When you think about it, the furore that surrounded Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman not so long ago can probably be pinned down to the fact that some of his earlier film work didn’t match up to the catastrophically lofty expectations that fans of Batman movies will inevitably place on the star of their favourite property.
He might be on a high now, but Bat-fans will never forget his the bad moments – the Giglis and the Paychecks – that gave him an unwanted, and often unwarranted bad name. For Affleck, occasionally, he will only be as good as his worst films, and Batman needs to be a paragon of virtue, and an island of cool. Gigli does not fit that image.
But this won’t be the first time that Batman actors have been associated with awfully bad movies that should have been beneath someone of the calibre needed to play the Dark Knight. Over the seven screen iterations of the character – starting with the earliest serials – there have been some magnificent missteps, all of which combine to unconsciously ruin your image of Batman actors.
Incidentally, it would be rather unfair to include the first ever screen Batman – Lewis Wilson – because the Batman serials of the 1940s were his career highlight, and he probably over-achieved to be in them, which at least partially accounts for why that particular Batman had the waist-line of Val Kilmer after it all went horribly wrong (which was artfully “concealed” by the highest utility belt in the history of Batman films…)
The film that infamously reduced the hugely important historical flashpoint of Pearl Harbour to being a background distraction to one of the most painfully bland love triangles almost single-handedly destroyed Ben Affleck’s chances of being a good choice for Batman for a significant number of Bat-fans well before he even pulled on the black cowl and cape.
It was over-long, terribly written and just as badly directed with a typically unself-aware arrogance by Michael Bay, and though Ben Affleck had established himself as a good (though not yet great) actor, it diluted his appeal to a near fatal degree, giving him a rather unfortunate toxic label (along with Gigli.)
The actor was clearly aware of the impact of his bad film choices, since he explicitly thanked Hollywood for having given him a second chance when he picked up his Argo Oscar, and while his recent work (particularly in the director’s chair) has mended his image for a lot of people, as soon as he was confirmed as the new Batman, the only thing some of the more venomous critics could say was “what, the Pearl Harbour star?!”
This article was first posted on November 24, 2013