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Raja Sen: Why Ben Affleck will make a GOOD Batman

By Raja Sen
August 30, 2013 12:55 IST
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Ben AffleckThe SuperBat movie could be a massive letdown, but it won't be because of Ben Affleck, believes Raja Sen.

My, you'd think he'd married Batman.

The conjoined-celebrity nickname is reserved usually for publicly coochie-cooing couples like Brangelina, TomKat, et al, and while Ben Affleck is no stranger to that world -- heck, he dug the Bennifer nickname the tabloids coined for him and Jennifer Lopez so much he sought out another Jennifer -- but as you can see trending on the Internet near you, the current term thrown about everywhere is Batfleck.

Which sounds unflatteringly enough like a mite of dust on the Dark Knight's visor.

But then the Internet isn't being nice to Ben.

We might have loved Argo and cheered Ben on at this year's Oscars when he was unfairly snubbed for Best Director, but the idea of him wearing The Cowl -- and, vitally, The Scowl -- is enough to send trolls into paroxysms of rage.

How dare they don't cast Christian Bale, even though he said he was done with the part?

What makes them cast Matt Damon's friend, who we like as director so long as his brother gets plummier acting roles?

And so what, indeed, if he's played a superhero before.

Twice, in fact.

Once obviously as Daredevil in the ill-fated Marvel adaptation, and then there was Hollywoodland, a where he played George Reeves, the first actor to portray Superman. And he did this before superheroes became cool.

Affleck's comic-book cred, however, shines brightest in Kevin Smith's early triumph Chasing Amy, where he plays Holden, a penciller and the co-creator of Bluntman And Chronic. Boo-yeah. Clearly comics matter to Affleck.

I don't see where all this negativity is coming from, then. Actually no, strike that, that's a barefaced lie.

Affleck's acting reputation started to plummet a year after Chasing Amy, in 1998, with the godawful Armageddon. It didn't help that one of his follow-ups to that was the unwatchable propaganda film, Pearl Harbour. He looked at sea in these films, visibly constricted as an actor.

He was far from impressive in the next few films, and when buddy Kevin Smith made Gigli, starring Affleck, Jennifer Lopez and Al Pacino, all their respective careers hit rock bottom. And while his comrade Matt Damon turned into one of the top actors in town, Affleck had become a punchline.

This is one of the reasons Daredevil didn't work. Oh, it wasn't good; much of Mark Steven Johnson's film was overdone and flawed. But that still makes it a better, more interesting watch than something like, say, the tiresome Captain America. And Affleck himself wasn't bad as the blind Matt Murdock. He was laudably believable but -- and here lies the problem -- he was, charismatically speaking, a black hole. The scathing reviews and the negative energy seemed to have gotten to him.

Then he did Hollywoodland, where critics were surprised by how effective he was, perhaps because the parallel of an actor going from unanimous love to unanimous ridicule hit home too strongly. Right after that we saw Gone Baby Gone, Affleck's smashing directorial debut. And his second film, The Town. Both movies boasted of very solid storytelling and filmmaking finesse. And in case these two wonderful little films hadn't convinced you, we then had the world-beating Argo.

But hang on, say you folks bent on trolling the Ben-Bat. Why are we talking about his direction skills? We know he's got those. But he has the acting range of a Tarantino. And fair enough, though it is in The Town and Argo that we also saw Affleck perform more internalised, more self-assured performances. He has evolved into an actor comfortable with whatever skin he is inhabiting -- which works well for a psychopathic vigilante who dresses like a rodent and sounds like he needs a lozenge.

So, no, I'm not worried about Ben Affleck playing Batman. He wears his unaffordable formalwear lightly and with entitlement these days, just like Bruce Wayne should. His smile looks well earned. And anyone can handle the cowled bit -- even Quentin Tarantino, though he'd be advised to stay away from any manner of accent. No, the problem with Ben Affleck as Batman in Zack Snyder's Superman-Batman movie isn't Ben Affleck -- it is Zack Snyder. He's likely to ruin the film, just like he fundamentally got so many things wrong with Man Of Steel. Except this one will have higher stakes. (Oh, and The Avengers will be laughing as they kick its bottom.)

Is it wrong to declare a complete lack of faith in Snyder even before he kicks things off? Certainly it is. But the worry is that DC's attempt to build a film bridging their two most cinematic characters is too rushed, too half-baked. They haven't organically taken the long way around like Marvel did with The Avengers, harvesting a half-dozen movies to line-up one blockbuster pay-off. Here, Nolan's quit and now the gluttonous Snyder, lover of all things excessive, wants Bats and Supes all in one go.

World's Finest it isn't likely to be, alas.

Thus, while the SuperBat movie will likely be a massive letdown, I'm pretty sure it won't be because of Ben Affleck. And the good thing is that this contract might just lead to him directing that Justice League movie -- which would be very cool indeed. So I'm totally good with him behind the Batmobile.

And even if I wasn't totally convinced about him in the role, what's the big deal? He's just Batman, it's not like he's playing the bad guy. And that's the only person who matters in any film Batman happens to be in.

Now if the rumours are true and Bryan Cranston is indeed announced as Lex Luthor, prepare for a flood of drool right across the Internet. And a huge superhero movie could use a methamphetamine rush.

Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

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