Batman. Of all the fictional characters I’ve read and followed, admired and drawn both entertainment and inspiration from over the decades - Batman is the nearest and dearest. As I’ve mentioned before, probably ad nauseum, Batman was the first comic book hero I ever stumbled across at the tender age of six. Not the last by any means, as my blogs, reviews and Starburst features testify, but Batman is and always has been number one. Through the camp pop art of the sixties to the present day, I’ve read, watched and collected. He’s pretty much a cornerstone.
This is why I’ve ALWAYS been wary when Hollywood has been casting the character. Even when I first saw Adam West in his costume in 1966, I knew he wasn’t ideal. (I may have been a washout in sports and team activities in school at that age, but I was pretty precocious when it came to the Caped Crusader.)
In fact, let’s delve in to my memories of Batman casting over the years.
It was 1988 when they cast Michael Keaton in the role for Tim Burton’s Batman and I was pissed. I had just seen Keaton in Beetlejuice and couldn’t understand on ANY level how the hell the diminutive Keaton could portray the Gotham Guardian. When the first publicity shots appeared in the press, I was still sceptical. Were those fake muscles in that chest? When I saw the film - the second most important thing that happened to me in 1989 (first being marriage) I saw it was a sculpted chest plate - like armour and it made sense. As did physically changing Keaton’s body shape and height in the costume as I suppose would have to happen if he was trying to conceal his identity in real life. That and Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne as a flawed and obsessive character sold me entirely on the film and its sequel. Keaton WAS Batman. I was sorry to see him bow out for Batman Forever.
But not nearly as damn sorry as I was seeing Val Kilmer cast in the role.
Too young, too much of a Californian blonde beach boy, nowhere near the tortured intensity required for the role. Add in Chris O’Donnell as Dick Grayson/Robin and you have two characters who seem to be the same age. Ideally, Batman is in his mid to late thirties, Robin in his mid to late teens. Awful casting, I knew it wouldn’t work and I was right. Put Kilmer in anything else, and he shines - need I quote Heat or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but as Batman - disaster.
I would’ve bet exceptionally good money that the casting of George Clooney in Batman & Robin was going to rectify the wrong of Forever. I would’ve lost exceptionally good money. Batman & Robin was worse than Forever with miscasting all around. Clooney just couldn’t carry the weight that goes with the cowl.
And then came Christian Bale. An odd choice, I thought. But an effective one. Any doubt I had were dispelled in Batman Begins. He was exactly the right choice for the majestically epic three parter Chris Nolan was telling. He was the personification of brooding intensity when he needed to be and also light and almost comedic when it was called for. My only complaint is that his dry and husky Batman voice made me continually want to clear my throat. And still does whenever I watch the films at home.
When Supeman vs Batman was announced, a tsunami of names hit the internet as the rumour machine went into hyperdrive. Most of the rumours had Bale returning, and I didn’t much care for that idea. To quote myself from my blog of July 28:
"The Nolan trilogy is a resonant and magnificent story - but that particular story has been told. To bring Bale back would be to diminish and cheapen the resoundingly satisfying end to that story with Wayne having retired, his work done. That’s a version of Batman all unto its own with a beginning, a middle and an end."
I read that Josh Brolin was being considered at one point and that’s where my hopes lay. I could see that working. Just as long as it wasn’t anybody too young. I mean who need a Justin Bieber Batman - am I right?
So, Friday August 23 - there I was eating my breakfast when Steve wanders downstairs (having checked online for any news of interest first I was hungry that morning so I hadn’t booted my system up yet) with a casual "dad, have you heard.... Ben Affleck is Batman?"
Since then, the internet has almost melted down with fury, disdain and downright mockery. I’ve had a surprising number of people ask me what I thought, and was I going to vent - or venture an opinion right here? This is as big a casting controversy as Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale and Lord knows.... I was all over that one. It took me until Skyfall to accept him, poor guy.
So - my reaction - let’s rewind to Steve telling me over breakfast -
Surprised as I was by the news, the even bigger surprise to me was that I didn’t splatter the table and opposite wall with toast and coffee.
Ben Affleck is someone I had never thought of in the role - but really should have. For Superman vs Batman the script calls for and I quote "an older and wiser Batman". Frankly, given that, I can’t think of a more inspired choice for the role. Affleck is hardly a lightweight in terms of his acting ability and as for his previous venture into comic book super hero territory - I think Daredevil is a pretty good movie, though I suggest that watching the director’s cut is the better option. Affleck as Matt Murdock, another flawed and tortured guy who becomes a super hero was pitch perfect to what I’ve read in the comics, and I think from that, he has the right gravitas for Bruce Wayne. Let’s face it, he’ll only be in the Batsuit for close-ups the rest will be CGI or a stuntman.
See, it’s more how Downey Junior plays Tony Stark than how he plays Iron Man, and thus it’s going to be more how Ben Affleck plays Bruce Wayne than how he plays Batman. (You think Robert Downey Junior really wears full body armour in Iron Man? Really?
So, to answer the question - this particular writer and this particular site fully support the casting decision. I hope Affleck surprises all of us by becoming the screen’s definitive Batman, a role he's probably contractually bound to take into the Justice League film in 2016. He has big shoes to fill when you consider Keaton and Bale’s potrayals. But if you consider Kilmer and Clooney, he’s already there. (As Adam West played the part in essentially a comedic vein, it’s not fair to consider him here) But an older Batman against a young and eager Superman, Affleck vs Cavill?
As my Boy Wonder namesake would’ve said in the sixties, while punching his palm: Holy crap on a cracker, Batman - THAT’S A FILM I WANT TO SEE!!!!!
What’d YOU think? Get busy on Facebook and share your views.
Copyright © 2010 - 2013 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.