Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ranting and Rambling: The Casting of Superman/Batman

Well, the latest round of casting has hit the internet, and people are responding. Big time. And here I am, throwing my hat into the ring. Again, I want to make explicitly clear that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and these are just mine. If you disagree, that’s fine, I won’t tell you that you’re wrong. But I will try to defend my point. And with that disclaimer, let’s begin!
Maybe this move's actually about Most Excellent Superbat? That would be a twist.
Henry Cavill as Superman
Despite Man of Steel getting mixed reviews, it seems that, relative to the rest of the sequel's casting, few people have a problem with Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel himself. The general consensus is that when the script gave him things to work with, he did a good job with what he had. And let's be fair, Superman's not the easiest character to portray. There needs to be a larger-than-life presence, and a human compassion, and I personally think that Mr. Cavill did a good job with that. I'll save my Man of Steel review for another day, but I'll finish up by saying that Man of Steel was an origin story. He wasn't supposed to be the Superman we all know and love at the beginning, but the end. Was he? It's open for debate. But I think we can all agree that Henry Cavill was a much better choice than...

Yeesh.
But even if some people have issues with Cavill as Superman, they are more likely to take issue with…

Ben Affleck as Batman
Okay, to be fair... that does sound like something from one of those fake movies in Tropic Thunder. However, Ben Affleck is a good actor. People forget that Ben Affleck won 2 Oscars. That’s an impressive feat. To be fair, neither one was for his acting, but the man has talent. With Good Will Hunting, we can see that he understands drama. (Add to that the rumors that Affleck is helping write Superman/Batman....) And with Argo, that was a Best Picture award, so his acting must have at least contributed to that. Alongside those Oscars, he’s won 48 other awards and has been nominated 66 times.

But on the other hand, he’s got a couple flops under his belt, like the infamous Gigli. And the one thing that people always bring up, his comedic experience. Yeah, who ever heard of a comedic actor playing Batman?
Oh, wait.
If I had to pin the Anti-Batfleck hype on two things, it would probably be Gigli and Daredevil.

Let’s start with Gigli. It’s simple. You get one major flop under your belt, it haunts you forever. That’s all there is to it. Halle Berry is still trying to recover from Catwoman, Battlefield Earth hung over John Travolta’s head for the longest time, and J-Lo’s career still hasn’t recovered from Gigli like Ben Affleck’s career has begun to. That’s all there is to it. Gigli was utter crap, but it would have been utter crap without Affleck, too. Blame the script, not the actor. But speaking of bad movies, let’s discuss Daredevil.

Daredevil was a mess. There exists two versions of it. The main version (which sucks and cuts out important plot points) and the Director’s Cut (which isn’t too bad). You might be thinking “Why did they cast Affleck as Daredevil?” Funny story. According to Kevin Smith, when people ask him who he would cast in various roles, he always says, “Ben Affleck.” So when the director of Daredevil asked him who to cast as the lead…. Yep. At least, that’s what Smith claims. (Go watch “An Evening with Kevin Smith” for more on that. It’s hilariously insightful.) But let’s face it. Even if you hated Daredevil, there were much worse problems with it than Ben Affleck.

But to summarize (and also for you tl;dr types), Ben Affleck is not a bad dramatic actor. He’s just following up on the powerhouse Christopher Nolan trilogy, which would be a daunting task for any actor. Add to that a couple of flops and an unsuccessful escapade as Daredevil, and it’s easy to see why people cry foul on this casting. Still, people reacted the same way to Michael Keaton….

Now let’s move on to the next round of casting, least controversial first.

Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Alfred Pennyworth is an ex-RAF medic, later actor-turned-butler-turned-Batman’s-mentor. And they chose Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons, with his dangerous eyes, proper English accent, sparkling charm, and frighteningly sophisticated voice. I like it. It seems to be a new take on Alfred, which I can appreciate.

Michael Gough was the typical butler, Michael Caine was a working-class gentleman, and it seems that this latest Alfred will draw on Alfred’s canonical experiences as a former soldier. (This would go along with changes to Alfred in the New 52, the Batman: Earth-One universe, and Beware the Batman.) 

