Batman story, I’m glad we are seeing Superman and Batman in the same movie, and I’m glad that it looks like some serious work is going into this being a quality film.
I’m also glad that this doesn’t star either Christian Bale or Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the Batman. The Dark Knight trilogy was excellent, and it’s important that this reboot is entirely independent of that universe.
We have a legacy of Batmen for Affleck and the rest of this team to build on, while also having a fresh start. They don’t just have Affleck’s career to learn from, but the Batfilms of the last several decades, both good and bad.
And finally, if none of these reasons are good enough…
He has Jeremy Irons as his Alfred. And Jeremy Irons is the man.