Why Ben Affleck is the Perfect Choice to Play ‘The Dark Knight’
It’s been some time since the pronounced backlash over the Ben Affleck-as-Batman casting decision. While I’m sure there are people out there that still think this is a horrible decision, the fever pitch of vocalizing it has died down. Now that is has, maybe we can start looking at the casting decision with some distance and logic.
And you know what? It’s the right choice.
Look, to keep the Daredevil version of Ben Affleck still as the Ben Affleck is wholly unfair. But, for those that still do, let me try to explain to you why he’s going to do a great job as The Dark Knight.
The Joker Argument
I’ve heard this argument from a lot of people in an attempt to defend Affleck. While I don’t think it’s a strong defense, it’s worth bringing up as a supporting point. When Heath Ledger was cast by Christopher Nolan to play Joker, all the fanboys poo-pooed that decision. Apparently, since he had made some really bad movies in the past, that meant that he never grew as an artist. This ignored the interesting work he did in 'The Brothers Grimm' and the incredibly tremendous, nuanced, and reserved performance he gave in 'Brokeback Mountain'. He was an actor coming in to his own.
Another example is Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. Similar situation. Fans didn’t buy that he could pull off a drunk, philandering superhero, even though, in real life, he was a drunk, philandering actor. I understand that when we read a narrative, we all have a specific version of a character in mind. That’s why we read. But to dismiss someone’s performance before you actually see it based on God-knows-what criteria is ludicrous.
Look, 'Daredevil' wasn’t Affleck’s fault. Did you look at the dude behind the script and direction of the film? Mark Steven Johnson. Take a minute to check out his IMDB page. I’ll go over the highlights for you: 'Jack Frost', 'Simon Birch', 'Ghost Rider', and the 'Grumpy Old Men' movies. No one in their right mind would disparage the Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau vehicles, but the rest are absolute garbage. Still want to say it was solely Affleck’s fault? “Bulls-eye…ay…let’s play.”
The New Affleck
Have you guys been awake the past several years? In the past decade, Affleck has made some really good career decisions. This isn’t just a reference to how good of a director he is, and boy is he a good one.
Let’s look at his films over the past several years. His bid to be taken seriously again started in 2006 with 'Man About Town'. Not great, but an attempt to actually act. After that, it gets really interesting, and the results are there. He gets cast as George Reeves in 'Hollywoodland', and the critics swoon over his performance as the man behind Superman. Go ahead and look them up if you don’t believe me. Weird how he does such a good job with an iconic character when there is a competent director at the helm, huh? (Make note of the word choice, because Zack Snyder is, on his best day, slightly above competent). He also kills it in the really crappy 'Extract'. If you haven’t seen it, watch his turn as the hilarious stoner. The rest of the movie is subpar, but his performance as Dean is a good one. And yes, he’s in 'He’s Just Not That Into You'. If you are/were brave enough to watch that crappy rom-com, try to argue that Affleck isn’t good in it.
He has charm in spades (anybody else we know who is supposed to be charming? More on this later). He will, without a doubt, be the most charming film incarnation of Bruce Wayne we’ve seen. He later stars and directs Argo, and turns in a strong, but not great, performance as Tony Mendez. Some may think that is a dig at him, but Tony Mendez is just the leading man. The stars of the film are the hostages.
The Nathan Fillion Effect
Here’s some proof that fanboys should not be left to cast movies -- There have been several petitions for Nathan Fillion to star in, pretty much, every single comic book movie that has come out in the past few years. So let me get this straight: you guys want Nathan Fillion, a bigger one-trick pony than Affleck, despite how good Fillion is in 'Firefly', 'Serenity', and 'Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog' (there all the same smarmy-guy role), to play Batman, but Affleck isn’t capable of it?
Which one of the two has a couple of Oscars under his belt?
The Terrence Malick Effect
Has Terrence Malick ever cast a bad actor in a leading role in his films? Don’t worry, because I’ll wait for you. Oh, you couldn’t find any examples? I thought so. You can Rottentomatoes the movie to find that 'To the Wonder' wasn’t universally well received. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that most of the reviews blame that on Malick. There is a critical consensus that Affleck is given very little to work with in this film, except played the square-jawed leading man. So if you want to take a swing at Affleck for having TOO perfect of a jaw-line that is unbefitting a Bruce Wayne/Batman, then I guess that’s your American right. Which leads me to the final point…
Remember 'The Town'?
If you’ve seen this movie and still don’t think Ben Affleck can be Bruce Wayne/Batman, then you don’t understand acting. Bruce Wayne is a charming playboy. Affleck’s Doug MacRay has to charm the bank manager/hostage in the film in order to see what and who she knows. And he does a good job of it. On the other hand, Batman is an intense, brooding, physically imposing force. Oh, by the way, Doug MacRay is an intense, brooding, physically imposing force. What a coincidence. It’s like people actually watch movies, think “Wait, I have a role very similar to that one. Maybe I can use him in it,” and cast accordingly. But that probably never happens.
Y can make any argument you want about why someone else is better for a role. I respect that. But there are so many stories in Hollywood on how this actor was the second choice to play an iconic role. Christopher Walken would have been Han Solo, John Belushi Peter Venkman, and the mustache-man himself, Tom Selleck, as Indiana Jones. Can you imagine these actors in those roles after seeing Harrison Ford, Bill Murray, and Ford again, respectively? No.
While I know this isn’t the best way to close my argument, you have to understand certain things about the business. Actors aren’t always available. That doesn’t mean that other actors aren’t capable of doing a great job, maybe even better. So whatever the circumstances that led to Affleck being cast as the Batman, whether it was availability or the fact that he’s riding an incredible hot streak from Argo, I firmly believe that Ben Affleck will do a great job, probably better than anyone will want to give him credit for, as Batman -- because he’s the right choice for the role.
Alex Csedrik is an MFA graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, and a college professor, who does stand up comedy on the side. He's 100% serious about his Affleck argument.