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When Ben Affleck agreed to star as Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, he stepped into some extremely large shoes to fill. Not only is the comic book superhero one of the most iconic characters of all time, over the years we’ve seen many interpretations that Affleck’s version will undoubtedly end up being compared to. But while we hope that this new take on the character won’t be anything like what we previously saw from actors like George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Adam West, there are two very specific performances that the new star should be looking to as he prepares for the role.
For the scenes where Affleck needs to throw on the cowl and the cape, it’s in Michael Keaton’s direction that he should be looking. Not to take anything away from Bale – who was certainly great whenever he put on the costume – but Keaton’s version of the character in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns are the two best versions of the caped crusader that we’ve seen on the big screen. While not as physically dominating as the character in the Dark Knight trilogy, Keaton’s Batman was stealthy, intimidating, and knew exactly how and when to use all of his wonderful toys (not to mention that he used a voice with the perfect amount of grumble). Hopefully Snyder won’t feel inclined to return to the days of rubber suits, but if Affleck wants to know how to play the man in the mask he should start studying Keaton’s performance immediately.
It’s when the cowl and the cape comes off, however, that Affleck can learn from Bale. While Burton never really grasped who Bruce Wayne is supposed to be, interpreting him as an introverted, nobody millionaire, Christopher Nolan’s movies really brought this extremely important half of the character to life. Rather than having him awkwardly sit at the end of a long table during a dinner date or being referred to as as “some guy named Wayne,” Bale’s Bruce convinces the world that he’s not the Dark Knight by living an outlandish playboy lifestyle that has him driving ridiculously expensive cars, throwing lavish birthday parties, and absconding to Asia with a bunch of world class ballerinas. He fully embraced the “Prince of Gotham” moniker and, in turn, made Batman a more well-rounded character.
Of course, this is only a baseline. If Affleck, Snyder and Goyer really want this new version of Batman to be successful they’ll not only have to learn from what’s worked in the past, but also do their part to try and reinvent the character (within reason, obviously). This will be the first time that we’ve ever seen Batman and Superman interact in a live-action film, and that relationship opens all kinds of doors in terms of approaching the superhero in new ways and highlighting aspects of his personality that we don’t necessarily get to see that often. It’s all about trying to find a balance between the old and the new, and if the team behind the Batman vs. Superman movie can find it we will be in for a treat come 2015.