When it was announced that Ben Affleck would be playing The Dark Knight in Batman v Superman, the internet let out a collective groan. The cause of this angst was Affleck’s earlier superhero outing as Daredevil in 2003, which was universally hated. The movie boasts a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but probably deserves an even lower score. Compared to the recent roster of superhero films — basically everything since Robert Downey, Jr. donned the Iron Man suit (2008) — Daredevil is, by any measure, a smoldering career embarrassment that smells like somebody took a dump in the red suit.
Honest Trailers does a really good job skewering the movie. You can watch it below then continue reading why we should still hold out hope for a Batman standalone adventure.
What Batfleck Got Right
Prior to filming Batman v Superman, Affleck got into Bat-Shape by doing some serious workouts and dieting to achieve his look. Affleck wanted to mirror the appearance of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. This wouldn’t be a small, lean Batman, but rather a hulking slab of muscle who’d dominate the criminals he sought to stop and pound them into submission.
In order to reach his ideal, Affleck secured the services of two personal trainers, Walton Norton Jr. and Jamie Damon (the latter being Matt Damon’s kin). Affleck focused on muscle building exercises to get bulky. His routine emphasized upper body work with free weights to build out his shoulders. He used plenty of heavy weight exercises — bench press, military press, pull ups and bicep curls. Pretty soon, Batfleck was rocking that wedged superhero look from the comic books.
Initially focused only on building mass, Affleck switch to getting ripped towards the beginning of filming. Affleck used a cutting routine to shred his body, increasing the amount of cardio he did combined with more heavy lifting. This was a different approach to Christian Bale when he trained for Batman Begins. There’s a famous story about Bale showing up to meet Chris Nolan early on in the Batman recruitment process, having put on 60 pounds to play Batman. Bale apparently looked like a bear, but Nolan wanted Bale to be leaner, more athletic looking. Bale being Bale was able to shed the pounds, get ripped and the rest is movie history.
Affleck’s Batmobile is an all-out armored tank. The Tumbler established a very high benchmark for a modern Batmobile. That version was notable for Chris Nolan’s commitment to realism. The Tumbler could actually drive at high speeds and even perform some jumps.
The car from BvS does look pretty formidable and comes armed with some serious firepower. The Batmobile is reminiscent of the vehicle from RockSteady’s Arkham Knight game, released in June, 2015. In this fourth installment of the Arkham game series, the Batmobile could be driven for the first time and became a key aspect of the gameplay mechanics as well as a speedy way to get around Gotham versus ziplining or gliding with your cape.
Zach Snyder who directed BvS, wanted a Batmobile that was more representative of Batman’s psyche. This Batmobile seems to combine the armored practicality and firepower of Nolan’s military grade Tumbler, with the Batman flair of the original Tim Burton Batmobile. The vehicle is unique to Batman. It couldn’t really belong to anybody else. It’s a driveable version of Batman’s inner psychology. It’s an exercise in aggressive intimidation and domination through firepower.
The Batmobile in BvS was designed by Dennis McCarthy and Patrick Tatopoulos. The vehicle, according to Cinemablend, is 20 feet in length and 12 feet wide at the back. Machines guns are mounted on the front, much like the Burton Batmobile and the car sports a grappling hook it can fire out the back, giving it the ability to drag people and objects along for a bumpy ride. This is put to good use in one of the more memorable scenes from BvS.
Snyder entertains Conan O’Brien with inside information on the Batmobile in BvS below.
Everybody Was ‘Batman’ Fighting
When the Official Final Trailer released, we got to see Batman fighting for the first time on celluloid just like he fights in the comics. The scene was a revelation. This was no ordinary actor in a rubber suit. This was a highly trained martial artist, a trained ninja, with a big bag of Bat Tricks at his disposal and the knowledge to use them.
The action sequence showcased in the trailer occurs towards the end of the movie. We’ve waited the entire film to see this fight and it pays off. Armed criminals are all fixated on a door, waiting for Batman to appear through it so that they can blow his head off with their guns. The floor suddenly caves in and Batman flies up through it using his grappling hook. We see Bats grab a machine gun by the barrel and lift the gun man holding it right over his head before heavily slamming him into the floor. He takes on three baddies in quick succession, blocking, striking, then grabbing another assailant and flinging them across the floor into a wooden palette. Bats does a parkour jump over a wooden crate, grabbing and slamming another gunman as he moves. Bats then smashes one man into a plaster wall before slamming another head first into the floor. Yeah, that guy’s definitely dead. His neck was broken. I could watch this Batman kick people’s asses all day!
The scene beautifully shows how this Batman combines technology and expert martial arts to take down multiple baddies. Outside of the Rocksteady Arkham series with its addictive freeflow combat, you can’t get more of a badass Batman than this.
You can see a sample of the fight scene at the beginning of the final trailer below:
I count Batfleck’s suit as the 10th one to appear on the silver screen.
