Why, is that a dagger we see before us?
Indeed, and one most passionately forged by the actor Richard Dreyfuss. And looking closer, the engraving on it says: “You read for a part, you feel good about it, you feel confident, then they cast Ben Affleck.”
Zing. By the ghost of “Gigli,” that stings.
Warner Bros. announced Thursday night that Affleck will be our new big-screen Batman. Within minutes, Dreyfuss – true to his own trained and brash style as an Oscar-winning actor – tweeted his artful thrust-and-parry, drawing first blood as the Internet responded to the casting fury that rapidly went by the handy hashtag #Batfleck.
And at that, the marauding online hordes arrived, bellowing like Bane. Surely the power of the Web could reverse the decision to put Affleck in the cape and cowl for the “Man of Steel” sequel, set for 2015. A change.org petition was launched that seeks to “Remove Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the new Superman/Batman Movie” (76,927 signatures as of late Monday night).
And the Twitter hashtag #BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck spawned a gleeful piling-on (prompting responses as varied as TV original Adam West, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, the autopilot from “Airplane” and “literally, anyone”).
But listen up, Ben: It’s not you. (Well, it’s sort of you, after your spectacular acting nadir a decade ago, as you churned out “Gigli” and “Jersey Girl” and Marvel’s “Daredevil” like some reverse Laurence Olivier.) But now, mostly, it’s us.
This isn’t the first time Batman casting has met with fan backlash. The news that Michael Keaton, at the time known more for his comic skills in such films as “Beetlejuice,” would star in Tim Burton’s now classic 1989 film, resulted in 50,000 protest letters sent to Warner Bros. Val Kilmer met with mixed reviews in “Batman Forever” (1995), and even George Clooney couldn’t save “Batman & Robin” (1997), the worst box office performer of modern Batman films. (Clooney once joked that he killed the series.)
While the caped crusader often seems to be in the cross hairs of fans’ ire about casting, other comic book heroes have received similar treatment including Affleck in “Daredevil,” Ryan Reynolds in “The Green Lantern” and pretty much anyone who is chosen to play Superman.
Working with Warner Bros. – not coincidentally the same studio that shepherds the DC Comics universe – Affleck revivified his descending-into-punchline career by directing “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” then capping his comeback this year, when he and his director’s beard won an Oscar for “Argo.” Respect was again his.
Unless, you know, he actually tried to act again – especially when not directing himself.
The fickle voices of the Internet fumbled for reasons to justify its instinctual revulsion to the casting (sounding a lot like a meta-soliloquy by Affleck in the film “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”). Affleck is too strapping, the tweets kvetched, or too square-jawed, or too famous – or too bland and too unsubtle and too deliberate and too smug.
All qualities, in other words, so often associated with Batman.
Ironically, Affleck made his professional comeback buoyed by his Golden Globe-nominated role in 2006’s “Hollywoodland,” in which he played TV’s Superman, George Reeves – another actor once accused on being too wooden.
Thing is, in another DC production from the intelligent and proven “Dark Knight” team, including writer David Goyer, Affleck will likely be fine. But the Internet doesn’t want “fine.” Or safe, unless “safe” means the high-priced return of Christian Bale. Fanboys and filmgoers want either established brilliance – Daniel Day-Lewis or Daniel Craig, say – or at least a pick with an air of risk or creativity, like drafting someone from “The Walking Dead.”
The Internet wants much the same thing from its major-role casting, in other words, that it wants from its very superhero films: Daring. Boldness and bravado. Thrills. Perhaps an element of surprise.
And if you could manage it, Warner Bros., something please approaching perfection.
Have your people tweet our people. We’ll work something out.
Includes information compiled by News staff.