I think I’m in, like, Russellville, Arkansas or something like that. Mid-trek cross-country. Checked into the hotel, grabbed a shower, settled in and…Holy Argo, Batman — Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Dark Knight in Zack Snyder’s still untitled “Man of Steel” sequel (tentatively being called “Batman vs. Superman”).
So if you’re keeping score at home, that puts last year’s Best Picture winner in the weirdly rare air of having played Superman (2006’s “Hollywoodland”) AND Batman in his career. Oh, and Daredevil, too. But let’s break this down…
Affleck, you’ll remember, was a name being tossed around to direct the still struggling-to-be-properly-conceived “Justice League” film. “I would love it,” he told me of the prospect of tackling the DC Universe on film. “My interest is really just in, you know, if I like the characters and if the stories seem smart and surprise me. The things that people look for. So those things exist in the superhero genre. And when they do, I think it”s really exciting. I think they exist in the science-fiction genre. If you look at ‘Blade Runner’ to ‘Alien’ to ‘Aliens’ on down through today. So it”s just about finding a good script, honestly. I wouldn”t be into something or not based on the genre.”
Though while it may be about a “good script,” is there even much of a script to speak of here yet? Snyder made it clear at Comic-Con that they were still working through the thing conceptually, teasing something in the tone of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and announcing that, indeed, Batman would be featured in his Superman sequel. It was pretty clear that Warner Bros. was looking for a big splash as “Man of Steel” — though it didn’t exactly make mere peanuts — didn’t hit the box office mark the studio was hoping for. Some read the move as desperate but I thought it was smart and exciting, even if it did have a whiff of being, well, a bit of a slap-dash decision.
Enter Affleck, carrying major weight at the studio these days, fresh off big Oscar success in “Argo.” It’s such an interesting decision for him to make. Does he need this kind of role? Not at all. He’s in a position to be able to push production of his latest commitment to the studio, the Dennis Lehane adaptation “Live By Night,” so he can go off and act for David Fincher in “Gone Girl.” That move made a lot of sense. It’s another chance to work with a compelling and talented director. You can bet Affleck has been at least somewhat envious of seeing his buddy Matt Damon collaborate with the likes of Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers over the years, and he’s eager to learn from masters like Fincher and Terrence Malick, etc.
But Batman? It’s almost like he’s doing the studio a solid. I’m totally just thinking out loud here. And by the way, this casting decision doesn’t rub me wrong at all. It’s just, again, interesting to me. Affleck is keeping his career very diversified right at the time when it seemed he was drilling down and focusing on being a filmmaker.
I can’t wait to see the sure-to-be intense reactions to this on both sides of the line. What do you think? Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Thumbs…sideways?