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Like most children in the United States, I spent my early years blowing through my parents’ money and free time like a partially grown coke addict. Between the ages of five and ten, I enrolled in as many activities as would allow me to participate. I joined basketball teams, soccer teams and baseball teams. One winter, I even joined a roller hockey team, despite the fact that to this day I have no idea how to stop. I signed up for tennis and golf tournaments, played sand volleyball with my friends and practiced throwing footballs with a tight spiral in the backyard. I tried it all until I was about ten, when I quit everything but golf, tennis and soccer. Why? Because life is too short to waste time with bullshit you’re only mediocre at. Which brings us to Ben Affleck, who, unfortunately, just decided to waste time with bullshit he’s only mediocre at by taking on the role of Batman.
On his way up the Hollywood ladder, Affleck ran in as many different directions as possible. He played jackass jocks like O’Bannion in Dazed And Confused. He tried straight up comedies thanks to his bromance with Kevin Smith. He played loveable, loud-mouthed best friends like in Good Will Hunting. He starred in Oscar winners (Shakespeare In Love), took the lead in forgettable romantic comedies (Forces Of Nature) and toplined straight up awful blockbusters everyone retrospectively hates (Pearl Harbor). He also did some writing, produced some television shows, played a superhero and lately, has gotten really into directing.
All of that diversity is a good thing. Like seven-year-olds who may or may not be able to skate, movie stars need to cast a wide net in order to figure out exactly where their strengths lie. They need to push themselves and walk over tightropes. Without ill-advised risks, Affleck never would have learned he was really, really good at directing movies. He also wouldn’t have learned he’s really good (not really, really good) at playing more boisterous supporting roles and/ or more emotionally walled off, yet ultimately likeable lead roles. In the future, I’m all for him getting into more wacky shit, but what I’m not in favor of is him circling back to retry things he already knows he’s only mediocre at.
I’m not here to hate on Daredevil. That movie isn’t great, but it’s not nearly as bad as some of its critics claim. It’s not not watchable. Affleck himself is fine too, but at no point during that film’s runtime have I ever or will I ever think, “Wow, Ben is really in his element playing a superhero.” Because he’s not. His demeanor really isn’t physically imposing enough whether he’s suited up or not, and he’s not particularly great at making big budget event film dialogue work. You know how Tom Cruise is just weirdly good at owning a punchy line of dialogue that will play well in a trailer? You know how he can stand on top of a mountain during a blizzard, gaze over the horizon and say, “It’s a cold day in hell” or some nonsense like that? Affleck is not good at that activity. He’s better at things like clever retorts and vaguely opening up emotionally.
I get the appeal of toplining what ought to be the biggest, most grandiose film of the year. I also get why Affleck is attracted to this project since he’s been open about his obsession with comic books, but for the love of Zod, he should have just been content to watch Superman vs Batman from the sidelines like the rest of us. Even if his superhero acting somehow improves dramatically, he’s still likely to be worse than Christian Bale, and every single moment he spends trying to hulk up to an unreasonable level for this film is a moment he’s not spending with material he’s actually good at playing and/or directing.
I still can’t throw a very tight spiral. It really pissed me off when I was a kid because I wanted to play football, but because I eventually gave up and focused my efforts elsewhere, I can break 80 in golf. My gut tells me Affleck could go down as one of the greatest directors of all time. He could churn out another 20 brilliant movies before he’s done, but in order for that to happen, he’s going to need to admit even talented men can’t be good at everything.