Ben Affleck to Don the Batman Cowl

benaffleck

Tell me that this couldn’t be Bruce Wayne. Go ahead, tell me.

by Aaron Einhorn
And it’s time to queue up the geek rage once again.

This happens fairly commonly in our community, and to some extents, it makes sense. If there’s one thing that defines a geek, as opposed to just a fan, it’s passion. Geeks are passionate about their interests, which means that when news comes out about the latest development in those interests, we’re not at all shy about sharing our praise. Or, conversely, hitting the internet to spew our bile and hatred.

This has hit the web repeatedly over the last six months – from the reactions to Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and The Wolverine, through the casting of Peter Capaldi as the latest Doctor on Doctor Who, and now to the announcement that Ben Affleck is set to take up the role of Batman in the sequel to Man of Steel (as-yet-untitled, because I can’t imagine they’re going to call it Superman/Batman after all their efforts to not title the recent films starring those characters by the character name).

So, what is my reaction to this casting news? I am thoroughly in the “undecided” category.

First off, let’s look at Affleck himself. Ben Affleck is a solid B-List actor in my opinion. He’s rarely given a performance that I would describe as “brilliant,” but he also rarely stinks up a film that he’s in. He’s been in some films that were fantastic (Shakespeare in Love, Dogma, Good Will Hunting, Argo), some that were terrible (Armageddon, Gigli) and quite a few that are simply good. And again, his performance usually hits me as “solid.” Not brilliant, but not bad.

Ben_affleck_daredevilThe exception, of course, is his previous foray into superhero films, Daredevil. Though opinions vary, I have never been able to enjoy anything about that film. To be fair, I saw it under less than ideal circumstances – I saw it at a Drive-In, and the projection was off enough that this was the movie that made me feel like I was the blind one, but I really hated it. As a fight geek, the playground battle between Murdock (Affleck) and Elektra (Jennifer Garner) is in my Top Five awful on-screen fights, and the solution to how he manages to defeat the Kingpin has never made sense to me. (Rain should make the radar image more confusing, not less so. Sorry.)

I’ve been told that the Director’s Cut makes a difference, and I own said cut, although I have yet to force myself to watch it. Maybe it’s time I give it a try.

That said, Affleck himself has never been my problem with that film. In fact, most of the performances in the film are ok, with some verging on great. (The late Michael Clarke Duncan was a superb Kingpin, and remains one of the best examples of why color-blind casting is a Good Thing.) My problems are mostly script and directing issues, so it’s hardly fair to blame that film on Affleck, any more than I blame Batman and Robin on George Clooney.
Ben Affleck’s Batman will not be Christian Bale’s Batman, but that’s ok. He shouldn’t be the same. Bale’s Batman exists in a very dark world, where there are no superheroes, and only one vigilante. Affleck’s Batman needs to share a world with the Man of Steel, which is going to require a different touch.

The one place I have an issue with Affleck has been his very public criticism of the film.

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Heath_Ledger_as_the_JokerStill, that’s hardly his fault, and we’ve certainly seen Chris “Captain America” Evans express regrets about Fantastic Four. So, I’m prepared to cut Affleck a little slack. Would Affleck have been my first choice? No. But he’s far from the worst possible choice in my opinion. And we’ve certainly been surprised by casting choices in superhero films before. Or has everyone forgotten when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman way back in 1989? Or even Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker? (I wrote an article critical of that very bit of casting back on my old blog at Underneath The Mask, and wow, was I wrong.)

Now, that said, am I optimistic about the success of the film? Well, define “success.” Warner Brothers has shown that they have some idea about how to make movies that are about superheroes, and how to make them profitable. Man of Steel did a very respectable box office ($649 million world-wide is nothing to sneeze at) and The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are numbers Two and Three, respectively, in domestic box office.

So, will Superman/Batman be a financial success? Oh, probably.

But we all know that DC’s intention in bringing these two characters together is, at least in part, to replicate the success Marvel has had with their Cinematic Universe. And I don’t think they can manage that.

If you look at DC/Warner Brother’s recent successful superhero films (and television series), they’re each fundamentally apologetic for their comic roots. Smallville, Batman Begins, Man of Steel and Arrow all did (or do) everything they can to run from the comics, trying to ground the characters in “reality” and putting them in outfits that almost suggest their comic outfits, but try to move past that. The one film they produced that didn’t follow this model was Green Lantern, which was just terrible.

And meanwhile, Marvel is giving us a film about gods fighting Dark Elves; soldiers fighting their best friends revived as cyborg assassins; a film with a walking tree, a talking squirrel and a green-skinned warrior woman who fight evil across the galaxy; and a movie about a superhero who will kick your ass an inch at a time.
guardians-of-the-galaxy-concept-art-comic-con

Marvel is enjoying the hell out of making superhero movies that honor and respect their comic book roots, while DC is busy apologizing for those same roots. And for that reason, no, I’m not real hopeful for Superman/Batman (or whatever they end up calling it) – especially since I think they need one more solo Superman film so that Cavil’s version of the character can properly explore the consequences of Man of Steel.

Of course, that said, I’ll be there opening night to check it out, because nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong. You see, as much as I’m willing to be critical (and in fact, I think being critical is important. We can’t accept anything just because we’re desperate to see our favorite characters on the screen. We need to push Hollywood to give us those characters and to do it well.), I love superheroes, and I love seeing them on the screen. I want a long-running Justice League franchise out of DC. I think healthy competition is good, and the Marvel films, as great as they are, can only benefit from having to compete with an amazing set of films from Warner Brothers.

