As I write this on Sunday night, the Internet is still up and running. I really thought the announcement of Ben Affleck as Batman would have destroyed it forever, and, on several occasions when the Internet got really slow over the weekend, it seemed like it really would happen.
I’m pretty sure Warners wasn’t planning on blowing up the World Wide Web (in the bad way) when it announced that Affleck was chosen to play the Caped Crusader in Zack Snyder’s follow up to Man of Steel, but I imagine that it did expect some reaction. After all, it made the announcement after8pm PST on a Thursday night before one of the last weekends of summer. Either Warners was really really excited about the news and wanted to get it out as soon as possible, or it was trying to sneak it out so the haters wouldn’t have time to hate as much.
If the latter was the plan, it failed miserably. Fans erupted on all forms of social media. It was like the last seven years of Affleck’s career ceased to exist. The respect he got from directing films such as Gone Baby Gone and The Town, the Oscar he won for producing Argo, the good critical responses he got for acting in The Company Men, Hollywoodland and Argo? They were all forgotten He was once again the Affleck of Gigli, the Affleck of Jersey Girl, the Affleck of Surviving Christmas who was daring to become the new Batman.
Complaints filled the blogosphere. Twitter was filled by the wittiest cut downs and bellyaches. The #BetterBatmanthanBenAffleck hashtag was formed. Numerous Internet memes were made. Too many jokes about Matt Damon playing Robin were cracked. Petitions calling for his ouster appeared on Change.org and WhiteHouse.gov, the latter one removed by the site. I guess Barack Obama doesn’t have a problem with the casting.
Not all posts were negative. There were a lot of people took the rather tepid “I’ll wait and see” form of encouragement. Some full out support arrived, both from likely sources:
Lots asking my thoughts on #BatFleck. Rocks for THIS Bat-fan: now I’ve suddenly made out with Batman once back in 99. pic.twitter.com/dIIHhA2M90
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) August 23, 2013
And from unlikely sources as well:
Affleck’ll crush it. He’s got the chops, he’s got the chin — just needs the material. Affleck & Cavill toe to toe — I’m in.
— Joss Whedon (@josswhedon) August 24, 2013
Yes, the backlash got to be so strong that the creative guru of the competing superhero franchise had to step in and lend his support.
Old school film fans got a resound sense of deja vu. We were taken back to the 1980s and another Batman controversy. It’s not hard to imagine the bruhaha that was applied to Affleck today would have been also out in force then when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman if the Internet was more prevalent back then. Both controversies are not the same, however. Keaton’s casting caused controversy because fans thought that it meant that the film would become a comedy along the lines of 1960 TV show. People were upset because they thought Keaton and director Tim Burton were going to make a joke out of their favorite character, not because Keaton had some rotten performances on his resume.
Part of the extreme nature of the reaction boils down to the fact that it came as a total surprise, despite what certain people would like you to believe:
Told ya about Affleck back in Feb & told ya announcement would be before labor day.
— elmayimbe (@elmayimbe) August 23, 2013
Oh, El Mayimbe! You rascally charlatan you! For the record, El Mayimbe did say Affleck was approached to play Batman back in February, in conjunction with directing the Justice League film. That’s the one that was supposed to come out in 2015 but was scrapped. But Mayimbe then doubled down on Christian Bale as a lock for Batman, first just one month after his Affleck/Justice League tweet and most recently just over two weeks ago. Dude, I know you are probably reeling from the number of wrong scoops you gave, but come on! You didn’t even mention Affleck as a possibility when you were pushing Bale down our throats. You can’t take credit for it back! You mentioned he was offered the role in a project that never happened!
But I digress. The Hollywood Reporter states that negotiations between Affleck and Warners were so secretive that many people at Warners and Affleck’s agency (WME) didn’t know they were happening. They also state that Affleck was at best the second choice (after Josh Brolin, who they say was approached) and probably third or fourth choice, if not more (although the same article states that Affleck was offer the directorship of Man of Steel before Zach Snyder, so it all evens out).
The Hollywood Reporter also states that Affleck signed a multi-picture deal, which some sites are say could be for as many as 13 films. That seems highly unlikely unless Warners is striving for a higher degree of interconnectedness than Marvel has in their superhero films. Having Batman show up in a Flash film or a Wonder Woman film might be a good way to burn through those 13 films.
The trade mag also gives us hints to when Superman/Batman fits into Affleck’s and Warner’s schedules. They say that Affleck will finish his starring role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl in February and then jump directly into Superman/Batman the same month. Production is expected to wrap in August and then Affleck will move on to his next directorial effort, Live By Night, next fall. Busy guy. More busy when you consider he will be doing pre-production on Live By Night when he’s playing Batman. That should make the disgruntled fans ecstatic. If they aren’t happy with an Affleck giving 100% as Batman, they certainly aren’t going to like an Affleck distracted by another film while he’s portraying the Dark Knight.
This, of course, is still developing. Who know? maybe the uproar will cause Affleck to step down. Or maybe President Obama will change his mind and step in. Until then, I’ll take a wait and see outlook and watch the complaints pile up.