For 30 years I’ve stood proudly with Batman fans. We’re a loyal crew, and by that I mean we’ve read the comics, supported the highs and lows of each Caped Crusader incarnation, and refused to abandon our beloved Knight. If we didn’t let Schwarznegger’s embarrassing Mr. Freeze give us cold feet, there can be no storm we won’t weather, right? That’s exactly why we fans were so nervous a couple years ago– the forecast of a looming Megastorm, possibly the one that would be our end. We got word that Christian Bale, the same man that had saved our H.M.S. Gotham from the destructive Typhoon “Schumacher”, was now passing along the proverbial Batarang. Yikes. Say it ain’t so.
“An unknown actor, please.”, we collectively prayed. “A Shakespearean golden boy, a discount Mark Ruffalo, or anyone without a shred of past failure to cast doubt on the future of our vessel. ”
“Who? Ben-who? Affleck? ”
NO. It couldn’t be. Surely this was a Twitter rumor, because if it’s true, it’s a death sentence. Pundits concurred, this was an odd twist to the legacy Heath Ledger and Michael Caine had toiled to resurrect. Affleck wasn’t qualified to carry the torch, his portrayal of Daredevil had been disowned by the Marvel Universe, cast into the pile of Wal-Mart $5 DVD’s that included Eric Bana’s Hulk, and even Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher. Ben’s career had sorely learned at least the lessons of his movies like Phantoms, the Jack Ryan reboot and Gigli. That he’s not an action star, he’s not a superhero, and he didn’t date Jennifer Lopez for her intellect. He’d just finally redeemed his worth with superb films like Argo, Gone Girl, and The Town. He found his formula, and for sure it wasn’t rubber and spandex, that’s J-Lo’s thing. He was safe again, so why sail off a cliff?
Loyal crewmen like us don’t abandon our posts with news of an impending storm, we go down with the ship. So with a deep breath, we waited, prepared, and hoped only to survive the ordeal. When I saw the film the night before it opened, I still carried with me the dreadful anticipation of unwanted paternity results. On the one hand, I could finally see The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight together in vibrant 3-D, but on the other, there’s a good chance Matt Murdock might blindly crash the boat. That’s when something fantastically unpredictable happened, at least for me. Critics now seem to share a loathing for the film overall, and moviegoers (not crew, mind you), seem split at best. That’s not the unpredictable thing. What was Bizarro for me, is that storm had come, the ship had suffered damage, yet miraculously emerged alive and breathing, even if barely, and it hadn’t even been Hurricane Ben at all. The destructive force turned out to be an overall failure of a studio itself, burdening our destination with a dangerous overload of cargo. They were trying to desperately catch up to the flagship, USS Marvel, so they crammed the equivalent of six solo film’s exposition of content into a treasure chest sized movie that was supposed to be the opus of Wayne vs. Kal-El . I’m still proud of the movie, and can’t wait to see it again, but I’m a veteran of the crew, and my loyalty outweighs my proper judgement. I’m only willing to concede it’s shortcomings to justify the real story of triumph.–a recommendation for the medal of valor to the ship’s savior, our new leader, Captain Batfleck. The hero that had single-handedly rescued our vessel from demise was the same man we feared may be its Ahab. Smell the irony? That’s what blew me away.
Affleck managed to bring a passion to the role that combined layers of true Bruce Wayne life experience with the bold outlook of a newcomer. When given the chance to wear it on his face from behind the mask, he nailed it. He brought with his expressions both the weight of the orphaned Bruce Wayne’s nightmarish childhood, and the look of an actor who felt the collective importance of what might be a terrible career choice. It worked. He took it as seriously as anything in his resume thus far, maybe more, despite what must have been an internal conflict with the convoluted script. He couldn’t change the mission, only dedicate himself to leading it. Poetically, it seems that if there had been more Ben, and less studio driven, Justice League set-up bullcrap, we wouldn’t be trying to pull his performance from the wreckage of The Gotham, but pinning the medal to his rubber suit. For now, I’m not trying to compare or rank his Batman against Christian Bale’s, the current fan favorite, but trying to give Ben the chance to perform the duties he has earned with distinction, to say that he has defied the accusations of incompetence, and suggest that he alone now owns the Batsuit and the prospect of its future. What he chooses to do with it next is his executive privilege. He’s the crew’s true leader, he’s my captain, and I trust him to bring us home safely.