Yes, I know. No one’s seen Zack Snyder’s Batman/Superman follow-up to the Man of Steel, Snyder & Co. haven’t even started making it yet, so who am I to start judging casting decisions?
Well for one I’m a life long Batman fan. Second: I’m a life long Ben Affleck fan. Through the good times (Good Will Hunting, Changing Lanes, Argo) and the bad (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, Daredevil). Both Batman and Affleck are great–neither, however, should have anything to do with the other.
Affleck could pull a Heath Ledger, but he’s also much less likely to actually do so. Ledger’s transformation is historic, not because playing a crazed maniac on-screen was something new, or his portrayal was even one of the best, but because it showed how far the actor could stretch himself when it came to a new project.
Can Affleck stretch himself? Probably. His task is much less simple though. Affleck doesn’t have to let loose and give an old villain an innovative touch–he has to play the straightest of straight men while running around rooftops with a mask and cape on.
Say what you will about Christian Bale’s raspy sputtering, he was at least able to present the rest of the package without coming off as entirely silly. With the help of Christopher Nolan’s direction and a great supporting cast, Bale’s staggering level of conviction helped drag a ridiculous character through serious yet often ridiculous events without any scene ever devolving into camp or apathy.
Ben Affleck may have the steadiness and secretly latent talent to play someone other than Ben Affleck playing someone, but the former seems inadequate and the latter seemingly improbable. Here are five choices then that, all things being equal, and based on what we know, would have had a higher chance of success (and if you didn’t like the Batman movies and don’t care, well, C’est la vie).
Batman can be black–get over it. Would they have to play around with the traditional background story of the character, you know, the one that was developed back when segregation and disenfranchising Blacks were still legal (oh wait).
More importantly though, Elba has the swagger to play Bruce Wayne and the measured ferocity to unleash a brutal but serious Batman. We’ve all seen what an amazing detective Elba can play on Luther, why not let him bring that to an old character and a stagnating genre that so badly needs a fresh (and non-White) face?
Those of us who think Hamm could pull off the cape, cowl, and billionaire’s attire aren’t just saying that because we love the man in Mad Men. Rather, we’re saying that because of what Hamm has demonstrated in that series: and unrelenting ability to make every furrowed brow and distant glare pierce our souls with existential dread.
He has the jaw, the dark hair and the brooding face, but unlike a lot of actors, Hamm knows how to sulk without every seeming small or petty. One friend didn’t want to see Hamm as Batman because how could you have the perfect Superman playing opposite a just pretty good superman?
But I think the obvious similarities Hamm has to Cavill present more opportunities than drawbacks. Wouldn’t it be great to see the apparently ideal man face-off with a younger, super-powered version of himself?
Urban has been around these parts for a while, with roles in Star Trek, Dredd, and Lord of the Rings. Still though we’ve never gotten the chance to see what Urban can do with a fleshed out character given a big chunk of screen time.
Urban, looking not that much older than Cavill, offers the opportunity to explore the two characters as quasi-brothers. One who was born on a farm and gets his power from the sun, the other who grew up in an oligarchical mansion and draws strength from the night, despite both having become superheroes because of the examples set by their parents.
This was my personal top prick prior to the news that Warner Bros. had chosen Affleck. Caviezel has been one of my favorite actors for a very long time. Not because he’s extraordinarily versatile or great at showing a range of emotion, but because the few things that define Batman Caviezel does seemingly effortlessly.
He’s slow and patient, and can deliver lines with precision that borders just enough on the sinister to keep Batman feeling eerie. After all, in order to fight Superman in the context Snyder’s been hinting at, Batman needs to be both a brilliant tactician and an aging veteran.
Indeed, part of what made Caviezel so appealing was both the lines in his face and his tall but lean frame, two things which lend themselves to a Batman that’s less focused on beating confessions out of criminals than solving crimes and running the show from behind the scenes.
Hugh Jackman, Toby Maguire, and even Christian Bale weren’t necessarily well known when first cast to be Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Batman. Sure, they had been in several movies prior, and people knew of them, but they weren’t A-list celebrities like, for instance, Ben Affleck.
When taking on the role of other characters, a certain level of anonymity isn’t as important. George Clooney can play a CIA agent (Syriana) or voice a stop-motion fox (Fantastic Mr. Fox) without his real-life persona getting too much in the way. But put him in the bat cave with a nippled chestplate and things start to fall apart.
This isn’t to say that it’s impossible for Ben Affleck to actually be Batman on-screen, rather than just play him. But he faces challenges that a lesser known actor who brings far less baggage to the performance doesn’t.
In the end though, while I might have preferred someone I don’t even know of to play Batman over Ben Affleck, here’s hoping that he manages to pull it off, somehow, no matter how stacked the odds are against him.