A while back, I posted an article about Ben Affleck possibly portraying Batman in a trilogy of solo movies. Along with his scheduled appearances throughout the DC Expanded Universe, this would make his version of Batman the most prolific.
Reactions to that article were mixed, from excitement to indifference to nerd rage. One person on Twitter responded with something that made me angry, but also made me think. The exact quote was: “Based on >Affleck’s performance in Daredevil, I will not be watching this go ’round of Batman (thumbs down emoji).”
Daredevil was Ben Affleck’s first foray into the superhero genre, playing the blind lawyer Matt Murdock who prowled the streets of Hell’s Kitchen at night stopping criminals. The movie was critically panned, receiving only a 44% Rotten Tomatoes score.
Comic fans were not pleased with that movie, and it makes sense that those memories would come flushing back when it was announced Ben would be portraying the Dark Knight. Here’s the thing: Daredevil was released in 2003. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will be released in 2016, a difference of 13 years. A good majority of people who have already written off Affleck as Batman are holding a grudge of over a decade. Affleck should be judged on his performance as BATMAN in BATMAN vs. Superman, not his performance in Daredevil. The “statute of limitations” has long since passed.
Body of Work
Judging Affleck from a 2003 performance dismisses over a decade-long body of work, some of which has been critically acclaimed. He has directed three features, Gone Baby Gone (94% on Rotten Tomatoes), The Town (93%), and Argo (96%). The latter film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Affleck won the Golden Globe for Best Director in 2013. This proves that he is not going to give up on his craft, and is willing to work hard to improve upon it.
The obvious comeback to this would be “acting ISN’T directing.” He also starred in 2 of the 3 previously mentioned movies, and going through the reviews of both, none claimed that the only bad parts of the films was his acting. If we want to discuss acting, Hollywoodland is a great place to start. Portraying former Superman actor George Reeves, Affleck gave a great performance about a man struggling (and failing) to move past the shadow of his larger than life alter ego. It mirrored Affleck’s life in a way, and showed how he has grown. David Fincher’s Gone Girl (88%) is another example of Affleck’s prowess. Watching him squirm his way through the film as Nick Dunne shows that he is capable of pulling of performances you aren’t expecting from him.
We just took a look at some of Affleck’s projects/performances in the years since Daredevil. And even with an Argo or The Town, there is a Surviving Christmas as well. To say Ben Affleck had all blockbuster hits since Daredevil would be naive. Even if he has made a bad film or two, he doesn’t consistently make/star in trash movies that would cause us to reasonably sigh “Oh no – not another Affleck movie!” Take director Uwe Boll as an example of someone who doesn’t learn from past art. His highest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes is Assault on Wall Street, which only earned 25%. He has also proven that he can not grow from criticism or has no interest in it, for rather than take the feedback to improve, he challenges his critics to fight him instead.
Another example of someone who has earned a groan when they release another movie – Adam Sandler. As much as Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore are near and dear to my heart, Pixels, Jack and Jill, The Cobbler, and Blended among many others have shown that Adam Sandler falls into a similar category. It feels as if his films are the same, with him just changing his character’s profession and the actress playing his love interest when Drew Barrymore isn’t available. Affleck has definitely shown the growth that these two artists have not.
Why Keep Going?
If fans are nay-saying Affleck as Batman because of Daredevil, why do actors or entertainers try at all? If this was the case, George Clooney would have never won the Academy Award for Syriana because he was in Batman and Robin. Ryan Gosling would never have been a huge badass in Drive because he was starred in Young Hercules.
We can actually look at this from the other side as well. Christopher Walken is one of the most beloved actors of all time. He won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter. He was also in Blast from the Past. As well as Balls of Fury. Yet no matter what movie he happens to be in, fans still love him. The same can be said for Samuel L. Jackson, the perennial “Bad Mo-Fo.” No one wants to call him out for being a major part of the Star Wars prequels. This shows that the basis of a person’s career should not be judged by one particular performance. Remember, for every Peter Pan Live Captain Hook, there is a Pulp Fiction Captain Koons.
Oh, and let’s not forget about THIS GUY:
We are quick to crucify Ryan Reynolds for Green Lantern, but the second we saw this:
Everyone was more than willing to bow down before him. And this was after he already PLAYED him… (sort of)
After starring in TWO unsuccessful films, Ryan Reynolds is back in everyone’s good graces in way less than 13 years. Affleck deserves the same courtesy.
Root Cause (The Blame Game)
“He’ll suck because Daredevil sucked.” Okay. Even if my previous arguments weren’t there, I would still have a problem with this statement. If you thought “Daredevil sucked,” why are you only angry at one person? There was director (Mark Steven Johnson), there was a producer (Avi Arad), there was an editor (Armen Minasian). Heck, the director of the movie wasn’t happy with what was released and they released a director’s cut years later. When people say they don’t like something, it becomes a question of whether they are looking for the actual root cause of the problem, or if they are just looking for a scapegoat to take out their frustrations. Understanding WHY you don’t like something is more rewarding that just not liking it.
Ben Affleck has proven that he has grown has a creator, whether in front of or behind the camera, since Daredevil. Because of that, he deserves the benefit of the doubt and to be judged by his actual performance as Batman, not by something that occurred 13 years ago. I know I will reserve my judgement. Who knows? We’ll either be clamoring for more, or begging Christian Bale to bring that voice back.
So what do you think? Should we give Ben a chance? Or has his foray with Marvel burned too many bridges? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.