Ben Affleck is the smirking Batman

No one seems right for the part until they put on the bat suit

(Paul Drinkwater/AP Photo/NBC)

A friend asked me if I was outraged about the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman in the Batman/Superman teamup movie due in 2015. (Prediction for the plot: due to a misunderstanding, Batman and Superman initially think the other is a bad guy. Then they put aside their differences and team up to take down the real villain!) My answer is, not really. Maybe because all my outrage goes into Warner Brothers’ failure to make any movies with their female heroes. But when it comes to Affleck as Batman, the thing is that it’s hard to be outraged at any piece of Batman casting, because no one seems right for the part until you get them into the costume. So we really won’t have any idea whether Affleck can play the part until we see him as Batman, not as himself.

The reason for this is that an actor doesn’t look like Batman, he looks like Bruce Wayne, and Bruce Wayne doesn’t usually have much of a personality. It’s the exact opposite of Iron Man, who thanks to Robert Downey Jr. has become the great icon of the new era of comic book movies. Iron Man has very little personality when he puts the suit on (to the extent that for years, people around him thought he was just Tony Stark’s hired hand). Tony Stark is the one with the personality, and Downey’s casting was a perfect fit for Tony Stark. But Bruce Wayne? It’s hard to care about him; he doesn’t have a lot of distinctive personality traits, which maybe explains why he prefers to dress up in a silly outfit instead of just enjoying life as a rich guy — he only really comes to life when he’s in that silly outfit. So if you cast an actor who seems right to play a rich playboy, it’s irrelevant. George Clooney was perfect for Bruce Wayne, but nobody cared, because he was wrong for Batman, and acted like Bruce Wayne even when he was in the suit.

Casting Affleck seems a bit like it’s modeled on the casting of Downey, though presumably much more expensive than Downey was in 2008. They’re casting for charm and maturity — a guy who has been around a while, has experience, is good with a quip. Since they’re likely to pair a more experienced Batman with an inexperienced Superman, this makes some sense. If they use Affleck’s sense of humour in the Batman suit, and give him some of the snarkiness that the character lacks in most movie incarnations, then the casting could work. If they just want Affleck’s sense of humour for the Bruce Wayne scenes, and expect him to be Dark and Serious when he’s Batman, then it won’t work. The star role has to use the star’s personality to the fullest — and the role you want a star for is Batman, not Bruce.

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