Courtesy Warner Brothers
Courtesy Warner Brothers
Let's set the scene. It's August 2013. Lee Daniels' The Butler had just hit theaters. North West was but a tiny two-month-old baby. And Warner Brothers is about to make a landmark announcement. First, that the second installment in the current DC Comics franchise (after the Superman-centric Man of Steel) is going to pit Superman against Batman in an all-out superhero war.
And second, that Batman will be played by Ben Affleck.
For lack of a better phrase, fans revolted. They took to Twitter to air their every little grievance. They threw the memories of Gigli and Daredevil in Affleck's face. They claimed he was way too old. (For reference, the most recent Batman, Christian Bale, was in his early 30's when he starred in Batman Begins, whereas Affleck is 43). They worried that Batman's raspy tones would be ruined by a thick South Boston accent. He pahhked the Batmobile in Hahhvahhd Yahh, eh?
But all that noise was just that: Noise. Internet haters being Internet haters. Ben Affleck went to work all the same, played Batman, and now here we are. And here is where the real judgment comes in.
But calm down, Ben Affleck, because this particular sentiment is going to be a positive one. We've watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice from top to bottom, taking note of every single moment—every subtle comparison to the security in our world today, every last tool in Bruce Wayne's enormous techie arsenal, every giant muscle in Henry Cavill's supple, supple body. And we've come to the conclusion that we are totally down for a Ben Affleck Batman. We aren't going to try to play the Who's-the-best-Batman game right now, we're just going to argue our point that we totally loved this Batman. Here's why.
Sorry for being crass and/or superficial, but this is a very true fact that needs to be discussed. Superhero movies just work when the main character is fun to look at—why else did all those people go see Thor? It wasn't for the complex character development or thought-provoking dialogue. Batman-slash-Bruce Wayne isn't your typical beefcake a la Chris Hemsworth, but rather more of a suave, debonair silver fox.
Affleck may not be that silver in real life, but he stepped up to the plate for this big time. In fact, that was the first thing we scribbled down in our notebooks after he appears onscreen: Likey the grey hair. He can wear the heck out of a suit, which is helpful for the many scenes that require Bruce to attend a fancy charity function that is a secret cover for a reconnaissance mission, and he beefed up big time to prepare for the several gratuitous shots of Bruce pumping iron shirtless. (And by pumping iron, we mean doing pull-ups with tires chained to his waist and other terrifying exercises).
He has depth.
There's a little something we like to call life behind Affleck's eyes, which go a long way in helping to give off the impression that this is a tortured, weathered Batman who has grown tired of the moral gray areas involved in being a vigilante. Director Zack Snyderhas described this particular iteration as "road weary," and that seems to sum up the real-life actor just a wee bit. But more than what's going on in his personal life, Ben just has depth and complexity that make Bruce Wayne more than just a businessman with a chip on his shoulder. This proves even more apparent when you compare his acting to ol' dead-behind-the-eyes Henry Cavill, who for all of his physical beauty and fighting skills does not exactly emote.
He has chemistry with Gal Gadot.
As anyone who has even paged through a Batman article by now knows, a huge purpose Batman v Superman serves is to set up the next movie in the series, an Avengers-style flick featuring, among other heroes, Gadot as Wonder Woman. If audiences are going to commit to spending another few years obsessing about these characters they're going to have to care a little bit.
All raving about Gadot's performance as Wonder Woman aside (but seriously, she is amazing and badass and everything that a superhero should be), we liked these two together. She seems just a wee bit smarter, more capable, and more powerful than Batman, which is awesome on its own. But Ben's Batman also reads like a guy who's okay with that. Even better.
He knows how to play the press game.
The most grueling aspect of taking on the role of Batman isn't getting into fighting shape or attempting countless CGI stunts; it's the literal years you will spend on press tours. There are junkets, there are talk show appearances, there are late night show appearances, there are screening visits, there are fan club visits...we could go on and on. Affleck, despite the myriad of personal reasons not to be, seems genuinely game for and okay with this part.
He supports charities in the name of Batman. He takes pictures with endless amounts of children. He surprises fans on the Warner Brothers studio tours. He even lets fans touch his face when they don't believe they're real. And he does all this while also managing to give perfectly crafted answers to even the most prying of personal questions. It's a lot more than we can say about some other superhero stars. But we're not naming names.