Ladies and Gentleman, your new Batman is……

Late last night, I was very surprised to not only discover that the new actor to play Batman had been announced, but that it was Daredevil himself, Ben Affleck. Affleck will assume the role of the Caped Crusader in the new Superman film, a sequel to this year’s disappointing (in my opinion) Man of Steel.

I have always liked Affleck; for a long time I was “Team Ben” in the wholly unnecessary need to choose between Affleck and his long-time friend and collaborator Matt Damon. He seemed like the more “frat-boyish” of the two and at that time that was what appealed to me. I sat through a lot of questionable movies because of my affinity for Affleck and suffered through his questionable relationship with Jennifer Lopez (immortalized in one of my favorite episodes of South Park). My love was so blind that I not only saw Daredevil and kind of liked it, I actually own the film on DVD (though I don’t know that I’ve ever watched it). Though my affection for Affleck softened over time, I was so pleased when he seemed to find himself as a director. I thoroughly enjoyed Gone Baby Gone and The Town and Argo was easily my favorite film of last year. Hindsight proved that Affleck has limitations as an actor and I was totally OK with the idea that he would be behind the camera for the remainder of his career. I knew that he would probably still do the occasional film, but he was finally being taken seriously and had earned the respect of the industry that I thought those roles would be few and far between and would mostly be in smaller films.

And yet….here we are, with Affleck assuming a decidedly not low profile or dramatic role. His venture back into the world of superheroes is even more surprising, given the fact that he had seemed to swear off returning to this type of role after Daredevil. In 2006 Affleck said “By playing a superhero in Daredevil, I have inoculated myself from ever playing another superhero. … Wearing a costume was a source of humiliation for me and something I wouldn’t want to do again soon.” (Thanks to Art for reminding me of the quote) Now people say a lot of things and that may have partially been a reaction to the critical and commercial failure that was Daredevil, but those are still some strong words for someone who 7 years and an additional Oscar later would return to the world of comic book heroes

Strategically, this move just doesn’t make sense to me. Affleck had a lot of momentum with his directing career and while staring in a super hero movie doesn’t necessarily carry a stigma with it, it does seem like a lateral move at best and a step back at worst. Many fine actors have entered the worlds of DC and Marvel comics, but none of them have done so while building a career in directing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with him trying to be both movie star and director, but it could be read as a lack of full commitment to either. I’m guessing that the hope is not that this role will be a one and done guest appearance in another superhero’s movie and if that is the case, heading up a movie franchise is a time commitment that doesn’t leave a lot of free time for directing movies, a time commitment in and of itself.  I am worried that he can’t do both well and if I had to choose for him, I’d choose directing. I’d much rather see 3 Ben Affleck directed movies in the next five years than 3 Ben Affleck acted films.

This is not to say that I think Affleck will be terrible; while I think his talents lay behind the camera and that his acting has inherent limitations, I don’t think he’s a bad actor. Given the right project, he can actually be quite good. He put himself in Argo and other than a gratuitous shirtless shot (not that I’m exactly complaining), he was very good. I think he’ll do an OK job as The Dark Knight, though following Christian Bale is not an enviable task. I don’t think he’ll personally derail the entire franchise; director Zack Snyder might, but I don’t think that Affleck will approach the abomination of Ryan Reynolds and  The Green Lantern. This just isn’t the choice for him that I would have made right now.

Some other thoughts:

  • I’d kind of forgotten about this, but I saw someone online question why they didn’t just pick Joseph Gordon-Levitt to assume the role of Batman, given the ending of The Dark Knight Rises.
  • This casting selections has been good fodder for some jokes, ranging from casting ideas (Matt Damon as Robin or Jennifer Garner as Wonder Woman) to suggested title ideas, given Affleck’s Boston heritage (The Dark Knight Looks Wicked Pissed Off Tonight, I’d Definitely Give Him Some Space, Charlene). Personally, I’m voting for Kevin Smith as The Penguin.

http://flyingfuckinatincan.tumblr.com/

  • Fanboys will have to help me out on this – is there some sort of unspoken thing that actors don’t jump between the Marvel and DC universe?
  • Honestly, Affleck will probably only benefit from sharing screen time with Henry Cavill. The latter is pretty, but I’m not all that positive that he can actually act or that he has any charisma.
  • My one real hope is that we retire the Batman sounding like he gargled with gravel voice. That was all Bale and grew tiresome, plus I don’t even know if Affleck could pull that off.

