Warner Brothers had the gravy train with biscuit wheels. They’d been handed a Christopher Nolan trilogy, and a revived Superman movie. Marvel had a better plan and better execution of their films, in fact, Marvel hasn’t made a bad movie yet. But if you wanted that epic, massive superhero film you knew it was going to be Warner Brothers.
Sometimes the machine didn’t work.
But when it did, my God it was fantastic.
Man of Steel wasn’t perfect, but as a first film in a franchise, it was more compelling and more polished than Batman Begins, a film overrated for some good ideas, and a methodical approach. Now that the Big Two were taken care of it was Warner Brothers chance get their characters going. Would we see a Justice League movie? Was society ready for a proper Wonder Woman movie, with her warrior nature intact? Well, Warner Brothers decided to play it safe and do an onscreen version of the World’s Finest.
Their new Batman?
In a 13 picture deal, because there’s nothing like making a mistake and linking the most popular character in all of comics to a guy whose acting range only lets him convincingly play goofballs from Boston. Plus, there wasn’t anyone available that could play Batman. I mean really, where were you going to find an intense male actor in his 30’s or 40’s in Hollywood? (Michael Shannon? Josh Brolin? Jon Hamm? Karl Urban? Michael Shannon?)
It is lazy writing to explain that Affleck played Daredevil who is also known as Blind, Red Batman. No, I take that back. It is lazy writing only if you didn’t see Daredevil, where Affleck starred as the most useless and outmatched protagonist since Roger Moore’s James Bond in Live and Let Die. The Daredevil thing is very important, because it protects us against the false equivalency argument that is inevitably going to come from the Internet Devil’s Advocate (IDA).
IDA: But didn’t the Internet freak out over Michael Keaton as Batman, Heath Ledger as the Joker, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and so on? And weren’t they wrong.
Me: This is why the Ben Affleck situation is different. Daredevil. He had a dry run as Batman and he sucked. If Anne Hathaway had just come off a role where she played Wonder Woman’s enemy Cheetah and she stunk up the screen, well then you’d have a point. But we have quantifiable proof that he’s not cut out for this sort of role.
The saddest thing? Warner Brothers had a decent year. Man of Steel, Great Gatsby, Conjuring, Pacific Rim, 42, We’re the Millers not a bad run. Even failures like Jack the Giant Slayer and Bullet to the Head are defensible. But moves like this kill their momentum.
While making Ben Affleck the new Batman in DC’s attempt at a Cinematic Universe may well be the worst idea since Greedo shooting first (see what I did there?), I can’t really fault Ben Affleck for wanting the iconic role, or for accepting the boatload of money that comes with it. The fault for this debacle is all on Warner Brothers, and it is yet another example of why I think their movie universe will fail.
There’s already the problem of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy being completely ignored, even though there’s not much that can be done about that, since that’s the way he wants it. There’s also the problem of Green Lantern dropping a deuce in theaters in 2011, but even that can be fixed, as we saw with the Hulk film. I’ll also submit to public will regarding Man of Steel, even though I think Snyder ruined a lot of the things that made Superman such a cool character. (He broke Zod’s neck and ruined Metropolis – I don’t need much to make the case that the character is broken now.)
No, the problem can be traced to one simple thing: Warner’s aversion to risk. They are attempting to guarantee box office victory with these films – something that simply can’t be done.
Kevin Feige knew he was risking everything by trying to bring the Avengers to the screen. He knew we had to be introduced to Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man. He knew he had to redeem the Hulk before we would accept him in the new movie. He knew which heroes couldn’t carry their own film, but would work in the films of the big three. And he was smart enough to recognize SHIELD’s potential to bring the disparate stories together. Every move was meticulously crafted, and the gambles paid off big time.
Warner Brothers is in a much better position to do the same thing with the DC Universe. See, Unlike Marvel, who sold most of their most lucrative properties off piecemeal before realizing it’s a way better idea to make the films themselves, Warner owns the DC Universe, lock stock and barrel. There’s no Sony to make an emo Spider-Man, no Universal to turn the Hulk into a soap opera, and no Fox to make a shitty Wolverine movie, or turn Galactus into a freaking space cloud. They can do whatever they want to do, and they can utilize all of their franchise players to make it happen – as they have done consistently with their animated series. (Batman:The Animated Series, Superman:The Animated Series, Justice League, even Teen Titans are all proof of the potential.)
Instead, Warner continues to fuck up the best thing they have going, clumsily following Marvel’s lead when they could easily own them.
The reason for this could not be clearer: There is no Kevin Feige at Warner Brothers, no true comic book guy who understands the genre. Chris Nolan, for all his genius, is not a true comic book guy, as evidenced by him not reigning Snyder in enough (“Fine, Superman destroys a city and kills a guy – Lemme get back to counting my money!!!!”). The executives there don’t understand how to turn a comic book universe into a cinematic universe. Period.
If they did, there would not be a rush to put out Batman vs. Superman as the first movie in a shared franchise, as this gives us no time to understand why these two completely distinct (and grossly mismatched) characters and their worlds are being brought together – and given laughably equal billing.
Ultimately, the decision to hire Ben Affleck is a lot like the discovery that your wife is sleeping with the mailman – it’s not the root cause, but merely a symptom of a larger problem at the studio.
Here’s hoping they fix it, before the fans ask for a divorce.