Every little boy wants to be Batman. But why? His parents were murdered in front of him, he was raised by a fucking butler, and his job is to continually incarcerate the clinically insane in an “asylum” whose mental health services seem medieval at best. I guess there’s the part about being a billionaire with lots of neat toys, but those pleasures seem like they’d wear thin pretty fast when you’re also a goth vigilante with intimacy issues who serves as an extrajudicial tool of the incompetent police state.
If you don’t believe me, ask Ben Affleck, who wants out of the role after two dreadful films (Batman v Superman, Justice League) and an uncredited appearance in Suicide Squad.
It’s true that Affleck has a way of ruining awesome shit — like cigarettes, or dating Jennifer Lopez, or Total Request Live. But the Batman thing is not his fault. Batman is and always has been garbage. Christian Bale looks happier putting on 100 pounds to play goddamn Dick Cheney than he ever did stuck in Christopher Nolan’s tedious trilogy. It took two decades to clinch the Michael Keaton comeback we were all craving. They literally didn’t let Adam West play a different person for the last half-century of his life. George Clooney got a batsuit with rollerblades and Uma Thurman as a love interest and it still wasn’t worth it. God only knows what the character did to poor Val Kilmer.
Yet Affleck, even as his body language screams for a nuclear warhead to fall directly on Comic-Con, insists on pretending that the Caped Crusader is everything he wants out of A-list stardom: “Being Batman is the coolest fucking part in any universe. I’m so thrilled to do it,” he’s told us, lying through his teeth. “It’s fucking amazing [to] have this history of this great studio… They said to me, ‘We want you to be our Batman,’ and I believe them.’” What the hell does that mean? He believes Warner Bros. is willing to pay him millions of dollars to grow a day’s worth of stubble, glue a rubber cowl on his head and growl a few lines like “Get down!” and “Hold on!” and “Gotham… it’s a city” to break up 160 minutes of CGI diarrhea? Of course they are. That’s how they make billions.
It beggars belief to suggest that portraying Batman is some kind of dream come true. It’s more like the promotion you dread — to a thankless gig with a small pay bump and quadruple the responsibilities. At best, you’re a dull straight man sharing the screen with supporting actors who go full tilt as psychotic clowns and mobsters with penguin flippers for hands. In the D.C. Extended Universe, the task is even bleaker: Affleck is just an emo, post-traumatic mirror version of the already incredibly boring Superman. Isolate any single frame of the performance and you have a ready-made meme about regret.
If Daniel Craig can say that he’d rather slash his wrists than continue to star in James Bond films, why can’t Ben admit that life as Batman blows? There’s no shame in hating to show up for work; it’s actually relatable. I don’t buy for a second that you enjoy working out 18 hours a day to pack on the superhero muscle — we all know you’d rather be slamming McDoubles and Sam Adams seasonal brews, or napping in a car parked outside Home Depot. Zack Snyder doesn’t even let you put on that atrocious Boston accent, which is perhaps the only perk that would make any of this crap worthwhile.
Affleck is far from perfect, but he deserves better. And by “better,” I mean worse: Each year he wastes as Batman means we are denied transcendent trash like The Accountant, Live by Night and Gigli , which remind us what a beautiful range of mediocrity he truly represents. I guess technically he did churn those first two out while also slogging through his comic-book obligations, but still, I want him to have room to focus on the stand-alone bombs that have long been his bread and butter. Leave the stifling mantle of Batman to 8-year-olds on Halloween, and leave the franchise game to Robert Downey Jr., who will be carrying Marvel storylines well into his seventies. Take wing, Ben, into the dusk, away from the fanboys and monthlong media junkets. Fly now! There’s a signal in the sky, shaped like the silhouette of a regular old dirtbag celebrity. Be a hero to yourself.