When the Man of Steel director Zack Snyder announced at Comic-Con in July that Superman’s next outing would be a Batman vs Superman movie (with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman/Clark Kent), comic book fans immediately took to social media to guess, debate and suggest who should take on the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale, who played the part in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, had already said he wasn’t interested in playing the role again).
Names such as Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin were repeatedly mentioned, so when it was announced last week that the man who would be donning the bat cape was none other than Oscar-winner Ben Affleck, it’s fair to say fans on the internet went into shock – loudly.
Within hours, the hashtag #BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck was trending, with one commenter, @freshestginger, tweeting: “Too full of nerd outrage to tweet about the whole Ben Affleck thing … TOO FULL OF RAGE”, while the British comic Frankie Boyle wrote: “As a dad, I have to go to all the big superhero movies. Ben Affleck’s casting has actually made me love my children less” and @timcarvell noted: “Spend 10 years working your way back into everyone’s good graces. Win an Oscar. Then you get cast as Batman and BAM! You’re Gigli again” referring to the infamous cinematic flop that Affleck made with girlfriend at the time Jennifer Lopez in 2003.
The furore over Affleck’s casting wasn’t restricted to Twitter, either – comic-book fans even tried to set up a “Request Warner Brothers/Zack Snyder recast the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne and denounce the selection of Ben Affleck” petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, which is usually used for serious political matters; it was later removed for being in violation of the terms of participation.
It seems like a lot of fuss over a movie’s casting, but Batman is a character dear to many fans. And comic book fans are the ones who will remember that Affleck has played a superhero before – as the lead in the dire movie Daredevil – though he’s actually not bad in it, just shackled by mediocre direction and some of the worst dialogue in a decade from the writer and director Mark Steven Johnson. They’ll probably remember the aforementioned Gigli and another flop, Jersey Girl, too (both made when he was dating Lopez – but should also note that he’s put in some striking performances in Hollywoodland, in which he beautifully played the former Superman actor George Reeves, Chasing Amy and State of Grace, as well as winning Oscars for his screenwriting (Good Will Hunting) and his producing (last year’s Argo, directed by and starring Affleck, won Best Picture at the Academy Awards).
Affleck hadn’t even made The Hollywood Reporter’s recent list of contenders for the role – as well as Gosling and Brolin, True Blood’s Joe Manganiello, The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage and the British actor Matthew Goode were all tipped as favourites by that newspaper – but his selection is actually a very sensible one by Warner Bros. Remember, in Man of Steel, the relative unknown lead Henry Cavill was surrounded by weighty names such as Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Amy Adams (at least two of whom may not return for the Batman/Superman sequel), so it makes sense to have a name such as Affleck alongside Cavill, and since Affleck is joining a franchise, if it fails he can walk away, career intact this time as he won’t be carrying the movie on his shoulders.
Fans should actually breathe a sigh of relief at his casting as he can, perhaps, bring his directing talent on set to help Zack Snyder turn it into an improvement on the slightly slow Man of Steel, and they should also remember that the casting choice you’re horrified by could actually turn out for the best. When Michael Keaton was cast in Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, most Batman fans were appalled that a comic actor had won the role. In a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Keaton remembered: “There had never been a movie like it before. There was a lot of risk, too, with Jack [Nicholson, who played The Joker] looking the way he did and me stepping out in this new way. The pressure was on everybody.” He went on, of course, to deliver a cracking Bruce Wayne/Batman in two terrific movies that silenced the fan boys of the time.
And if today’s Batman fans are still worried about the casting of Affleck, they should remember that the confessed fanboy – and, of course, the director of the much-loved comic book adaptation The Avengers – Joss Whedon, is definitely in Affleck’s corner, as he tweeted: “Affleck’ll crush it. He’s got the chops, he’s got the chin – just needs the material. Affleck & Cavill toe to toe – I’m in.” And so should we be.
Choices that won fans over in the end - mostly
• Robert Pattinson in Twilight
Fans weren’t keen on Robert Pattinson at first, but once the hugely successful movie was released, they changed their minds. The actor has made People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive list two years in a row and was one of Glamour Magazine’s Richest UK Actors Under 30, earning £40million (Dh229m) last year.
• Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary
The 30-something single Londoner is supposed to be overweight, awkward and average, so fans of the novel were shocked when the Hollywood actress Zellweger was cast. But she returned for a successful sequel.
• Tom Cruise in Interview With the Vampire
The novelist Anne Rice was so horrified with Cruise’s casting as her beloved vampire Lestat (who is blond and 6ft tall) that she placed an ad in Variety denouncing it. After seeing the movie Rice apologised, saying “that Tom did make Lestat work was something I could not see in a crystal ball. It’s to his credit he proved me wrong.”
• Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher
Yes, Cruise again. The former military policeman Jack Reacher (from Lee Child’s thriller novels) is supposed to be 6ft 5in tall with a 50-inch chest. And blond and blue-eyed. Child defended the casting, saying: “With another actor you might get 100 per cent of the height but only 90 per cent of Reacher. With Tom you get 100 per cent of Reacher with 90 per cent of the height.” The film was one of the lowest-grossing Cruise movies in a decade.
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