ComiConverse writer and contributor.
Ben Affleck’s depiction of the Bat earlier this year in Batman v Superman fell under some immediate scrutiny. Since then, critics and fans alike have mitigated their negative reviews and at least tried to give this Batman a second chance. Our Joseph Gioeli takes a look at why we may be taking “Batfleck” for granted.
Warning: Mild Dark Knight spoilers and major Batman v Superman spoilers ahead!
Why We May Be Taking “Batfleck” For Granted
“Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.”
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Every portrayal of Batman on the silver screen has been relatively similar over the past few decades; sociable, wealthy playboy by day, sworn defender of justice by night. He followed a strict code of ethics including not using guns and avoiding killing at all costs, even going so far as to rescue his enemies in some cases, which, as fans, we accepted, seeing as how it has always been that way.
Recently, those rules were thrown out the window when Ben Affleck donned the cape and cowl earlier this year, and while the quote above is pulled from The Dark Knight (2008), during the final scene when Commissioner Gordon describes to his son why Batman is running away, I believe it is a good representation of Affleck’s portrayal as the Caped Crusader in Batman v Superman (2016).
He was the hero fans deserved, but not the one it needed at the time.
When Affleck was first cast as Batman, many fans (myself included) were skeptical. The last time we saw him in a comic book adaptation movie, was Daredevil (2003), which received mixed reviews, at best; it also gave us the modern MCU as we know it, but I digress.
Affleck taking the role as Batman, not even four years after Christian Bale’s final endeavor in The Dark Knight Trilogy, being possibly the most successful trilogy of not only superhero movies, but of all movies, was a bold move. If Affleck’s reprisal was to the distaste of fans, all it would have been is another unnecessary Batman reboot.
Fortunately, (after you gave it some time), Batman v Superman wasn’t a total flop (many refer to it as a “flopbuster”), and more importantly, Affleck didn’t totally botch the role of arguably the most popular superhero ever.
Admittedly, at first, “Batfleck” left somewhat of a bad taste in your mouth, but that was mostly getting used to a new style of Batman Ben Affleck and Zack Snyder were instilling.
This portrayal of Batman and Bruce Wayne was meant to be the “revival” of Batman. It was set in a time where Bruce Wayne had all but hung up his cape. He is supposed to be an older and more resentful Bruce Wayne who realizes that after years of fighting crime in Gotham, not much has been accomplished.
“Twenty years in Gotham, Alfred; we’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”
This also explains the blatant disregard for the moral code that past portrayals have sworn by.
Many fans did not have a direct issue with the fact that “Batfleck” killed people (an estimated 21), they had more of an issue with the brutal way he went about his “business”. My theory, and one shared by many, is that this “Batfleck” had lost his faith in humanity. They have done nothing but outcast him and treat him like a criminal for the past two decades, so he decided to accept that role a little more this time around.
The brutality was a common issue among fans and in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, DC President Geoff Johns stated that Batman’s “brutal behaviour” would be addressed moving forward. This also plays into the theory that after witnessing Superman’s heroic sacrifice at the end of Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne had his faith in mankind restored. Superman sacrificed his life for a race that was not only unappreciative, but they also attacked and ridiculed him throughout the entire film. This heroic sacrifice and restored faith sets up the beginnings of Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince’s Justice League recruitment, as seen in the final scenes of Batman v Superman and in the first Justice League trailer.
I truly believe that “Batfleck” has the potential to surpass every other Batman we have seen thus far. Not only is it a new outlook from the point of view of Bruce Wayne, we were also able to see perhaps the best display of Batman’s hand-to-hand combat and gadget skills in the warehouse scene when he saves Martha from Lex Luthor’s goons. As well as multiple suits and a revamped Batcave.
This franchise could be much more than a Batman “reboot” with the same villains, simply just played by different actors. Supporting that, is the fact that Joe Manganiello is already confirmed to play the antagonist in standalone “Batfleck” film, The Batman (rumored 2018), as Slade Wilson, or Deathstroke, who has been getting more and more recognition as of late.
Moving forward into Justice League (est. 2017) and The Batman, I believe that the DCEU is in good hands and will find a way to moderate the brutality, while still keeping this version of Batman true to Affleck and Snyder’s original portrayal.
Joseph Gioeli is a contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeGioeli