Just a few hours ago, Zack Snyder (director of Man of Steel and its upcoming sequel which will feature cameo appearances by Every DC Superhero You’ve Ever Heard Of) tweeted out this first look at Ben Affleck as Batman. Readers will remember that I had some pretty choice words over at The Nerds of Color in response to early casting news that Gigli was going to be our next Bruce Wayne.
Last August, I wrote:
Upon hearing the news last night, I spent the rest of the evening in a stroke-induced mini-coma. I’ve recovered enough by this morning to move past the incoherent sputtering stage to offer my two cents.
My main concern with Ben freakin‘ Affleck being Batman is that we’re really not too sure which of the Two Faces of Affleck we’ll be getting. On the one hand, we’ve got the Ben Affleck of Argo and The Town, two serious and compelling roles that could easily be described with the words “tour de force” somewhere in the same sentence. In particular, I was blown away by Affleck’s performance in Argo, which single-handedly convinced me that Affleck had at least a teaspoon of talent in there somewhere (possibly tucked away in that over-sized jaw). When armed with a phenomenal script, Affleck is apparently capable of gravitas, which is cause for some optimism.
But then, there’s the Other Face of Ben Affleck. There’s Crappy-Movie-Bonanza-Ben freakin’ Affleck.
Okay, so I take it all back. Kind of.
— Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) May 13, 2014
I’m not saying that Affleck has fully redeemed himself. He’s still got that whole crappy filmography that he did prior to Argo. He still hasn’t proven he can run with his mouth closed.
But, I gotta say it: I’m loving the Batman decisions that are already apparent in this single still. Specifically, it looks like we’ve moved towards a Frank Miller-esque Batman, which — let’s face it — is the perfect thematic direction for the Man of Steel franchise.
In Man of Steel, the Earth was introduced to the concept of superhumans and aliens all in one fell swoop. In Man of Steel 2, early rumours suggested we were going to have a young, brash Superman have to take on an older more seasoned veteran Batman; presumably, this implied that in the Man of Steel universe, Batman had been covertly operating as a costumed vigilante in Gotham before Clark Kent discovered his Krytponian jammies.
Thematically, Man of Steel 2 needs to examine the impact of the coming-out of the world’s first superpowered superhero. This is actually the perfect setting to adapt the ideas of Dark Knight Returns: Nolan & Goyer can explore how the addition of superpowers change our idea of heroism and humanity by introducing a community of superheroes (of whom Superman is the patriarch and leader) and have them help Superman chase down the elusive Batman, whom Superman will think is more criminal than hero because of his shadowy tactics.
Batman, meanwhile, will be threatened by the advancement of both age and this new wave of superpowered heroes, and will be wondering about his own legacy.
If you’re a comic book fan, you know where I’m headed with this: Man of Steel 2 could be a mash-up of elements of Dark Knight Returns with Kingdom Come, with Batman as the de facto villain for much of the film. This would be in the same way that Christopher Nolan successfully merged elements of Knightfall and No Man’s Land to create the story of The Dark Knight (Nolan has producer credit on Man of Steel 2 but as far as I’m concerned, he’s running this show).
If I’m right, this explains the flurry of casting news as DC introduces other superpowered superheroes — Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, etc. — all of whom will make cameo appearances to help populate the superhero community. Meanwhile, Batfleck might well be the first live-action Millerverse Batman.
For me, the hints are in the costume design: the characteristically stubby ears, the squat and wide Bat-symbol on Affleck’s chest, the absence of any sort of oval around the Bat-symbol, the padded utility belt — all are classic design elements of the Millerverse Batman. Finally, Batfleck is standing in front of a Batmobile vehicle very similar to the Nolanverse Tumbler, but itself inspired by the tank-like Batmobile of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.
Maybe I’m reading a lot into a black-and-white picture of a dude in a Batsuit. But, then again, maybe I’m not. Maybe Ben Affleck really did just redeem himself for Man of Steel 2.
I’ll just have to wait until 2016 to see if he’s figured out how to keep his mouth closed when he runs.
Update: Looks like that Snyder confirmed back in February that Man of Steel 2 would be heavily influenced by Dark Knight Returns. Guess I don’t need to turn in my fangirl card if I could tell that from just the still!