Can Zack Snyder make 'Batfleck' work?

Ben Affleck (WENN.COM)

Ben Affleck (WENN.COM)

STEVE TILLEY and JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:59 PM ET

STEVE TILLEY SAYS:

When word first broke that Ben Affleck was going to be playing Batman in the Man of Steel sequel, I felt like Christian Bale in Batman Begins, holding that corrupt police detective upside down and growling into his face.

Except in my mind, it was director Zack Snyder I was interrogating.

"Why did you cast Affleck?! What made you think this was a good idea?! You swear to God he's going to be great?! SWEAR TO ME!"

With production underway this weekend in Los Angeles, I've had several weeks now to let this news sink in, and I feel like I've gone through the stages of grief in reverse: first it was depression, then anger, and now I seem to be stuck in denial.

Listen, I don't have a hate-on for Affleck, not at all. While he's been in some truly shocking crap -- we will never forgive Gigli, nor the aptly named Paycheck -- he's also done great work. Chasing Amy. The Town. Argo. Affleck's a fine actor when he picks the right roles, and he's proved himself to be a skilled director as well.

Problem is, he's Ben Affleck. And Ben Affleck is not Batman.

"But, but, but! Michael Keaton!" you say. Yeah, I get that. Keaton was an even more out-there choice to play the Caped Crusader in 1989's excellent Batman. But that was a Tim Burton joint through and through, infused with that subtle surreality that made the whole movie so weird and wonderful and workable.

Zack Snyder is no Tim Burton. While Man of Steel is actually one of Snyder's better films, I don't think he has the skill to transform Affleck into Batman, as opposed to simply Ben Affleck Wearing a Rubber Suit with a Bat Emblem on the Chest.

And it just seems so "¦ unnecessary. Like Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh and Tom Welling before him, Henry Cavill was not a household name when he donned the blue tights and red cape to play Superman. Having someone as immediately familiar as Affleck play Batman feels like stunt casting.

I know the Batman in this movie needs to be older, harder, a little more world-weary. Throw Affleck in the gym for a few months and he could easily stand toe-to-toe with Cavill, a square-jawed Bruce Wayne intimidating goody two-shoes Clark Kent with sheer force of will.

But so could dozens of other actors, none of whom come with the baggage borne by Batfleck. Was Daredevil awful just because of Affleck? No. Could it have been better with someone other than Affleck? Probably.

Unlike some of the Baffleck haters out there, though, I desperately want to be proven wrong.

If Affleck turns out to be the best bat of them all, I'll tuck in my bib and feast on these words.

And no matter what, there's one bright side: We'll never have to hear Christian Bale's silly bat-growl again.

********************************

JIM SLOTEK SAYS:

In a world where troubles plague nations and suffering abounds - one man -combats the ultimate movie outrage.

Actually, Steve is not alone. The casting of Ben Affleck as Batman (in a guest role the next Man of Steel movie, no less) has thousands, if not millions, up in arms (or up in keystrokes).

So let's go waaay back, to before Michael Keaton threatened the legacy of Adam West, to an exchange attributed to the great novelist Graham Greene.

When told a mediocre movie "ruined your book," he pointed to the shelf and said, "No it didn't. Look, it's still there."

So, given that Batman is forever, no matter how wrong-headedly he's portrayed onscreen, let's see how many ways I agree and disagree with Steve about this Ben-Affleck-as-Batman. We agree that Daredevil was not Affleck's fault. We disagree that another actor would have a difference.

In fact, in the case of every Bat-movie, the lead actor is arguably the least responsible for how things turn out. Steve's mockery of Christian Bale's chain-smoking Bat-voice proves the point. Bale was not a great Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan made a great Dark Knight trilogy. No one this side of Patton Oswalt was going to be a bad Batman under those circumstances.

Again, Steve proves my own point by saying Michael Keaton ultimately was a good Batman because Tim Burton made a terrific movie, informed by his personal vision of the character. I even have a soft spot for Batman Returns (still the only sequel Burton has ever made).

Conversely, I knew Val Kilmer (and ultimately George Clooney) would be "bad" Batmen the day I interviewed Joel Schumacher just after he'd been given the directorial reins of the franchise. How did he assess Burton's work? The response was along the lines of, "Does it really have to be so depressing? Can't we have some fun with the character? I get it, Bruce Wayne's parents were killed. Isn't it time to get over it?"

In my mind at that moment, I pictured a time-bomb ticking away on the franchise. And no actor cast as Batman was going to survive when that bomb went off.

So if Zack Snyder is the unimaginative hack Steve believes him to be, Ben Affleck will be a bad Batman, as would anybody else cast in the role. I actually have a higher appreciation of Snyder's skills (though I may be biased on account of the fine direction he gave me on my three-second zombie cameo in Dawn of the Dead), and I expect Affleck to acquit himself well.

Which brings us to Steve's final point, why not cast an unknown in the role?

Simple. What is the purpose of a sequel but to out-gross its predecessor? By casting a fan-boy lightning-rod like Ben Affleck, the Man of Steel sequel has early buzz it wouldn't have had if they'd cast an unknown (plus Hollywood is still loath to let go of its belief in star power).

Hell, we're talking about it right now, aren't we?


Videos

Photos