So while I don’t think that the casting of Affleck will be a train wreck, I can’t say that I 100% support or understand this move for him professionally. Batman is something of an iconic role (again – taking into account that Zack Snyder is involved), but I don’t necessarily think that an iconic role is what Affleck needs right now. For the franchise, it seems that there were other qualified options that didn’t bring the “baggage” of being another superhero (albeit one that is unlikely to be revived) or who wasn’t such a known quantity. It will be interesting to see the pairing of Cavill and Affleck, since there is a sizable age difference there. A young upstart Superman interacting with a more veteran Batman could be an interesting premise. But big picture, this seems to be a step back for Affleck. I think his strengths play more to distinguished director rather than guy in a cape. As handsome as Affleck is, I’d prefer to see less of him on the big screen.

Man of Steel – A Review

With the exception of my fascination with Batman, I am more of a Marvel girl rather than a DC girl when it comes to comics. Even being called a Marvel girl is a bit of a stretch, as I don’t read any of the comics or have any huge investment in the world of superheroes; I enjoy the Marvel movies a lot, but my knowledge of the Marvel universe is primarily limited to what they put on the big screen and the anecdotal information that I’ll pick up from conversations with real fans or from what I read online. But even within my limited working knowledge of superheroes, I have characters and franchises that I am drawn to far more than others. I’m far more interested in the X-Men, Thor and Batman, for example, than I am with what Hulk, Iron Man or Captain America are up to. I prefer the Avengers as a collective to any of their individual story lines. And this may make me a communist, but I really have never had an iota of interest in what Superman is doing. As far as I’m concerned, he’s just kind of around.

My totally disinterest in the man of steel is somewhat ironic, as it was on Christopher Reeve’s Superman that I first cut my teeth in the realm of superheroes. The Superman franchise was my first foray into caped crusaders and while I remember liking the movie – and perhaps having a girlhood crush on Reeve – I don’t think my Superman interest lasted much beyond that first movie. I may or may not have watched Reeve don the blue tights in subsequent installments, but if I did they made no real lasting impression. I never watched the TV shows Lois and Clark or Smallville and I just kind of shrugged at the recent attempt to reboot the franchise with Superman Returns (with Brandon Routh in the titular role). Faster than a speeding bullet, my fascination with Superman disappeared.

So I went into Man of Steel with a pretty apathetic view of Superman; on the one hand, that played to the movie’s advantage as I had no preconceived notions or fangirl anticipation. In fact, as the movie started I realized that I really didn’t know much about Superman and his back story beyond the basics – and admittedly most of that knowledge I picked up from Seinfeld episodes. On the other hand, my general lack of interest in this character meant that I was pre-programmed to engage with the movie; I was going to see it because it was a big summer movie and I typically see all the big summer movies, but beyond that the film was going to have to win me over to the superhero that I generally consider the most boring of the bunch.

Overall, I wasn’t all that impressed with the latest incarnation of Superman; the film was far too impressed with long fight sequences with dazzling special effects at the expense of a clear and understandable story or any semblance of character development. You root for Superman in this movie because you have been conditioned by society to do so, but while Henry Cavill cuts a dashing figure and seems like an amiable fellow, there just isn’t a lot going on with Superman as a character. The imprint of director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) is evident with the prolonged focus on scenes of destruction; I like a good fight scene as much as the next person, but these lasted too long and were too frequent. Man of Steel is a joyless affair; there is no laughter or comedic release in this film and it is all very dark and depressing. While the dark and broody vibe fits Batman just fine, it feels like an odd choice for the man who fights for truth, justice and the American way. Watching the Man of Steel was vaguely entertaining (though a bit confusing), but it just wasn’t a lot of fun.

There were parts of Man of Steel that I did really enjoy; I thought the best and most interesting scenes in the film dealt with Clark Kent’s childhood in Kansas with his adoptive parents (played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). These scenes provided the film its few moments of heart and character study and Costner and Lane did a fantastic job, as did the various actors that played Clark through different stages of his childhood. I was far more interested in these moments, interspersed throughout the film, than I was in anything else that was going on. To me, seeing Clark deal with being different and forging his identity was a more interesting story than watching the destruction of Metropolis (yet another stand in for my beloved New York City). Dare I say it, these glimpses at Clark’s growth into adulthood make the character actually interesting.

Snyder and company, however, are not particularly interested in these quieter moments that provide some actual insight and depth to the characters; they just want to make a mess and blow things up. Fight scenes are an essential part of any superhero movie, of course; there is always some epic showdown of good vs. evil with something as trifling as the fate of humanity on the line. But what the people behind this film don’t seem to realize is that carnage for the sake of carnage loses its luster after a while. After you have watched villains and heroes thrown through buildings and skidding to a halt after leaving a wide cavern in the ground in their wake, you start to get desensitized to the whole thing. The fight scenes all lasted at least 10 minutes too long and ultimately you didn’t feel like much was accomplished except billions of dollars in property damage. The final resolution of these battles is so anticlimactic that it just feels like a lot of time was wasted; at two hours and 20 minutes, Man of Steel felt long and somewhat bloated. A few editing choices would have made a huge difference.

