Whether it was the demure calm of Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul, the ingenious chaos of Ledger’s Joker, or the earth-shattering brutality of Hardy’s Bane, the villains of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy always found their match in the macabre antics of Christian Bale’s Batman – not only in character, but out of character as well.
Whatever you think of Nolan’s trilogy and whatever you think of Bale, we simply cannot deny that his on-screen presence is truly spectacular. And so it was within his Batman saga – in his Bruce Wayne we saw a character evolve from the young man stumbling toward revenge into the Dark Knight, the man striding toward justice. And then the trilogy concluded and the world was left guessing about what happened next. So, what we can say about the recent news of Ben Affleck’s emergence as the new Batman?
Chris Nolan, love or hate him, is a director with a very personal style of filmmaking; there is simply no director active today that carries the same taste, style and tone of film. Nolan’s filmography is one that contains a number of films that rely equally on story, character and visual brilliance; and it seems to me that this trio of characteristics have been taken into the more recent DC Universe film, Man of Steel. Snyder’s reinvention of Superman no doubt follows the aesthetic set forth in Nolan’s trilogy, and in this it has perhaps been clear from the beginning that between the two of them there would be a new superhero world crafted.
…the difference so far between the worlds of DC and Marvel lie primarily in their style…
Of course, the signing of Ben Affleck as replacement for Christian Bale could mean that producer Nolan, along with director Snyder have seen Marvel’s recent success and so looked to acquire an actor that might move the franchise closer to what Joss Whedon had created in Avengers Assemble. But then, I see this as an unlikely option – the difference so far between the worlds of DC and Marvel lie primarily in their style; Marvel, with Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America is a universe crafted primarily on the old-style comic book film formula, that is to say that in Whedon’s Avengers we find clichés abound as well as puns, charisma and no shortage of comic-relief; I am not in any way condemning the end result, but the difference between that world and the DC universe of gritty violence, and intricate story lines might best be related to the difference between being hit with a hammer and being stabbed with a knife – both are pretty effective ways forward, but the approaches are bordering on polar opposition. Consider the four DC films content so far and I think it’s safe to say that it’s a little late to be making changes to the franchise’s tone.
And so the second possibility when considering the signing on of Ben Affleck is that in him Snyder and Nolan have chosen an actor that they feel can fill the incredibly large Batsuit left behind by Bale. And although his past brief foray into superheroism, as blind lawyer-cum-superhero Daredevil, left much to be desired, I think that Affleck is an actor that could quite easily stamp a credible claim on the position of top-dog-Batman. Aside from anything else his maturing as an actor in recent years, particularly clear in his roles within The Town and Argo (both of which he also directed), has been astronomical; so I feel safe in saying that any negativity regarding his signing (my particular favourite being a tweet that stated simply: ‘Affleck as Batman. Fuck.’) can be put to bed. In fact, I might go as far as to say that in signing Affleck as the new Batman, DC Comics have released a loud statement saying that they will be challenging Marvel for its crown at the top of the super-hero pile.
…Ben Affleck might mean a return to the quirky, comedy Batman of old…
And so to conclude: for those of you worried that in the signing of Affleck, Nolan and Snyder have spelt the doom of the franchise that they have so carefully constructed, don’t worry – the future of Wayne Enterprises is in safe hands. And for those of you who hoped that the signing of Ben Affleck might mean a return to the quirky, comedy Batman of old then I’m sorry – I don’t see that happening. And for those of you who viewed Affleck’s signing with hopeful eyes facing forward to the future then you should be happy, because if you ask me, there’s a lot more amazing cinema to come out of the DC/Nolan/Snyder universe.
And for those of you that didn’t know and weren’t excited enough, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston is rumoured to be arriving on scene as Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor… need I say more?