How can you be a good Batman in a bad Batman movie? This is the question Ben Affleck must be asking himself after critics gave Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice the kind of mauling superhero movies haven't been used to since the last time Matt Damon's bezzie mate pulled on a silly suit for Daredevil.
*Warning: this piece contains spoilers*
For the caped crusader is very much not part of the problem with Snyder's followup to Man of Steel. While Affleck's take on the dark knight might not be quite up there with Christian Bale's grim-faced gold standard, it's hardly the kind of performance which almost killed George Clooney's Hollywood career in Joel Schumacher's much-maligned 1997 effort Batman & Robin, and should set Affleck up well for solo outings. Here's why.
Batfleck has the required fear factor
Ben Affleck's Batman is huge. Snyder wanted a monstrous caped crusader with the physical threat to look like he could take down a virtual deity, and Affleck bulked up his 6 ft 4“ frame so impressively that he barely squeezes into the cape and cowl.
This is also a mean, cruel son of Gotham who's been cleaning scum of the streets of Gotham for so long that he no longer has much sympathy for the devil. Batman has taken to branding his criminal victims with the bat sign before they're carted off to prison, a move we're told usually makes them an immediate target for murderous fellow inmates. You really wouldn't want to meet this guy on a dark night.
His Bruce Wayne is the perfect bully boy jock
Affleck plays the billionaire businessman like an older version of Shannon Hamilton, the bully boy clothing store manager from Kevin Smith's Mallrats. To be short: he's something of a jerk, targeting Superman out of a blind sense of guilt over his own failings and at one point making sexually suggestive comments to an attractive young socialite who turns out to be Wonder Woman - you know, only the greatest feminist icon in comic books - in disguise. It's a total bum move, but nevertheless serves to establish that this is a Wayne who's really not all that nice - and is all the more interesting for it.
The Dark Knight Returns mech-suit
Zack Snyder wasn't kidding when he said Dawn of Justice would riff heavily on Frank Miller's classic 1986 graphic novel, one of the three totems of modern comic book Batman alongside Miller's own Batman: Year One and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. Batfleck's mech-suit bulks him up to even more impressive stature, making Iron Man from rival studio Marvel look like Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz by comparison. And unlike the comic, Snyder's caped crusader has no need to ask for help from Green Arrow to unleash kryptonite on poor unsuspecting Superman.
He and Alfred make a great double act
Wayne's elderly aide has morphed radically from his big screen appearances in the Tim Burton era as a gentle butler, played by Michael Gough, to the ex-military confidante and surrogate father portrayed by Michael Caine in the Dark Knight trilogy. But the Batfleck version is far more involved still, guiding the caped crusader remotely via high-tech infra red video mapping technology which allows him to see exactly what Bats faces around the next corner. It's a neat update, and new Alfred Jeremy Irons has some wicked chemistry with Affleck as he nonchalantly saves the dark knight's bacon for the umpteenth time.
The new Batman has a penchant for crazy dream sequences
Remember that weird bit in the trailer with strange “S”-branded military types bowing down to a Nazi-style Superman? It turns out this was just a product of Batfleck's fevered brain as he copes with the concept of a godlike being who left a trail of death and destruction in his wake in Man of Steel. Such far-out confections hardly help Batman v Superman itself to be any less muddled, but there's already evidence that dream sequences could be Warner/DC's ingenious take on the end credit sequences which rival Marvel uses to introduce comic book Easter Eggs. Perhaps Affleck can smooth out the concept's rough edges when he directs himself in a solo Batman outing in a few years' time.
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