Man of Steel boasts a talented cast, but the story ultimately fails them. I adore Amy Adams, but I didn’t buy her as Lois Lane for one second. Her supposed chemistry with Superman felt unearned and forced. Russell Crowe is giving more to do as Superman’s birth father Jor-El, but is saddled with a lot of exposition that never really made a lot of sense to me. I never really got what exactly was going on with Krypton and therefore was not very invested in the planet’s fate. Christopher Meloni, Richard Schiff and Laurence Fishburne all show up at various points but are given criminally little to do. None of them disappear into their character and while I am always glad to see Meloni pop up, every time he appeared I immediately thought “hey everybody – it’s Detective Stabler!” Henry Cavill was far too dreamy for me to give you a fair critique of his performance; he didn’t seem to be much more than an empty vessel, but I was far too interested in just drinking him in to say that I was fully paying attention to determine whether the shortcomings came from his performance or from how the story was written (I’m guessing it was a mixture of the two). The only real emotion the film conjured up for me was extreme disappointment when Cavill opted for the more clean cut look befitting the Man of Steel; I definitely dug him more with the facial hair. *sighs dreamily* Wait….what were we just talking about?

beard cavill

The one particular bright spot in Man of Steel was Michael Shannon, who I really like as an actor and I thought made the villain General Zod intense and believable. Shannon is cursed (or blessed, depending on how you look at it) with an inherent creepiness factor; I’m sure he is a very nice man, but his appearance brings a bit of a sinister vibe to his performances. It works in this case – General Zod could have become very campy in the hands of another actor with all the yelling and speechifying, but Shannon grounds the performance and makes for a very satisfying bad guy.

Some other thoughts:

  • I like to consider myself a pretty smart person, but I found a lot of the plot of Man of Steel confusing. I never quite understood the whole business with the codex; this film really doubles down on the more intergalactic elements of the Superman story, which has never been one of my strong suits.
  • This movie is not at all subtle about their product placement and sponsorship deals – funny how an entire section of town can be destroyed, yet the signs for 7-11 and Sears not only remain completely intact, but in the background of just about every shot. As I became bored with the too long fighting sequences, I couldn’t stop noticing this in the background.
  • This isn’t a movie for small kids – a fact that many of the people at our screening apparently didn’t know or didn’t care about. One poor little guy started crying almost immediately when the movie started because he was scared. The previews sent mixed messages as to the target audience – we went from clips for Despicable Me 2 right into a trailer for the new 300 movie, which was absolutely not kid friendly. Parents beware.
  • When we left the theater, we witnessed an adorable sight: a father and little daughter walking around the mall in matching Superman/girl costumes. It was really cute, though I hoped that he wasn’t taking her to see the film for the reason above. She couldn’t have been more than 4.
  • During the last fight scene, there are references to another Superman character sprinkled in the background. I assume that character will come into play in the sequels.
  • We didn’t opt of the 3-D or IMAX experience; I think some of those action scenes would have given me a headache in 3-D.
  • If this film makes it cool to wear Kansas City Royals t-shirts, it will have really accomplished something.
  • Possible spoiler – I don’t understand why Earth had to become the new Krypton – if they were going to have to change Earth’s atmosphere anyway to make it hospitable to their life form, why couldn’t they just pick any old planet – preferably one that didn’t already have inhabitants? I know – there would be no movie then – but that just seemed like poor storytelling.
  • They couldn’t have sprung for some diapers when they shipped little Kal-El off to Earth? That poor little baby actor was on full display.
  • No need to stay after the credits – there are no bonus scenes (and if you don’t believe your favorite pop culture blogger, you can ask the kids that clean up the theater for their confirmation)

Man of Steel isn’t a bad movie, but it just isn’t all that enjoyable either. Not all superhero movies have to be as fun as The Avengers, but if you are going to make a serious movie you need to improve upon the character development and plot. The Batman movies had little humor in them, but they took the time to create interesting people and stories to watch. Man of Steel has doubled down on the special effects, but didn’t take the time to build a solid foundation for the movie before they decided to destroy it. Man of Steel feels like more work than it should be and we ultimately left the theater underwhelmed.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends– Lots of videos edition

Happy Wednesday! The sun is actually shining today, which gives me hope that the rain is behind us for a while. I was so over the dreariness. The good news about all the rain is that it gave me plenty of time to hole up and surf the web in search of pop culture stories to share with you, my dear readers. I found more videos of interest than usual, so this week is more audio/visual heavy than usual. Why read when you can just click a button and watch? Enjoy your biweekly roundup of all things pop!

