The last time that Ben Affleck played a superhero (in 2003’s Daredevil), it nearly killed his career. To recover from it, Affleck had to direct three critically acclaimed movies in a row and win a best picture Oscar.
Now that his reputation is fully restored, it looks like Affleck is going to give this superhero thing one last try. On Thursday, Warner Bros. announced that Affleck will play Batman in Zack Snyder’s sequel to Man of Steel. “Ben provides an interesting counterbalance to Henry’s Superman,” said Snyder. “He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.”
Warner Bros. president of creative development Greg Silverman was similarly enthusiastic: “We knew we needed an extraordinary actor to take on one of DC Comics’ most enduringly popular superheroes, and Ben Affleck certainly fits that bill, and then some. His outstanding career is a testament to his talent, and we know he and Zack will bring new dimension to the duality of this character.”
But the response online has been slightly more downbeat. Consider the following user comments on Gawker:
–“Seriously? Seriously? Seriously? Why not have a box of rocks play Batman? There’s a reason he didn’t get nominated for Best Director on Argo – because he cast himself.”
–“This is literally worse than 9/11.”
–“As long as Snyder is directing and Goyer is writing, it wouldn’t matter if Daniel Day Lewis were Batman: the movie would be mediocre at best, but most likely loud and obnoxious.”
It’s easy to understand why so many people are in shock. The ending of The Dark Knight Rises strongly hinted that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would play the next Batman. This was a casting choice that most people seemed okay with. If there’s an actor capable of filling the shoes of Christian Bale, it’s Gordon-Levitt, whose searing performance in Mysterious Skin remains one of the best of the last decade.
But Ben Affleck? As good as he is as a writer/director, he still hasn’t proved himself as an actor. In his best performances (The Town, Argo), Affleck manages to be more than adequate, but never comes close to reaching the same heights as Bale or Gordon-Levitt.
Of course, it’s important to remember the uproar that occurred online when it was first announced that Heath Ledger would play the Joker. As you may recall, all the speculation about how Ledger’s performance would suffer in comparison to Jack Nicholson’s proved to be entirely unfounded—Ledger was way better than Nicholson. Does Affleck have what it takes to pull off a similar upset?