Ben Affleck has been received well as actor, director and screenwriter. Will he meet with similar success when he dons Batman’s cape and cowl?
“Batman could be anybody. That was the point,” says Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises. But not everyone seems to agree with that sentiment. News that Ben Affleck, of Argo fame, is set to don the cape and cowl in Zack Snyder’s sequel to Man of Steel has not been received well by most of the online community.
Casting directors find it very tough to find new actors to play iconic roles. When Daniel Craig was announced as the new James Bond, hardcore fans vehemently opposed the casting decision. They felt that Craig had none of the mysterious charm and suave confidence that Pierce Brosnan seemed to ooze. This was the same crowd that had dismissed Brosnan as ‘that guy from Mrs. Doubtfire’, when he was cast as Bond in GoldenEye. Heath Ledger himself was considered unfit for the role of the Joker by many comic-book fans, prior to the release of The Dark Knight.
Most times, the incoming actor, although well-respected and highly accomplished, is disliked by the public. Understandably, we develop a sense of familiarity and loyalty towards the person who has been associated with the role for a considerable amount of time. Inevitably, comparisons are drawn and opinions exchanged. In the above-mentioned cases, the fans’ fears were proved to be false as both Ledger and Craig took the respective roles and made them their own. Occasionally, however, the predictions turn out to be right. Brandon Routh was cast as Superman for his resemblance to Christopher Reeve, but failed to deliver. Ryan Reynolds made a mess of both Deadpool and Green Lantern, although his outings were largely a failure on the screenwriters’ part.
The producers of the long-running BBC hit show Doctor Who have cleverly sidestepped this particular problem by giving the lead character the ability to regenerate into an altogether new personality whenever the actor decides to leave the show. Since they’re dealing with a 900 year-old time-travelling alien with two hearts, the writers have the licence to go ahead with such a tactic. Thus, not only are they able to cast new actors with ease, each new actor is given the freedom to develop their own characteristic traits and mannerisms — there is no set way to play the Doctor. Unfortunately, other franchises don’t have the luxury of such flexibility.
The Batman franchise itself has been infamous for making dubious casting decisions in the past. Michael Keaton was a stand-up comedian before he was cast as Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s Batman. After his successful spell in the first two movies, Val Kilmer was cast with high expectations but gave a lacklustre performance in the forgettable Batman Forever.
Of course Batman & Robin, starring George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger was unforgettable, although we all wished we could forget it.
Sure, Affleck has made a few errors in judgement in the past: Reindeer Games, Paycheck and the unwatchable Gigli are testament to his poor decision making. Even as a superhero, he failed as the Daredevil (who, incidentally, is blind and has enhanced hearing — like a certain nocturnal winged mammal wink wink). But he has also won a couple of Oscars and starred in such films of very high calibre as Argo, The Town and the much underrated The Company Men. So let’s give the man a chance.
Who knows, he might turn out to be a good Batman after all! Stranger things have happened in this business.