OK, there have been a ton of articles about this, and the ones I have read always stray from the point, primarily because of the emotion involved on either side. I've read the “come on, let’s all give Ben a chance, he could be great!” and the “Ben Affleck is the worst actor ever in the entire history of the universe…..ever”. As with most arguments: the truth, I feel, lies somewhere in the middle.
The important thing is to nail down the real question: it’s not “should we give him a chance?” WE don’t get to give him anything, he has the chance, it’s his now to conquer or fail. The question isn't “does he deserve to be Batman?”. No one DESERVES anything in acting before he actually performs. We audition (be it with our former careers or an actual script read), are cast, perform, and judging by that, we will decide if he deserved it or not. Keaton deserved to be Batman, Clooney did not. No, I believe that the question ultimately is: will Ben Affleck do justice to Batman/Bruce Wayne, or will it be Injustice? (See what I did there?... there's a game that.....never mind)
So, here are my thoughts and points on the matter. Take them as you will. Ben has 2 sides to play, but also must reconcile both into 1 character. Here's my shot at breaking it down:
So most people seem to think Ben has got Bruce Wayne down pat. That he basically IS Bruce Wayne, just without the cape, car and psychological damage (debatable...just kidding). Well, let’s break it down and see.
To be Bruce, there are a few things he’ll need, namely the look, the charm, and probably the most important part: the ability to act like a charming, handsome, rich guy, but with underlying steel forged of pain, training and vengeance.
I would say that he does have the look: decent jaw, somewhat attractive, and in that age-ambiguous time in his life where you can’t pinpoint his actual age. He could be 32….he could be 45….heck; he could be a good looking 50 if he wanted to! You tell me!
He does have the charm. I submit that Keaton had it, but Val Kilmer didn’t. Pretty much every role Affleck has played has that quirky, smiling out of the side of his mouth, boyish charm that tells us Ben Affleck usually just plays Ben Affleck, which gives us chills of remembering Clooney in the role. But for the purposes of being Bruce, it can be a good thing, if he can pull off the last part.
The steel. Clooney didn’t have it, that’s what made that film so awful (well, that and ridiculous bad guys, a horrible Batgirl, agonizing dialogue....you get my point). But can Affleck have it? Well, I can submit Daredevil as a good tester for that. Affleck played DD alright, but the brooding seemed not to be there when he was Matt Murdock. There was all the boyish charm, but from my perspective there was a lack of that steel. Of course, it could have been the result of being in huggy/kissy scenes with then future wife Jennifer Garner (I can cut him slack for that…), or the wise cracking of his partner, Jon Favreau. Either way, Ben didn't give us that powerful feeling that beneath the charm there was a dangerous and intelligent angel of vengeance.
So the jury is going to be out on this until we see it, but I can say this: Keaton was great as Bruce Wayne, just the right amount of looks, charm and steel. Bale was great too, though his Wayne was a tad more down than it could have been (a Nolan choice, likely). Val Kilmer was Batman in a suit, and Clooney was Bruce Wayne in a Cape. How will Affleck fare? Well, let’s examine the other side of the coin.
I have heard a lot of people, even actors and directors, say that there’s not much to playing Batman. In other words, the suit and the gadgets ARE Batman.
Well, not to disrespect the “experts”, but I believe that this could not be further from the truth. In fact, Batman might one of the most sophisticated and complex comic book characters ever devised. He not only has to be a charming billionaire by day and a spectral ninja vigilante by night, but he also has to pull off “greatest detective on Earth”. He must be physically the most dangerous fighter there is, able to put fear into someone simply with a look, deduce the location of Joker’s hideout simply from the smudge of mud he finds left on the ground near the area that Robin was last seen, synthesize an antidote for a hybrid super flu created by the Riddler… basically, he is a genius/scientist/detective/ninja/mechanic… oh, did I mention he also runs a multi-billion dollar corporation??
Simply putting on the cape and cowl is not going to get the job done (sorry Mr. Clooney). There has to be a depth to this character that is startling, and this depth has to be communicated in a gruff or whispered voice, with only four square inches of skin on his face showing. That is not an easy role to play, and it is compounded by the fact that in this movie, Batman is going to have to interact with an equal: Superman. We have never seen that in a movie before. How does Batman feel about Superman? In awe? Suspicious? (Probably, he IS Batman after all) Does he think of him as a friend and kindred spirit? Again, he has to communicate that to us through the cape and cowl.
So, how will he do? Well, I’m gonna rate all of the Batmen to help me make my point. This is just my opinion, so feel free to tear it apart!
Michael Keaton was fantastic. As Bruce Wayne he was charming, even funny at times, but you could see the brooding intelligence underneath. While as Batman, he was physically intimidating, but could deliver lines like “you way a little more than 108” without making it sound campy. Overall, a wonderful actor who did the role justice.
Val Kilmer was not so great. As I mentioned, he was Batman in a suit as Bruce Wayne. Kilmer seemed to get a little too enamored with the character in the cape, and forgot that Bruce was supposed to be a different side of that character. There was no charm to his Bruce, and was it me, or did he whisper the whole movie?
George Clooney was awful. I know, I have bashed him a lot in this article, and I'm sorry for that, but it at least emphasizes the enormity of the Bat-fail. He was George Clooney, he pretty much was not Bruce or Batman but seemed to just be wandering through the movie.
Christian Bale was great. He was a Christopher Nolan, gritty version of both characters, but the dichotomy was still there. He even rasped up his Batman voice, much to the chagrin of a lot of fanboys out there. But overall, top marks for Mr. Bale.
So how about Ben? Well, having seen most of his work, my guess is that Ben Affleck is going to do a careful job of playing Batman, given that most of the criticism of him is aimed at that side of the role. He’ll give us dark and brooding and intelligent as the Dark Knight. And then he’ll take off the cape, and give us a smiling, charming Bruce Wayne.
Unfortunately, I don’t think he is going to be able to pull off the integration. There will be a detachment between Batman and Bruce Wayne at the core of the character. That brooding nuisance won’t enter into Bruce Wayne, and there will be no chance at levity for Batman.
I hope I am wrong, and Affleck can reconcile these two halves and make it the same role. If he does prove me wrong, you will see another article on here from me entitled “I Was Wrong, Ben Affleck IS Batman!” We shall see.
What do you think?