Af­fleck bat­tles Bat­man back­lash

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Jake Coyle

NEW YORK — Ben Af­fleck will be the next Bat­man: How ’bout them ap­ples?

Well, the In­ter­net, which erupted Thurs­day night af­ter Warner Bros. an­nounced that Af­fleck will play the Caped Crusader for its Supermanand-Bat­man team-up movie, does not like them ap­ples one bit. Jokes flew on Twit­ter. Pe­ti­tions with thou­sands of sig­na­tures were launched to urge Warner Bros. to re­think their de­ci­sion.

Af­fleck, the toast of Hol­ly­wood for his best pic­ture-win­ning Argo, hasn’t had so much scorn heaped on him since Gigli.

The re­sponse, roughly equiv­a­lent to news of the apoc­a­lypse, was un­doubt­edly out of pro­por­tion. Af­ter the leaden, joy­less Man of Steel, adding Af­fleck — an ac­tor of light, easy charisma and an in­creas­ingly ca­pa­ble film­maker — can only im­prove a fran­chise cur­rently in the hands of Sucker Punch di­rec­tor Zach Sny­der and the un­re­mark­able Su­per­man ac­tor Henry Cav­ill.

There’s a long his­tory of cast­ing over­re­ac­tion that’s later turned out laugh­able. There were plenty of crit­ics when Daniel Craig, who had the au­da­cious­ness of be­ing blond, in­her­ited James Bond. Some, too, ques­tioned Jennifer Lawrence’s suit­abil­ity for Kat­niss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

But Af­fleck’s cast­ing speaks to a larger shift in this age of the su­per­hero block­buster. He will be fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Chris­tian Bale, the star of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight tril­ogy — the artis­tic apogee of the su­per­hero movies that treated its hero not as cartoon but a ves­sel for ex­plor­ing themes of ter­ror­ism and jus­tice.

The days of such as­pi­ra­tions, though, seem to be dwin­dling. Most of the most pop­u­lar su­per­heros are on their sec­ond or third re­boot. Af­ter the suc­cess of Joss Whe­don’s The Avengers, Hol­ly­wood is look­ing in­creas­ingly to pair­ing its comics. And af­ter the Su­per­manBat­man movie, a Jus­tice League film is ru­moured to fol­low.

Th­ese are the kinds of projects that could be seen as jumping the shark if this wasn’t a genre built on men in tights. The su­per­hero block­buster, still the big­gest draw at the mul­ti­plex (with $408.2 mil­lion, Iron Man 3 is this year’s big­gest box-of­fice hit), has made gim­mickry a way of busi­ness, not a fault.

In the past, su­per­hero movies didn’t need stars: The brand was the main at­trac­tion.

But be­ing a ma­jor star, Af­fleck comes with a lot of bag­gage that many ex­pect will grate the way Ge­orge Clooney did in Joel Schu­macher’s 1997 Bat­man and Robin — a film so bad, it’s of­ten been cited as a cat­a­lyst for more se­ri­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tions of su­per­heros.

Af­fleck, 41, will take on Bat­man at a slightly older age and in a more es­tab­lished place in his ca­reer. But he’ll be best to lis­ten to a piece of ad­vice from Clooney: Don’t let them put nip­ples on suit.— theBat­man

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