I remember when I stopped hating things online. It was a couple of years ago, and Ben Affleck's casting as Batman helped me do it. One moment I was angrily screaming at the idea of Batfleck with the rest of the dickheads, when suddenly, a thought entered my head: "What's the point of hating things in advance?" So I stopped. I didn't even really hate the new Fantastic Four film before or after it came out, because why would I? I don't need to watch that shit.
Still, that small redeeming feature doesn't take away the fact that I'm still a notorious asshole in a great many other ways. This got me thinking: Maybe that's not all Ben Affleck can give me. Maybe there's a greater Affleck Theory of Inner Peace, where Ben's films help me learn important life lessons in ways that no zen master ever could. Does this sound crazy? There's only one way to find out!
Hi, my name is Pauli, and Ben Affleck helped me become a better person. Let's see how far he can take me.
#8. Good Will Hunting
Since the plan is to go all out on Affleckology, we might as well start from the very beginning. Good Will Hunting wasn't Ben's first big break -- he'd had a prolific child actor career in the 1980s, and he was already a Kevin Smith mainstay when the movie came out -- but it was his first big hit, and one he Oscar-worthily co-wrote to boot. This may be a bit of a cheat, because as with all movies where Robin Williams sports a beard and a soulful gaze, the film is one big life lesson in itself. However, what stuck with me in particular was the "Best part of my day" speech Affleck's side character delivers to the titular character. Here:
The Life Lesson:
For those who didn't watch the clip: It's a short, vicious verbal bitch-slap Affleck's Chuckie Sullivan administers to Will Hunting because of the latter's unwillingness to use his genius intellect to escape their poor, blue-collar life. I'm no genius, and there's a chance that some of you reading this aren't either, but the same principle applies to us, too: If you're good at something, Ben Affleck double dares you to embrace it. Because if you don't, he's going to ring your doorbell two decades down the line and fuckin' kill you.
See? Already, the man is an inspiration to us all.
20th Century Fox
Shit, already? I ... I wasn't prepared to dive into the deep end just yet. Time to start drinking to take the edge off, I guess.
Once upon a time, there was a little boy who grew up sucking on the bittersweet teat of superhero comics. Around 2003, that boy was as elated as, well, everyone else to find that his heroes were finally starting to have a credible on-screen presence. His mind had already been blown by Bryan Singer's X-Men and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, and he couldn't wait for the next awesome super-movie to splatter the remainder of his sparse brain cells all over the sludge-stained cinema floor.
What he got instead was this bullshit:
20th Century Fox
Softcore fetish slapfight porn is no one's favorite genre of anything.
The Daredevil movie is a bit of a turd. No one's contesting this. A rewatch certainly doesn't help matters, especially as I'm foolishly sticking with the original instead of the vastly superior director's cut. But, when you get right down to it, is it really Ben Affleck's fault? No. He rocks the red gimp suit and Murdock persona in equal measures and does his best to hold his own against the dual cheese invasion of Colin Farrell's Bullseye and the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin.
You can practically taste the ham.
Yet, with little fault of his own, Affleck still bears the brunt of the dullness and disappointment associated with the movie. What's more, superhero movies offer precious few second chances, unless you're called Ryan Reynolds or Chris Evans. No matter how good Ben'll be as Batman, the world's default expectation after Daredevil is for him to fail. If Zack Snyder or, shit, anyone else fucks up even the slightest bit of Batman V Superman, we'll all be making smug little "Ha, Affleck fails at superheroing again" jokes all year long. I'll bet you the entire left testicle of the guy sitting next to me on the subway right now. Yes, I'm talking about you, Matt. That's what you get for reading other people's laptop screens, Matt.
Fuck you, Matt.
The Life Lesson:
Sometimes people will blame you for others' mistakes, especially if you happen to be prancing all over the disaster area in a skin-tight leather bodysuit. You'll just have to learn to roll with the punches and rise again.
Right. Armageddon. In many ways, this movie is the quintessential Michael Bay movie: lots of explosions, ridiculous plot, cartoonish characters. Luckily for him, the year was 1998, so instead of making all his wacky characters shitty CGI robots, he was forced to get actual actors to flesh them out. Not that it helps much:
It is amid this profitable yet messy soup of disaster-movie cliches that Ben Affleck found himself, tasked with playing as big of a strong-jawed all-American hero as is possible in a movie that already features Bruce Willis. He did all right. Sometimes, you just have to do your best with the cards you've been dealt. And, really, isn't the willingness to do that admirable in itself?
The Life Lesson:
In a Bay movie? Hahaha, nope!
Dogma is dear to me for two things: It is easily the best movie Kevin Smith has ever made, and [Spoiler for a 16-year-old movie you really should have seen a decade ago] Affleck's Bartleby winds up being the ultimate bad guy of the film, despite being the pacifist of the central angel duo right up until the finale. His grand entrance as the murderous surprise villain is a surprising and effective transition from a vaguely sympathetic character to a colossal asshole with enough smugness to fill a village, and no one will ever convince me that is not how Ben Affleck argues with people in real life, too.
I generously assume he's more about the dickhead smirk and less about
the omnicidal attitude, but it's not like I personally know the guy.
But isn't that how it always is? We're all but one step away from being seen as total dickwads by our peers, if we don't keep track of where we're going and how we're doing it. Sure, Bartleby's example may be a tad heavy-handed, but the same applies even without rampant mass murder. Basic, everyday failures like blocking the escalator or making your presentation more long-winded than you intended can easily make you the villain in someone's eyes.
The Life Lesson:
Know what you're doing and what your actions can cause. Even the most well-meaning person on Earth can become a monster in others' eyes if he doesn't pay attention to the path he's on. Seriously, Matt, back off from my screen. So help me, I will spin-kick you right out of the window.