In the meantime? Let’s lay off of Affleck until we’ve seen what he can do, ok?

Weekly Comic Round-Up, July 17, 2013 Edition

Welcome back! If you’ve followed me here from Comic Hero News, or going even farther back to Underneath My Mask, than you probably remember that one of the regular features I had was a review of the comics I’m reading that week. Full disclosure: This is not everything I read, and it’s not everything that hit the stands this week. It is, however, the books I feel merit being talked about, either because they were awesome or because there was something really, really wrong with them.

So, here we go. What came home with me from The Laughing Ogre? Read on.

all_new_xmen_14_c01All-New X-Men #14
Brian Michael Bendis has done something really remarkable here. In a world where Jean Grey is dead, Hank McCoy is dour and depressed, Ice Man is a grotesque monstrosity and Cyclops is Magneto, he’s given us a world with the original X-Men.

This week’s chapter has the newly-discovering-she’s-a-telepath Jean Grey scaring the beejezus out of her team by pretending to go all Dark Phoenix on them, in an attempt to scare off Mystique, Lady Mastermind and Sabretooth who are busy trying to buy Madripoor.

This is the X-Men the way we like ’em. Serious stories, but light-hearted and fun. Bendis has really caught what made these characters enjoyable, and if you’re only reading one X-Men book, make it this one.

batman_66_c01Batman ’66 #1
Something that will quickly become apparent if you stick around here – I am not a fan of The New 52. I’m not a fan of dark, gritty stories. I want heroes to be heroic and inspire me to want to be a better person. The 1966 Batman television show was, perhaps, a little too light-hearted and camp, but it was still fun. So, if nothing else, I wanted to send DC Comics that fans of their older stuff are still around, so I picked this up. And I’m glad I did. It’s an utterly light and silly Riddler tale with a guest appearance by Catwoman. Will it change your life? Absolutely not. It’s entirely as easy to consume as an episode of the television show.

But then, that’s what we paid for. The cover tells us what we’re getting, and Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case delivered.

batwoman_22_c01Batwoman #22
One of the few books I’ve been completely happy with since the New 52 has been Batwoman. I wasn’t sure about seeing JH Williams III move from artist to writer, but the book has seemlessly picked up from where the Detective Comics run with Williams and Greg Rucka left off.

This issue gave us a whole lot of Bette/Flamebird, preparing to attack the DEO with help from the Colonel, all in an effort to “free” Kate. Meanwhile, Kate is hitting up villains to figure out how best to defeat Batman.

I don’t really want to see Batman enter Kate’s title. It can’t go well for her, and that weakens her character in my opinion. But if it’s going to happen, this seems to be the best way to manage it.

thunderbolts_13_c01Thunderbolts #13
I’ve picked up Thunderbolts ever since the very beginning, regardless of what Marvel has done with the title. This current team of ‘bolts, led by Red Hulk/General Ross and featuring Venom (Flash Thompson), the Punisher, Deadpool and Elektra, with the Red Leader and now Mercy has little relationship to the original concept, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been fun.

That said, I’m kind of glad to see a change of the artistic team on the title.

This issue wasn’t really about the team – it was really the origin of Mercy and how she ended up on the team. But that story was creepy enough, and I eagerly look forward to seeing what the team’s next mission ends up being.

ultimate_comics_spiderman_25_c01Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #25
There’s a lot of controversy over whether or not Miles needed an “Uncle Ben” moment, but in any case he had one. Two issues ago, Miles lost his mother, and New York lost their Spider-Man. Again.

It’s taken three issues and a lot of badgering by the people in Miles’ life, but finally we get him moving and agreeing to be the hero he was born to be. And from the looks of things, this is where we will begin seeing a lot more of Gwen Stacy, Aunt May and Jessica Drew.

We’ve also got a Miles who is growing a little bit older, and that’s not a bad thing either.

This is another Brian Michael Bendis book, and it also has me hook, line and sinker. But then, I’m a sucker for Miles.

what-if-avx-2_c01What If… A vs. X #2
What If… has always been Marvel’s escape valve. The real secret about major comics events is that, at the end of the day, the status will remain quo. It kind of has to. But in What If…? All bets are off.

We know that the world won’t be destroyed in A vs. X.

We have no such assurances here.

That’s not to say this is perfect. Much like the original A vs. X, the pacing flies by too fast, and some characters are too broadly painted. Magneto, for instance, is just this side of growing a long mustache to twirl. There are also some weird continuity issues. I’m pretty sure that the modern Nova wasn’t a part of A vs. X. Still, it’s worth checking this out.

Meanwhile, in A + X #10, Fantomex and Black Widow almost team up to steal a McGuffin while Scarlet Witch and Domino team up their probability powers to stop a Celestial Roomba from destroying the planet, Avengers #16 continues to be an incomprehensible mess with lots of powerful superhumans coming together to stop something, Batman Beyond Unlimited #18 introduces us to Batgirl Beyond while Terry and the Metal Men save Gotham, and Green Lantern New Guardians #22 has Kyle get abducted by Relic who uses Kyle’s ring power to learn all he needs to about this universe he wants to destroy.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Want to offer up ideas on what books you’re reading this week? Let us know in the comments!