Well it’s definitely a better pick than some MTV pretty boy. The news that Ben Affleck will be Batman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel was greeted, predictably, with equal parts nerd-joy and nerd-rage. The joy mostly comes from Affleck being a proper actor—did they tease us with that MTV guy to make this look better?—with a hot career right now, and the rage comes from one thing: Daredevil.
This isn’t Affleck’s first superhero rodeo, and his maiden voyage as Daredevil was disastrous. The movie was bad, Affleck was awful, and it poisoned the well for Affleck, who once said he wouldn’t do another superhero role, and fans, who never forgave him, alike. So this is the baggage WB/DC is bringing to their Man of Steel sequel, adding to the pre-existing pile made by the fact that half of the people who saw it hated Man of Steel.
I don’t hate this pick, but I don’t love it either. Affleck isn’t a bad actor, but I admit I would be more excited if the announcement had been that he was directing the movie instead. Affleck is a decent actor but he’s much more interesting—and talented—a director, and 90% of my issues with Man of Steel and its sequel stem from Snyder’s direction. But we’re dealing with Actor Affleck, so what does it tell us about the MoS sequel?
Nothing, because this isn’t a MoS sequel. This is my biggest issue, that we’re skipping a sequel for Batman vs. Superman—which is f*cking awesome, don’t get me wrong—but it isn’t a continuation of the story in Man of Steel. It’s a side trip, just like The Avengers is a side trip for Iron Man. And my second biggest issue is that MoS desperately does need a sequel. A proper one, that deals with the expanding of Superman’s world just as MoS established Clark Kent’s. We don’t know who Superman is, let alone getting to know a new Batman. Jumping right to a Batman/Superman matchup feels like skipping a step.
Affleck’s inclusion doesn’t do much to make me feel better about either of those things. For a minute, it looked like they were going to try and blend Christopher Nolan’s established Gotham City with Snyder’s Metropolis, but along with the Affleck announcement was a blurb about Snyder retooling Batman. So it isn’t Nolan’s version, which is fine as that Batman could never inhabit the world Snyder has established for Superman, but now we’re dealing with meeting a new Batman while also trying to learn more about the Superman that just barely showed up at the end of MoS. It feels rushed. It feels busy.
But at least we know it will look the same. Broody Ben Affleck with his introspective staring into the middle distance and penchant for repressive lip-thinning means we’re sticking with the serious-bordering-on-dour tone of MoS. He also adds to the general “strong jaw” vibe, and if Russell Crowe couldn’t overcome Snyder’s heavy-handed direction, Affleck definitely doesn’t stand a chance. Superman was Snyder’s Christ figure, so I’m really looking forward to Affleck’s “Caligula allegory” take on Batman.
You know what this reminds me of? When Joel Schumacher cast George Clooney as Batman. Think about it. Clooney was a popular, well-liked actor who teamed with a director known more for visual style than substance, following a previous installment that was already on shaky ground. And Affleck is a popular, well-liked actor teaming with a director known more for visual style than substance, following a previous installment that is already on shaky ground. And we all saw how that worked out.