I like it. Jeremy Irons is the man. Again, the problem is that it’s following up on Michael Caine’s powerhouse performance.

And finally…

Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Hoo boy. Again, the guy’s been nominated for an Oscar. But people keep bringing up valid points like, “He looks too young!” or “He has hair!” or “We want Clancy Brown!” These are all valid points. But I seem to remember another controversial villain decision. Remember when this pretty boy was cast as a Batman villain?

Heck, remember when this musical theatre star was cast in X-Men?

Or when Johnny Storm ended up in The Avengers?

Now, I’m not saying that apparent miscasting automatically equals greatness. The moral of the story is simple: We don’t know. We don’t know anything about the script, we don’t know the direction that these actors will take their characters in. We simply do not know what’s going to happen, and we won’t know until 2016.

I, for one, remain excited and cautiously optimistic. As my examples have shown, there have been some casting decisions that looked horrible… and worked out for the best. But then again, there have been some casting decisions that looked horrible… and were horrible. (Ahnold as Mr. Freeze, anyone?)

It’s understandable to be a bit worried about this casting. As I’ve said a few times, the casting for the Dark Knight Trilogy was pretty much flawless. The solution that they’re trying out is to take things in a different direction. Now, “different” is a word feared by many fans of numerous franchises. But that’s the risk you take. If you keep things the same forever, it will eventually get stale. If you switch things up, you might end up with a disaster. But, again, we just don’t know what we’re going to get. This film could be another Avengers… or it could be another Batman and Robin. What do I recommend in this time of great worry and unrest?

12 comments:

  1. Huh I thought I was the only one who used Michael Keaton in the Ben Affleck arguement.

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  2. I, for one, was hyped for Batfleck as the beginning. Apparently most comic book fans haven't seen Argo.

    Also, Scar is Alfred. BE PREPARED, MASTA WAYNE

    - That One Anon

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    1. It says a lot about the Nolan series when I read that Jeremy Irons impression in a Michael Caine voice.
      "Mastah Waine. Ah wos in Africah. Dere wos dis lion. 'E 'adda scah... ouvah his aye. Ah wotched es da oddeh lions... t'rew him into a fieh. Some lions... just wont t' wotch oddeh lions buhn."

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    2. ... I LOVE YOU. *brain hug*

      That wasn't too awkward, was it?

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    3. "Oi got a lovely bunch a coconuts, master Wayne. Big ones, small ones, some the size of a tangerine."

      - That One Anon.

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    4. Someone needs to do redub The Lion King with the audio from the Dark Knight Saga.

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  3. I just personally don't think Affleck is a good idea. I cant forgive him for minimizing the Canadian involvement is Argo to go for a focus group ending, plus his casting reminds me of Ryan Reynolds in that god awful green lantern film. I have no real problem with them casting Interchangeable awkward geek actor number 2 as Luthor since he could probably pull off an origin story as a smug bastard who thinks he's superior to everyone else

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    1. Fair enough. I may disagree, but you raise good points. I kind of wish someone would explain the rationale for disliking Jeremy Irons as Alfred, though. THAT'S the backlash I don't understand.

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    2. What I mean is, there's been less backlash compared to the other cast choices, I just don't get why there's any backlash at all with the casting of Jeremy Irons. Apart from following Michael Caine and the possible characterization.

      ...Never mind, I guess.

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    3. I don't get the Alfred backlash either, Are their better choices?....maybe Christopher Lee but it's not a bad choice for Alfred by any means. Instead of Affleck I think they should have went with Karl Urban myself, he would be an awesome Batman

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    4. The backlash is simple. While Irons is a good actor and has wowed people with performances outside the particular range I am about to speak of. Much of the roles we do see him in are standard villain roles, Simon Gruber, Scar, That Dungeons and Dragons mage, Borgias, you name it. Because we are so used to that, it makes us as a whole audience hesitant that he plays not only one of the good guys without an agenda, but the most well known supporting character in DC history.

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    5. I see. Makes sense. I disagree with the idea that he'd be a bad Alfred (he was wonderful in a non-villainous and semi-Alfredish role in The Merchant of Venice), but I understand where people are coming from now. Thanks!

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