From the moment Bale decided he was moving out of Gotham and swapping his cape and cowl for a fat suit and bald cap, the search for his replacement began. Every actor with a strong jawline photographed in a tailored suit became a possible successor, but no matter who it ended up being, there was no chance fans were going to be universally pleased.
We’ve been through this before: Daniel Craig as 007 (‘Bond can’t be blond’), Heath Ledger as the Joker (‘the guy couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag’)… the list goes on. Part of the problem is that fans lack vision (there’s a reason we’re fans and not decision makers); we base our decisions solely on what we remember from past performances versus seeing potential for the future. We’ve never seen a blond Bond, so it can’t happen… we see Ledger rolling around in a tent with Prince Dastan and decide he can’t play a psychotic clown.
We remember Affleck as Daredevil, written and director by Mark Steven Johnson, who doesn’t even have an IMDB bio, despite directing a collection of films that have grossed half a billion dollars, and who’s responsible for such diamonds as Ghost Rider, When in Rome and Killing Season. Remember how awful Nicolas Cage was in Rider? No one comes out of a Mark Steven Johnson film looking capable of a guest spot on the CW, let alone playing one of the most iconic characters in film history.
Let’s look at what characteristics we want in an older Bruce Wayne…
Charming Playboy: Affleck has that covered. He isn’t Derek Jeter but his dating resume belongs in the Hall of Justice. He’s also charmed the Academy into giving him two Oscars, and let’s not forget his passionate affair with Jimmy Kimmel.
Intimidating: Did people forget about The Town? And really, his face will be mostly covered with only his jaw line exposed… why is anyone worried about whether Affleck can intimidate someone?
Smart: Batman is the ‘world’s greatest detective’; he is talent optimized, with unparalleled drive and focus to achieve his goals. Do we remember where Affleck’s career was after Gigli and Surviving Christmas? Now he’s one of the most in-demand directors in Hollywood. He re-built his career by focusing solely on projects and characters he wanted to put on-screen, doing things his way and not relying on others to pick projects for him. He took absolute control of his career and has had one of the most astonishing revivals since Roger Clemens met Brian McNamee.
This is the true brilliance of the hire – Affleck the filmmaker. Warner Bros. just signed one of the hottest directors in Hollywood into the DC universe. What’s to stop Affleck the director from handling the next Batman trilogy or Justice League franchise? What Tarantino is to the Weinstein Company, Affleck could be for Warners, taking the baton from Clint Eastwood.
And I say all of this as someone that thinks this Batman/Superman movie is a horrible idea. It reeks of desperation, a grand gesture from DC as they watch their rival dominate the Hollywood superhero genre. DC right now is the deadbeat ex-boyfriend planning to win his lady back with a game-saving date, then orders take out and shows up dressed in sweat pants: good idea, but insincere execution. Snyder and Goyer are mediocre talent at best. Snyder does visuals well and handles effects competently but hasn’t shown that he can handle a narrative, and Goyer is a great idea guy, but his dialogue is awful.
How do you fix this? Bring in an Academy Award-winning writer and filmmaker. The cast was never going to be the problem in a Superman/Batman film. We should happy we got someone of Affleck’s talent – one of the hottest filmmakers in Hollywood, and a top contender for Star Wars – in a Batman movie. This isn’t 2003, and Affleck is backing into this because it’s his best option. Affleck could do anything he wanted and he chose Batman; that’s a win for fans.
The real question is why Affleck would want to do this – where’s the upside for him? He is walking into a melting pot; Bale and Nolan ran away from the deranged fanboy pressure of moving the Batman story forward (with Nolan sticking around for a producer paycheck). Few people know what it’s like to have the crushing modern Hollywood machine aimed and targeted on them and lived to tell about it. Not only is Affleck aware of this, but he is putting the Batman target (let’s be clear: it’s a target, not a shield) on his back and walking into the ruthless fanboy abyss.