- Lewis Wilson (1943)
2) Adam West (1966)
3) Michael Keaton (1989 and 1992)
4) Val Kilmer – introduction of anatomically correct “Bat nipples” (1995)
5, 6, 7) George Clooney (1997)
8, 9) Christian Bale (2005, 2008, 2012)
10) Batfleck (2016)
Affleck’s bat suit is clearly inspired by Frank Miller’s 1986 sensational The Dark Knight Returns. Both his regular suit and Kryptonite suit are borrowed heavily from this source material.
The suit was designed to be intimidating, but it’s also quite practical. While every Batsuit from the Tim Burton/Keaton suit through to the first Nolan/Bale suit seemed to offer impractical head-turning capabilities which were actually corrected as part of the plot of The Dark Knight, Batfleck’s suit seems quite flexible.
The BvS Batsuit was designed by Michael Wilkinson who described Affleck’s Batman as “strong and a little intimidating and scary, he’s a real brawler, there’s nothing precious about his Bruce Wayne. He rolls up his sleeves and gets it done”. The Batsuit was designed to reflect this inner psychology.
The BvS Batsuit is also notable for its relatively subtle Bat symbol on his chest. Again, borrowed largely from the Frank Miller graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, this is way more conservative, and practical, than the bright yellow chestplate of Michael Keaton’s Batman. Added bonus, no anatomically correct Bat nipples. (FU Schumacher)
It makes sense though, right? You’re a famous playboy millionaire. You don’t want people guessing the identity of the man behind the mask based simply on your voice. You practice modifying it. The trouble is, now you have to maintain this gravelly annoying voice all the time you’re Batman and it slowly gets on everybody’s nerves. There’s a very funny take on this from College Humor. Please watch it.
Batfleck dispensed with the gravel voice and had his own more restrained take. He doesn’t sound like Bruce Wayne, but he’s not raspy on every line either. Batfleck offers a good compromise between heroic Batman voice and just being Bruce Wayne.
Ironically, the best Batman voice doesn’t come from a multi-million dollar Hollywood movie at all. Most Bat Fans agree that that definitive “Batman voice” belongs to Kevin Conroy. Conroy voiced Bats in the Batman: The Animated Series as well as the Rocksteady Arkham video games. Kevin Conroy’s voice was also voted number one in an MTV poll. It’s strong, gravelly and smooth. It exudes heroic “Bat-ness.”
Batfleck’s outing as The Dark Knight had other plus points. Alfred‘s character has been getting more kick-ass as the modern Batman stories have evolved. Starting with Michael Caine assuming the role in Batman Begins, Alfred became a character in his own right, rather than just Bruce Wayne’s man servant (that just sounds wrong).
In BvS, Alfred, played by Jeremy Irons, brought acting chops and a great characterization to this version. Alfred here gets involved in the action, albeit remotely, and takes on more of a quartermaster or perhaps squire role to Batman’s Dark Knight. At other points during the narrative, Alfred also functions as Batman’s conscience. He’s what remains of a vigilante’s humanity.
According to The Guardian newspaper, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirmed that there would be a standalone Batman movie starring Ben Affleck. Batfleck would direct and star in the movie.
As a fan, I’m no longer scared of Batfleck ruining Batman. Sure, BvS was not the movie I’d hoped for and they rushed to get the two comic titans into a film together when they probably should have had the patience to set up another Superman movie and a standalone Batman movie BEFORE body slamming the two characters together.
Affleck has demonstrated his skills as a screenwriter and director multiple times now. Having him helm the entire Batman standalone movie makes me a lot more comfortable than letting Snyder hack away at it one more time. Snyder used to make tight, well-directed movies, but he’s fallen in love with the “Big Show” and we may never get that guy back again. There was a lot to like in the BvS version of Batman specifically as I’ve hopefully outlined above.
I look forward to Batfleck continuing to evolve the role, pulling on the Batsuit again, jumping in his Batmobile and kicking some ass.
Updated information on the standalone Batman movie
There has been a lot of talk about directors associated with other DC standalone projects bailing from them. Seth Grahame-Smith, whose previous credits include Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, has left the production of the new The Flash movie. Likewise, James Wan, connected with the standalone Aquaman movie, may also be out.
Batman V Superman has earned a gigantic $862,932,593 at the box office, as of the writing of this update. While impressive, this total is eclipsed by a new IP called Zootopia which charmed audiences and hit a home run. Deadpool is #3 on the worldwide box office charts, but nobody expected it to do that well. Expectations for BvS were super high and the movie pretty much crash landed after its initial stratospheric opening weekend. The second weekend take saw a massive drop. This fact is causing a big shake up among the planned Justice League of America roll-out.
The one bright light, comes from a Bat Signal sent up by the Warner Brothers’ CEO at the end of March, who confirmed Batfleck will be in a new standalone Batman movie. No word yet on a release date, but the supposition on what will be found in that movie has begun. According to Devin Faraci, his sources have told him that there will be a “rogues gallery” making their appearance in the movie.
This could mean we see a bunch of cameos of Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler and the Joker (who’s about to make an appearance in Suicide Squad). Apparently, Batfleck and Geoff Johns want to make the definitive Batman film. That’s a pretty high bar. I thought Nolan already made that film with The Dark Knight (2008) which boasts a Rotten Tomatoes score of 94%. Still, good luck, Batfleck!