Comic Book Rants: Ben Affleck is the Least of Our Problems

This is gonna suck...Ben Affleck is going to be Batman, and the Internet is not happy. But he’s not really the problem.

I’m pretty convinced that the upcoming Batman/Superman crossover film is going to suck, but not because of the casting. It’s going to suck because DC Comics doesn’t know how to copy Marvel’s formula for success when it comes to feature films. (I admittedly haven’t seen Man of Steel, so maybe that’s the exception – but I doubt it.) It’s going to suck because Zack Snyder is a great special effects guy but not somebody who can inject a sense of humanity and subtlety to the story. But mostly, it’s going to suck for the same reason that the comic books coming from DC and Marvel tend to suck these days: creators don’t get to create anymore.

Michael Uslan, one of the producers of the upcoming movie (and a producer on just about every Batman film since the Tim Burton movies), recently compared the casting of Affleck and the resulting fan outcry to the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman, Heath Ledger as the Joker, and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. This is a bit of a stupid strawman that could be countered by bringing up casting decisions like George Clooney as Batman, Jim Carrey as the Riddler, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. It also ignores the fact that Ledger and Hathaway not only had some major acting accolades (as opposed to Affleck, whose strength is more in the writing and directing field), but that they were part of the Christopher Nolan franchise, which occupies a special case when it comes to a superhero film.

By bringing up Keaton, it also ignores the fact that the Burton Batman films sucked on ice. Go back and watch it, fans – it would be crucified if it was released in theatres today.

DC Comics has failed big time when it comes to superhero films. Man of Steel was a success, although it is still somewhere in the middle rung when it comes to critical reception. It follows on the heels of bombs that were supposed to start franchises in Superman Returns and Green Lantern. The one runaway success that DC has had in the modern era is the Nolan Batman movies, which set box office records and racked up critical acclaim worldwide. So they did it once and they can do it again, right?

The big issue, I contend, is that the circumstances that created Nolan’s trilogy aren’t going to be recreated anytime soon. Batman Begins, I believe, owes a lot of its success to the godawful Batman and Robin film of the 1990s. That movie tanked the franchise and rendered superhero films as toxic until X-Men came out nearly half a decade later. And without that colossal failure, Nolan wouldn’t have been given the keys to do a reboot his way.

Just ask Joel Schumacher. When he inherited the Burton franchise, he originally wanted to do a big screen adaptation of Batman: Year One. Instead, he wound up getting pressured into making the movie he thought the studio wanted, which was Batman Forever and then Batman and Robin. Those movies became the atrocities they were because folks higher up the chain basically told the creative team that these were not films to be considered as works of art – they were marketing engines designed to sell action figures.

When Nolan came around to revive the dead franchise, there wasn’t that same type of pressure. Oh, I’m sure there was some push about it, since Batman is a huge name and all, but Nolan was given much more freedom than most other directors would have been when given such an iconic character. And because Batman Begins met with success, he was given the license to work with his vision, turning in two more excellent films.

By comparison, Man of Steel was put together for one express purpose: to build up to a Justice League movie. Now, Man of Steel did have some benefits to it, in that Christopher Nolan was on board as a creative consultant and there was probably more leeway with things since Superman Returns has killed off the franchise pretty well. But the sequel for that film isn’t going to be Man of Steel 2; it’s going to be Justice League, part one.

Basically, I don’t think Zack Snyder is going to be given the leeway that Nolan had. Heck, the fact that Warner Brothers brought Nolan on board to hold Snyder’s hand on Man of Steel is a pretty big sign. Snyder doesn’t have the freedom or the talent that Nolan had, nor does he have the critical success. Before Man of Steel even hit theatres, Warner Brothers was already trumpeting a sequel that would lead into a Justice League movie. They’ve seen the success that The Avengers had, and they want a piece of that. The only issue is that by constantly pushing for a franchise, they’re lowering the odds of the next film being a good movie.

Of course, that’s only an issue for the fans. The truth is that the studio doesn’t care about quality as long as they can get money instead. They don’t seem to realize that a big reason for the success of The Avengers was that there were several high-quality films leading up to it. Good storytelling can make you a lot of money in the long run. Unfortunately, lots of marketing is easier to do and can make money in the short term.

So I’m calling it now – the upcoming Superman/Batman film will suck bad. But Ben Affleck won’t be this movie’s biggest problem.

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One Response to “Comic Book Rants: Ben Affleck is the Least of Our Problems”

  1. Man of Steel was BEAUTIFUL, and probably because Nolan played a hand. They also kept the same composer–Hans Zimmer–for the music, so it had the same “feel” as The Dark Knight, but not the exact feel. It was allowed to stand on its own. I definitely recommend!

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