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Ben Affleck is Batman. You might have heard about it. The guy who once turned down directing the Justice League movie, and who went from Gigli to Best Picture in less than a decade, is now expanding his strange career even further. There's a lot to process about the pick, and plenty of reasons to think it's either a disaster or the best thing ever. Where do Katey and Eric fall? Check out our Great Debate as we process the news.
KATEY: Eric, I will always remember where I was when I first heard that Ben Affleck became Batman-- I stopped by my neighborhood video store because my friend Sam happened to be working there, and he asked me "Did you hear about Affleck?" and I honestly assumed Ben Affleck had died. Ben Affleck playing Batman did not occur to me in the least, and honestly, I don't even think hindsight gets me there. I did not think they would cast a name-brand star, much less a recent Oscar winner, much less the guy who turned down directing Justice League. Of all the options on the table-- and I'm sure he was rumored for the part at some point-- he seemed the least likely. So how did this happen?
ERIC: Well, I think for starters there's the fact that Affleck and Warner Bros. just have a really strong relationship thanks to working on both The Town and Argo together. But what I really think it boils down to is that Affleck is a big comic book fan. I can understand why he may not want to *direct* a superhero film, particularly right after he just won Best Picture for Argo, but what actor/comic book fan wouldn't want to play Batman? I would have to imagine that it's a dream role for someone like Affleck, and I personally really like the choice.
KATEY: Affleck being a comics fan had to be like eighth or ninth on the list of important factors here. If he were directing Batman, sure... but the guy who PLAYS Batman need to be a million things that have nothing to do with how much he loves the comics. And truthfully, I just assumed they'd go with a cheap unknown here, or at least a Christian Bale/Mark Ruffalo type who isn't already bankable. Affleck has already played a damn superhero. He's as big a star as he's ever been. How is he not just going to blow Henry Cavill off the screen?
ERIC: I think there's a very good chance he might and I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing. But before we get into that, I'm curious why do you think Affleck would turn down the part. It's Batman!
KATEY: The amount of actors who have benefited from playing Batman is equal to the amount of actors who suffered from it. Affleck had to have thought long and hard about George Clooney's time in the suit, and recognized that if the movie doesn't go well-- and if audiences don't accept you in the part-- it will ruin you. Affleck is not far enough removed from the Gigli days to not be worried that he'd get laughed off the screen. To be fair, I don't think that will happen-- Affleck has done good enough work, and Argo was a big enough hit, that I think people will buy him. But there's a reason the best superheroes are generally played by unknowns-- to buy the guy dressing up in the weird suit, it helps not to have seen him kissing J.Lo's butt on a yacht in a music video.
ERIC: I'm not really sure how you can say Clooney's career was ruined by Batman. Yes, Batman & Robin was a terrible movie and Clooney made for a truly awful Dark Knight, but the guy did bounce back pretty well.And there's also the fact that the superhero genre has changed massively since the time of Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney. Yes, it's rarer to have big A-list actors in lead roles, but that's really more of a money thing than anything.
KATEY: Sure, and the way we consider Batman has changed drastically too, which definitely works in Affleck's favor. But I stand by my argument that unknowns make for the best superheroes-- with the massive, massive exception of Robert Downey Jr., whose personal backstory dovetailed so well with Tony Stark that it added to it. Affleck doesn't have that backstory to add to Bruce Wayne. His fame remains more of a challenge than an asset.
ERIC: But I think a bigger actor is what they may need for this version of Batman. I don't have any real inside knowledge about what Zack Snyder and David Goyer have planned for the movie, but if they're having Batman actually fighting Superman a young star would never work. A version of Batman that can actually go up against Superman needs to be older and experienced - and I think Affleck has the personality to carry that. This has to be a Batman who is already established in this comic book world and in order to really get that across you need a face audiences can immediately connect to. Are you more concerned for Affleck's acting career or that he's not the right actor for the part?
KATEY: Alright, I can buy that argument. I kind of think Superman is getting hosed by having Batman show up in his sequel in the first place, but it seems pretty clear they're committed to letting it be Batman's introduction and less about Supes (which means we will NEVER get Henry Cavill as dopey reporter Clark Kent, and that bugs me). And I like Affleck and, if anyone is immediately going to help us erase the memory of Christian Bale, he can do it-- I have to assume his take on the character will be totally different. In the end I'm happy to see Affleck take on a role I never expected from him, because getting boxed into doing one thing is lame. But I'm not sure it bodes well for the version of Batman vs. Superman we're getting.
ERIC: I both agree and disagree with you. I do think that Affleck will definitely bring something much different to the role than Bale, but I also think having him in there at least partially eliminates the need for the whole "introduction" part of the story. Going back to what I was saying before, I can believe Affleck as a veteran Batman who has been fighting crime for years, which by itself eliminates the whole need to reintroduce the character and dive into the backstory. They'll just be able to let Batman be Batman, which is exactly what I want to see.
KATEY: Yes, death to the origin story. I kind of assumed they would get away from that in general by casting an older actor, so I'm glad that seems to still be the case. It's more the starpower imbalance that concerns me-- and the notion that this will basically be "Ben Affleck In Man Of Steel 2," which is bizarre on so many levels. But I'm way more interested in being cautiously interested than shitting all over it, and like I said, I'm pro-Affleck. So yeah, I'm in! Now it's time to pick all our best Affleck-Batman puns. Got any good ones?
ERIC: Not quite yet, but I have already grown quite attached to the name Batfleck, which is a good start.
Is Ben Affleck the right choice for Batman?