Warner Bros. recently announced their decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman, and the Internet had such a vitriolic meltdown that I initially thought Ben Affleck had murdered a bunch of pregnant teenagers while wearing a Batman costume. Comic book fans across the world have already convinced themselves that this is the worst tragedy in modern history, and they all seem to agree that Ben Affleck might as well be fashioning their collective childhoods into a makeshift condom for his million dollar Hollywood penis and using it to jackhammer Bob Kane's skeletal corpse into bone-powder sex dust.
However, we've been wrong about this kind of thing before. Ben Affleck playing Batman in a Superman movie is hardly the end of the world, and if history is any indication, it might not even be that bad.
Frederick M. Brown / Stringer / Getty
"That" is an important qualifier to keep in mind.
5 People Hated It When Michael Keaton and Heath Ledger Were Cast in Their Respective Batman Movies
Pre-Internet fanzines and such were enraged when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman. The headline "Mr. Mom Is Batman?" was thrown around a lot, as were pictures of Keaton's mulleted face as it appears in Clean and Sober juxtaposed with images of the brooding Caped Crusader to achieve maximum ridiculousness. Check out this fan-submitted letter to the Los Angeles Times back in 1988, when Keaton's casting was first announced -- reading it now, it comes off as the most insufferably pedantic thing ever written (the guy says that clearly Burton had decided to turn Batman into "a manic comedy" despite the fact that he had not seen any footage of the movie yet, and everyone who has since seen Tim Burton's Batman can agree that it is precisely the opposite of a manic comedy). Yet it is exactly the same tone and self-appointed-expert viewpoint that scores of Twitter and Tumblr users are taking. There are fucking petitions getting passed around, demanding that Ben Affleck be fired immediately and replaced by somebody they will unanimously approve of (no such actor exists), perpetuated by people with exactly zero experience in filmmaking and absolutely no connection to the creative process behind Batman vs. Superman.
"Hey, guys, I've thought of something: What if we don't make it shitty?"
And Michael Keaton turned out to be a freaking awesome Batman. The debate continues as to whether his or Christian Bale's portrayal is the best (in my opinion, Keaton is the better Batman and Bale is the better Bruce Wayne, if for no other reason than Keaton's Batman voice doesn't sound like a fucking Static-X song). Think of how improbable that is -- Michael Keaton is a physically unimposing comedic actor, and Christian Bale is enormous and terrifying. There should be no question as to which one of those guys would be better suited to play Batman, and yet there is. That's called "acting," cousin.
Similarly, the Internet exploded when Heath Ledger got cast as the Joker -- like Affleck, the majority of his starring roles were box office bombs, and the best success he'd had was playing in a '90s teen comedy, a 1970s rock opera about roller derby knights, and a dialogue-heavy drama about gay cowboys.
The Clown Prince of making teenage girls in the '90s swoon.
Those three things do not fare well on message boards, and neither did the idea of Heath Ledger playing the Joker. People thought he was too pretty, too wooden, and utterly incapable of being menacing. And those same people now so completely embrace Heath Ledger and The Dark Knight that they sent death threats to a film critic over a negative review of The Dark Knight Rises despite the fact that none of them had actually seen the movie yet. And that film turned out to be just as crowd-pleasing as a buttery dump in a public urinal.
Resist the urge to immediately dismiss those points by saying, "Well, sure, but Keaton and Ledger were working with Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. We're talking about Zack Snyder here." Zack Snyder is not incapable of making good decisions (300, Dawn of the Dead, most of Watchmen), just like Tim Burton (Planet of the Apes, Dark Shadows, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) are not incapable of making poor ones. Movies have always been (and always will be) a case-by-case thing -- just because one movie shares one or more parts with another is in no way a guarantee of success or failure. Just ask George Lucas.
David M. Benett / Getty
If this guy got to make Batman movies, Zack Snyder can have a damn shot.
4Batman Is Not the Main Character of Batman vs. Superman
Let's not kid ourselves -- Batman vs. Superman is a sequel to Man of Steel. This seems to indicate that the movie is going to be primarily about Superman. Batman is just a character that happens to be in it. Ben Affleck isn't being cast as the new lead in a new trilogy of Batman movies (although that may eventually happen) -- he's playing a supporting, largely adversarial role in a Superman movie. The absolute worst case scenario is that Ben Affleck is so terrible, they have to find a new actor to play Batman in the Justice League or Batman Beyond or whatever the hell movie they plan on putting the character in next, and our DVD shelves have an open spot where a Superman sequel could have been sitting. And that's it.
Hollywood has plenty of young dudes with well-defined abs to throw at this role. It'll work again eventually.
We aren't any more beholden to this movie's portrayal of Batman than we are to Batman and Robin, so let's quit behaving like Ben Affleck just got cast to play our great-grandfather in a period drama and pump the brakes a bit on our self-righteous outrage. Save the petitions for after the movie comes out. If he's butt-garglingly awful, he most likely will not be invited back, and then we can all join hands across the interwebs and proudly say, "We told you so, Paycheck. We told you so."