So Warner Brothers announced that Oscar-winning filmmaker/maligned actor Ben Affleck is going to replace Christian Bale as Batman in Zack Snyder’s sequel to MAN OF STEEL – BATMAN V SUPERMAN – and it’s not just the ardent fanboys who are vociferously outraged by the choice, too much social media was blitzed by the news. You can read a snippet of the jabs and barbs and insults here.
This type and level of vitriol is out of line and uncalled for. And all I can say is chill the fuck out, people.
Why do I say this?
It’s not because I’m not a huge fan of Ben Affleck or a Batman fanboy or even a Superman fanboy or someone who could be accused of thinking Snyder is a brilliant director or that it’s sacrilege to follow up the Nolan/Bale films with this choice.
As host of this site, Michael Davis, MOTU, pointed out, no one was crazy about Michael Keaton as Batman, and yet he turned in a remarkably nuanced performance. It might have seemed like an odd choice, but he came from doing JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY and MR. MOM, which if nothing else showed that Keaton had range.
The thing to really remember is that there will be so much useless insults and commentary and dissection and bad mouthing and vomiting on the film all the way up until it comes out and then more shot piled on when it does hit the theatres. And guess what? It will still make $300+ million in the US box office and another $300+ million overseas.
Sidebar: Fans are f*cking insatiable
A few week ago Disney had its fan-centric expo and it didn’t release any information about the upcoming J.J. Abrams new Star Wars films – and people were shitting concrete. What the hell is wrong with people? Can’t they wait until photography has finished and a release date announced before the Magic Kingdom unleashes the Kraken and dominates the media and entertainment space for the preceding 18 months?
And yet the fans when apeshit when no info was released… there were even rumors tht the film – which not a frame has been shot – was “in trouble”… another epic CTFO moment; delayed gratification is almost as passé as waiting to have sex until after the wedding.
Also, the patron saint of the DC Comics movie franchise, Christopher Nolan, is producing the movie, no doubt, and he probably suggested or agreed with the choice of Affleck. I seemed to remember that people were lamenting that Heath Ledger was going to be The Joker… and he surprised the hell out of everyone.
I’ve made posts before about the delicate public trust that is formed when sci-fi & fantasy entertainment creations cross into the franchise realm, and how the die-hard fans are the one who funnel boatloads of money into the coffers of the corporate owners between film projects. But you know what’s funny (not really) is that the hard earned trust is almost always abused in money grabs for quarterly profits and year-end bonus for the top executives, not to mention attempts to expand the audience to children under the age 10 (because they clamor and scream at their parents if they can’t get the fifth iteration of the latest toy, bed sheets and Happy Meal).
These superhero über-franchises are pretty much immune to casting choices, directors vision and screenwriters decisions… sure they might stumble (many 2nd films do), but then they go off in a wildly different direction in that third film that usually has a directive of “making up for” the second film (case in point, Spielberg felt that he made a “mistake” with INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and he wanted to rectify something on some level with INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE; perhaps it was the dark tone of that 2nd film, which got away from the adventure romp of the first one – but that ending when the Angel of Death came out of the Ark was bloody and scary. I like the Jones trilogy as a whole, sure the 2nd film isn’t as good as the first, but perhaps only GODFATHER 2, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, THE DARK KNIGHT and SUPERMAN 2 are worthy sequels in the history of sequels… dating back to the 30s and 40s with all those serials too).
From what I’ve seen on the social media streams over the past 5 years regarding all the major comic book films, the cinema consumers – who choose to take to social media to express their opinions – disproportionately have NOTHING good to say about any of the films. It’s almost like what’s not understood is that the corporate caretakers of these properties are not the life-long fans, so how can they possibly “get it right”. The average MBA-type was NOT reading Action Comics, X-Men or the Fantastic Four as a kid; in fact, the MBA-type was jeering and fucking with the kids who did happen to sneak comics into the classroom. What they look at and for is – how do we make a safe $250 million project of this beloved character? The operative word being safe.
True Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN trilogy scored major points with the first two films (and even still there were some detractors), but then he was taken to the woodshed for the final film… however, it still made a shitload of money for Warner Brothers.
What irks me all the more is that Warner Brothers seems to only produce Batman & Superman movies (I’m not holding my breath on the Justice League film)… why don’t they reboot Catwoman (and do it right)? Or take a stab at Wonder Woman (with some actress endowed like Scarlett Johansson – her acting chops are good enough — or take a page from when Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft and a beef up the bust line with prosthetics)?
MY BATMAN CAN KICK YOUR BATMAN’S ASS
On a certain level, people with a so-called vested interest in the creative community and/or have strong childhood memories and interpretations of comic book superheroes will never like the exploitation of the corporate IP in the form of a movie. The stakes are too high for the corporate owners to take a storytelling risk. Everyone who has picked up a comic and read about 12 issues or more has a very specific version in their head of what any given superhero SHOULD be if and when a movie is made from the comic book. That is hardest thing to overcome and do service to/justice to.
Take a character like Catwoman… lots of variations and iterations over the years… they way she was portrayed prior to the 1960s TV show was sort of a tough, but pesky villain… in the way female villains were allowed to be tough before the feminist movement took hold (think Russ Myer films); in any event, some people can’t get enough of the Julie Newmar and/or Eartha Kitt versions of Selina Kyle.
After Frank Miller painted her as a hooker (per his usual steeze in how he envisions women) in “The Dark Knight Returns” and more evocatively in “Batman: Year One”, Catwoman started taking on a harder edge culminating in Michelle Pfeiffer’s latex-clad crazed-vixen in Tim Burton’s atrocious second Batman film. After that it was pretty much no holds barred, and she embraced a dominatrix/S&M persona, but with class, brains and shrewdness… this version some people love (like Jim Balent’s or Darwyn Cooke’s)… others might find it overly provocative.
There are enough representations of Catwoman that’s hard to imagine one getting her “right” on screen… Pfeiffer’s version was definitive for a while (whereas Halle Berry’s had the most striking costume, but the fuck-off script took a straight camp direction that would be more at home in the 60s), Anne Hathaway did a bang-up job in the last Nolan film (there actually needed to be MORE of her)… so who can be satisfied? I think with Catwoman, as long as she’s an empowered woman and uses her sexual attraction as a weapon, she’s embraced (but there are some detractors).
Same thing with Superman… I was never a fan of the character, but when John Byrne did his much-maligned revamp in the mid 80s (post Crisis on Infinite Earths) I found the depowered Superman more readable and interesting. Yet, we know the majority of people HATED Byrne’s version… yet, they kept reading and reading and plunking down cash at the local comic store to fill up DC’s coffers (and cheap Shuster & Siegel’s heirs out of money).
Which begs the question all this outrage over the casting choices and directing and screenwriting choices are so fucking out of line, because who can agree on what’s definitive? And why? Is you argument going to override my taste? Not likely… especially when it comes to a childhood emotional attachment. I’m certainly not going to veto your preferences (I’m not even going to try). So why do people get all up in arms about the choices? When a writer & art team is creating a comic, the audience (and the revenue from that audience) is tiny compared to what a film and/or TV show can bring in. Marvel’s movies no doubt generated more merch dollars than maybe the last two decades of comic publications… the [business] concept is more important than pleasing fans, because fans will come anyway… as George Lucas proved with the Star Wars prequels; utter shit, and look at the billions he made.
Ask yourself this? Are you going to actively boycott any comic book film because you don’t like the casting? No. Will you see it anyway (on any platform)? Yes.