Ben Affleck Needs To Step It Up If He Wants To Do Batman Justice
The following is a transcript of the above video.
Today I’m going to be discussing the matter of Ben Affleck getting handed the role of The Batman, succeeding the much-loved Christian Bale of the Nolan trilogy. Now, I’m a massive Batman-obsessed freak, I pretty much have been my entire life, and when I first heard the news I, like most people, reacted with shock, horror and disbelief. However, I decided against reacting to the news, especially after the storm that erupted after. I mean, it was virtually two sides: the rage reactions and the “give Affleck a chance because it could be another Heath Ledger Joker situation” counters. So I thought that I’d wait for a while, and it would be far better to take an objective view of it and give myself time to assess Ben Affleck fairly without just resorting to rage or hypothetical doomsday situations or baseless defending.
In order to do this, I picked up some of Ben Afflick’s best movies and rewatched those I had before, which includes Argo, The Town, Good Will Hunting and so on, all of which are brilliant movies. I tried to avoid picking up too many of his old movies (I couldn’t resist Good Will Hunting though), because it’s not exactly fair to judge someone on what they did ten years ago. After viewing all of them, and loving them, while carefully focusing my attention on Ben Affleck as an actor, I’ve come to various conclusions about him that I wish to share with you. The first is that he is undoubtedly an awesome director, and he has a way of bringing a film to life that is fluid, entertaining and engrossing. I also admire his talent as a writer, as Good Will Hunting is one of my favourite movies. But as an actor? That’s a slightly different ballgame, and I have to tentatively begin by stating my conclusion as the following: Ben Affleck can act, he is not a bad actor by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some hard-to-ignore flaws that exist in his ability right now that make me worried about his role as Batman.
Firstly, I think that Argo and The Town are great roles to assess Ben Affleck on, because in both movies the characters he plays are roles that are sympathetic, emotional and genuinely ones that have you rooting for whoever fills the shoes of the role. They’re also his most recent movies, which is more fair to the man as he has grown as an actor and I’m not exactly pulling Daredevil or any of those abominations from the past out to use as evidence. Instead, I will simply talk about my concerns for him as an actor based on what I have seen.
The first thing I have noticed that is a key flaw in Affleck’s acting ability is that he doesn’t seem to get too deep into his role. In both Argo and The Town, he is very passive and doesn’t impose his position. Mostly, he struggles to convey emotion especially when he is not speaking. I mean, the guy sometimes literally has to say “I am sad” before I believe him, and when he’s trying to look really serious he ends up looking dopey. This is worrying when considering the fact that both The Town and Argo feature sympathetic lead characters, and despite the emotional roles he played in these movies, I found it difficult to connect or feel what he is.
To illustrate an example of what I’m talking about, I’m going to show you a scene from The Dark Knight Rises (Aflred leaving Bruce and revealing the truth about Rachel) and then show you a few things from Argo (lead character’s emotional reunion with his wife) and The Town (lead character’s emotionally flared confrontation with his girlfriend), and you’ll hopefully see the point that I’m making.
As you can see from the previous scenes (if you’re reading the transcript, well, this is awkward), Christian Bale doesn’t have to say a single word before you can see an absolutely devastated, angry and confused man. Ben Affleck, on the other hand, simply looks mellow during moments of immense emotional significance.
Batman is someone who has prominent themes such as anger, violence, obsession and isolation at the core of his character. The more veteran portrayals of Batman often show him with a subdued yet controlled anger, and an immense physical presence. The latter is what I’m really doubting Ben Affleck of. He does not have a physical presence on screen, and even if he bulks himself up I feel, his passive acting feels a bit soft for the character of Batman. Even during moments where he displays violent behaviour or real anger, he is not physically intimidating or overbearing. Perhaps with a Bat suit on, a gruff voice and more menacing acting this could change, but that remains to be seen.
I suppose it can also work if the movie does not focus on Batman’s characterisation and is more about his relationship with Superman and, of course, the thrilling action. This can easily lead to disappointment though, and make it difficult to accept Batman’s role in the movie. There’s a fair bit of risk involved here, and personally I feel the movie does need strong characterisation for Batman considering that they’re throwing us straight into things where he’s already a veteran, and as such we don’t know this character post-Nolan’s trilogy. The highlight will be his feud and relationship with Superman, and I think it will be disappointing if Batman is merely there as an action hero and not as the obsessive, hardened and dark character that is a grim contrast to the Man of Steel.
Let me reiterate. Affleck can act, and he has ability. But another core problem is that he seemingly only gives 70 percent to a role. In the very movies he proves that he is a top, top director with immense talent, he also proves that he’s mostly decent when it comes to acting. I haven’t walked away from these movies thinking “Affleck was golden in there”. I’ve only ever thought that he carried the role decently, rather than drove it or dominated it. If we compare him to Bale, please, go watch The Prestige, American Psycho or The Fighter and then come and chat to me and say with a straight face that Bale cannot act or that he is not a master of taking over any role he is given. The comparison is merely to illustrate areas in which I feel Affleck is lacking or could improve on.
Now, I’m absolutely happy to admit that Ben Affleck has matured as an actor. He has become better. He is certainly a far cry from what he used to be back with Daredevil and that fucking Gigli thing. I am also willing to concede that this may very well turn out to be another Heath Ledger Joker scenario. We can’t know until we see the damn movie, after all. However, while I am keeping my mind open to that possibility and want to actually see the film before I make any judgement, I do stress that when Heath Ledger took the Joker role he was mostly known for Brokeback Mountain of all things and I doubt many fans had watched him in many big-time movies before that or even paid any attention to his acting ability at all. They probably mostly thought of him as ‘that gay guy from Brokeback Mountain.’ With Affleck, we have movies like The Town and Argo to evaluate his acting as it stands today. But it’s probably true that a lot of people are simply rage reacting to his dark days, and that’s not what I wanted to do.
In conclusion, I am happy to wait until the movie and give Ben Affleck a chance to show us what he can do, but not without real concerns about whether he can bring Batman to life, mostly when it comes to his acting ability and screen presence. I am not condemning him, I am not rage reacting and neither am I telling those upset to pipe down and just let it be – in this video I tried to show areas in his acting that are potential pitfalls for the character of Batman, and say that I am cautious, rather than confident or without hope, about his role. To be fair, I think the least anyone can do is wait for the first official trailer, and if you can help it, be patient for the movie to get here. Once you’ve seen it and it’s out, then you can judge him or any other aspect of it. And my final word would have to be that Ben Affleck has to step it up if he wants to show the world that he can be The Dark Knight.