  • The Dumb and Dumber sequel that would reunite Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels has been dropped by Warner Brothers. Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly are shopping the project to other companies. Countdown until the inevitable Kickstarter?
  • Congrats to Kate Winslet on her pregnancy. This will be her third child, her first with new husband Ned Rocknroll (still the best name ever).
  • Johnny Depp is FIFTY! How the f*&k did that happen?
  • A new trailer has been released for the next Hobbit movie:

 

  • Also recently released – a trailer for the newest Woody Allen movie Blue Jasmine. Look – It’s Louis CK!

 

  • Happy belated birthday to the wonderful Peter Dinklage. He turned 44 yesterday. I could watch this scene of him slapping Joffrey all day long.

Tyrion_slaps_Joffrey

  • That was quick – after a solid opening weekend, The Purge is getting a sequel.
  • The guy who plays Hodor (Hodor!) on Game of Thrones is also a DJ.
  • What’s that you say? Baseball and boy bands? You have my attention.

 

  • Laraine Newman and company nail this Girls parody:

 

  • Bob Saget couldn’t help but stop by a familiar location while on a trip to San Francisco

proxy

  • True Blood returns for its 6th season on Sunday. Here’s to hoping that it’s better than last season; as you may recall, I was not too impressed.

 

  • The new season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee drops tomorrow at noon:

 

I didn’t watch the Tonys – Game of Thrones and Mad Men own my Sunday nights – but looks like I missed a hell of a show.

 

Note to Seth MacFarlane – THAT is how you host an awards show. Full slate of winners (and the shows that are now impossible to get tickets to) can be found here.

  • Attention all Juggalos – Insane Clown Posse is getting their own show. I’ll admit – the episode of their webseries that I saw was kind of amusing.
  • The band Portugal. The Man scored some familiar faces (if you are a It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan) for their newest short:

 

  • Speaking of It’s Always Sunny – if you ever wondered what the guys were saying backwards in the end credits each season, wonder no more:

 

  • I love these covers of songs from Bob’s Burgers. This one is by The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt and it’s great.
  • Looks like I’m planning a trip to DC this fall – An Anchorman exhibit opens at the Newsuem in November.
  • Warner Brothers gave up their rights to Friday the 13th and South Park for a piece of the new Christopher Nolan movie.
  • Samuel L. Jackson reads the iconic “I am the one that knocks” monologue from Breaking Bad. My head just exploded.

 

  • This is kind of cool: Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” reimagined in different musical styles through the decades:

 

  • One thing Kanye ain’t lacking is confidence, as evidenced by this New York Times article with the self-proclaimed “visionary.” The most ridiculous quotes are here.
  • The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Scott Thorson (Liberace’s Ex) about HBO’s Behind the Candelabra (a must see – Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are fantastic and you have to see Rob Lowe to believe it).
  • If you missed it, Google had a wonderful Google Doodle earlier this week honoring the late great Maurice Sendak:

 

  • Look for Alvin and the Chipmunks 4 in 2015. Shows how much I know – I didn’t even know that there had already been 3 movies.
  • Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) has joined the cast of the live action reimagined Cinderella.
  • While waiting for a Green Day concert to start, an Bohemian Rhapsody sing-a-long broke out:

 

  • A Christmas Story, the Musical returns to New York this holiday season (but not on Broadway).
  • Singer Jon Marco isn’t famous, but he’s trying to make a name for himself with a video that features recreations of several 80s movies. Not so sure about the song, but I’ll give him points for creativity.

 

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • I refuse to tire of these Daft Punk mashups. This one is with moments from the Bill and Ted’s franchise:

 

  • Sex and the City debuted 15 years ago last week. To celebrate, here is a mashup of all the guest stars on the show (I remember almost none of them).
  • Spoilers abound in this Princess Bride/Game of Thrones mashup, so proceed with caution:

 

  • Mad Men reacts to the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones (SPOILERS – but seriously – that episode was almost two weeks ago. Catch up already)

 

  • A supercut of all the fake websites on Arrested Development:

 

  • A mashup of animals who can’t handle mirrors:

 

And finally, these supercuts of NBC’s Brian Williams make me giggle uncontrollably. Damn you Fallon – you’ve done it again:

  • Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”

 

  • Warren G’s “Regulate:”

 

  • The pièce de résistance– NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton”

 

Have a great day!