The planned "Man of Steel" sequel doesn't have a title, but it does have a hashtag, #Batlash--and now the obligatory fan petitions, too. Yes, the online world's knee-jerk response to Ben Affleck's just-announced casting as Batman in director Zack Snyder's and producer Christopher Nolan's upcoming Batman vs. Superman epic was as knee-jerk responses go just about the knee-jerkiest.
"NOOOO," wrote one aggrieved Tweeter.
"NO GOD NO...NOOOO," opined another.
"Noooo! Not Ben Affleck! F--- YOU ARGO!," and you get the idea.
The basic gripe, it would seem: Affleck, while fine as a respected filmmaker of Oscar-winning films, i.e., "Argo," was a lousy star of popcorn movies, in general, and of superhero movies, in particular, i.e., "Daredevil." (As a side note: Affleck's work as Superman in "Hollywoodland" is driving less of the fury because, one, Affleck wasn't playing Superman as much as he was playing actor George Reeves, and, two, Affleck is quite good in "Hollywoodland.")
And so the backlash is off and running--and wrong. Here's why:
1. Nolan seems to know what he's doing. If you would give the benefit of the casting doubt to any producer, you would give it to the filmmaker behind arguably the greatest Batman movie of all, "The Dark Knight." (That is, you would do this if you weren't on a certain social media site...)
2. Twitter is not exactly known for its calm, reasoned thinking. It's time to take a breath, a step back and perhaps a visit to a site with a more level-headed approach to matters of global import. You know, like, Reddit. (And, seriously, the Affleck discussions on Reddit read a tad less doom-y and gloom-y.)
3. Affleck wouldn't implode his career twice. The man cried at the Oscars. He knows where he was after "Gigli." He knows he climbed out of an abyss. He did not just announce his plan to star in "Daredevil 2" or "Surviving Christmas: New Year's Eve."
4. At first glance, name-brand stars rarely seem right as superheroes. And that's why the likes of Christopher Reeve, Henry Cavill and, to a degree, Christian Bale, who was well-known, but not Affleck-well-known, work so well in capes--it takes less effort for us to suspend our disbelief. Believe this: If Twitter was around when Michael Keaton was cast as Tim Burton's Batman, things would've gotten just as overheated. (Exhibit A: A 1988 letter to the Los Angeles Times, "Mr. Mom as Batman?") Lesson learned: Try to reserve judgment until you actually see the film (or at least the teaser clip at Comic-Con).
5. Affleck isn't the Affleck of old, he's old now. By which we mean he's 40-plus--41, to be exact, as of today. This makes him easily the oldest actor to be cast as an on-screen Caped Crusader, and this makes the choice interesting. The age factor also makes Affleck a good fit (and foe) for Cavill, who although a relative youngster of 30, put the "man" back in Superman in "Man of Steel." In any case, there's enough here to warrant a let's-see-what-we-got-here approach.
6. You should've seen this coming. The fanboy press was reporting on Affleck's possible Batman ambitions as far back as the Oscars. Really, some of you should've worked through your "NOOOO" phase by now.
7. Two words: Robert. Pattinson. Don't laugh, don't scoff and don't go off on how the "Twilight" movies sucked. The "Twilight" franchise was a phenomenon--it worked and it worked, in part, because of Pattinson, who, oh, by the way, was the subject of petitions and the cause of much hair-pulling and exclamation point-using when he was cast as Edward Cullen. The Pattinson example could be swapped out here for any other number of casting outrages that turned out just fine (i.e,. Vivien Leigh in "Gone With the Wind," Tom Cruise in "Interview With the Vampire," and, yes, Keaton in Batman). Your first impression is not always right. In fact, sometimes it's quite wrong.