Everybody Needs to Calm Down: Why Fan Outrage over Ben Affleck Playing Batman Is Premature

     August 23, 2013

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When it comes to a character as old and popular as Batman, everybody has an opinion.  Following the announcement that a Batman/Superman movie was in the cards for Warner Bros., we knew there would be some debate over who the studio and director Zack Snyder should choose to don the cape and cowl for their Man of Steel follow-up.  Early word was that they were looking to cast an older, more experienced Batman opposite Henry Cavill’s young Superman, and names like Josh Brolin and Jon Hamm were bandied about.  However, when the studio announced last night that Ben Affleck has been cast in the role, the reaction was unsurprisingly vehement.

The internet specializes in snap judgments, and the casting of Affleck as Batman is no different.  But fan outcry and caps-lock rants are premature; people are already rating a performance that we won’t see on screen for nearly two years.  Hit the jump for more on why everybody needs to calm down.

dark-knight-rises-catwoman-anne-hathawayWith last night’s announcement of Affleck as Batman also came the official release date for Snyder’s as-yet-untitled superhero pic: July 17, 2015.  Until that date, we will not have a full idea of what Affleck’s Batman performance entails.  We can nitpick the costume in set photos and speculate as to whether this new Bruce Wayne will sport a hint of a Boston accent, but we’ll have to wait 693 days to know the arc of this new Batman.  This is a fact.  Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films came to a close with The Dark Knight Rises, so now it’s time for a new filmmaker and a new actor to step in with their own interpretation of the character.

Preconceived notions of Batman’s character are fine, but expecting a filmmaker to stick to your parameters is unrealistic.  When Anne Hathaway was first announced as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, judgments were immediately made that she was the wrong choice for the character—despite no one having any clue as to what Nolan and Hathaway’s interpretation of “Catwoman” entailed.  When the film was finally released, we saw that the two had crafted a new take on the comics character—one that suited the actress and the movie incredibly well.

heath-ledger-the-dark-knightWe also saw fan outcry over the casting of Heath Ledger as The Joker, and now his Oscar-winning Dark Knight performance is widely viewed as the definitive film interpretation of the classic villain.  Going back even further, fans were none too pleased with Tim Burton’s choice of Mr. Mom star Michael Keaton as Batman in the 1989 feature, but things turned out just fine.  You’d think everybody would know better than to prejudge by now after the Hathaway/Ledger/Keaton debacles, but no.

What should be gleaned from these previous experiences is that while fans may have specific ideas about a particular comics character, ultimately the onscreen interpretation of said character lies with the filmmakers and performers.  It’s wrong to say Ben Affleck is “wrong” for Batman because we don’t know what Affleck, Snyder, and screenwriter David S. Goyer’s Batman looks like.  Is it possible that Affleck will make a poor Batman?  Sure, but it’s also possible that he’ll make a great one.  We won’t know until Summer 2015.  It’s fine to chime in with what we think of the casting, but to state as fact that Affleck is the worst thing to ever happen to the Batman character in the history of everything is a bit of an overreaction. 

Thus far, we have seen five different actors play Batman in a major feature film—Adam West, Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale.  As long as studios are making movies, there will always be Batman films, and as long as there are Batman films, there will be new actors playing Batman.  Some will be better than others, and if you don’t like one Batman, you’ll eventually get a new one.  For now, our Batman is Ben Affleck.  Will he be a good one?  We’ll find out on July 17, 2015, and not a moment sooner.

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