On a 150 million dollar budget 2005’s Batman Begins hauled in $374,218.673 according to BoxofficeMojo.com’ It set the table for 2008’s The Dark Knight to bring in over one billion (4,558,444.00 but who’s counting?) on a budget of 185 million; The Dark Knight Rises at 250 m (that’s an additional 65 m) generated $1,084,939,099. Around two and a half billion dollars and, with all the troubles DC Comics has had competing with Marvel/Disney, you trade in a spectacular Christian Bale for…Ben Hack-flick?
Ben Affleck and Jesse Eisenberg so take the air out of an otherwise almost acceptable script that it insults the intelligence of every fan of comic books coming to life on the big screen. So you’ve got the dude that played Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as master criminal Lex Luthor? Gene Hackman’s slick, too-smart-for-his-own-good self-loving megalomaniac is replaced by a Joker wannabe. You don’t feel the “genius” oozing out of Eisenberg, you are told what he is. But his acting – as bad as it is – would be Oscar worthy compared to Affleck who is so out of his element it hurts. Ben Affleck, a B actor at best, was ok as Daredevil. He actually made a fine Matt Murdock, DD’s alter-ego. But here Affleck is trying oh so hard to be what Christian Bale found came so easily. Bruce Wayne, Batman, one and the same, the Jekyll and Hyde so perfectly brought to a character that had to keep pace with Heath Ledger’s stunning, awe-inspiring, head-turning body movements and mannerisms as the Joker in The Dark Knight.
So Warner Brothers simply cast whiner Ben Affleck as the Batman because he demanded it, and fandom went upside down. As bad as Michael Keaton was as the Caped Crusader, director Tim Burton’s pal safe only because of Burton’s indulgences and Jack Nicholson overtaking the screen, and as pedestrian as Val Kilmer and George Clooney were, they didn’t get in the way. Indeed, Kilmer and Clooney were on the merry-go-round that closed out Burton’s resurrection of the series, two captains on two different Batman Titanic vessels, both going down with a loud thud. What this means, in plain English, is that Batman v Superman, Dawn of Injustice-to-the-Series, is not going to hold up to repeated viewings. It embraces the flaws that permeated Avengers: Age of Ultron – a film saved by the chemistry of the Avengers, not the script. The bogus monster that is created by Lex Luthor is just a DC version of Ultron, but not as lethal.
This is a Superman sequel, got that? This is the sequel to the Man of Steel as if the Batman trilogy did not happen, and that’s creating a hurdle before the film company even gets out of the gate.
GO BACK TO THE ORIGINALS FOR INSPIRATION
1949 Batman, Robert Lowery as the Caped Crusader (horror fans take note, Lowery was in The Mummy’s Ghost and Revenge Of The Zombies,) and his predecessor Lewis Wilson, from the original 1943 Batman, hit the ground running. They, and Adam West, took the character seriously, despite script limitations all three actors had to deal with. Had Adam West played in Tim Burton’s Batman (and he wanted the role,) and Caesar Romero took the Joker (which the late actor also is said to have wanted,) you would have had a diabolical classic, the doppelganger to the Batman camp film from the 1960s.
Wilson, along with being the first Batman on screen, is also notable as the father of Michael G Wilson, born in 1942, the year before his daddy became Batman. Michael G. Wilson has been part of the James Bond film series since 1972, according to Wikipedia, and more involved with the series starting with The Spy Who Loved Me, right up to the current film Spectre, due to his being stepson to Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli.
Now the math is simple. You bring back the original Batman’s son to supervise the Batman series the way he and his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli, have been ultra-successful with the James Bond legacy.
But –alas – where Spectre is an amazing action film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an over-hyped, expensive comic book with some decent scenery by director Zack Snyder, who still can’t seep to top his “300” film. Oh Dawn of the Dead was OK, and what’s with his obsession with dawn, these days? Twilight Series; Breaking Dawn, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, where is the “justice” to this “dawn of justice?” It languishes in the thick morass of self-indulgence. Snyder misfired with The Watchmen, and now he’s lined up to single-handedly direct the entire DC universe?
How could be so ineptly put Ben Affleck into this mix?
In 2006 when X-Men director Bryan Singer took a whack at Superman Returns (poor Brandon Routh did a fine job, but got lost in the shuffle due to Singer’s own self-indulgences, in my opinion,) it was to resurrect the series from the “DC Syndrome” of having two decent films – Christopher Reeve’s first two Superman epics from 1978 and 1980 – and the two disasters that followed in 1983 and 1987. The Michael Keaton Batman scenario played out in similar fashion with, as mentioned above, Keaton bailing and the series going to hell in a hand basket.
So here we are with Ben Affleck and Jesse Eisenberg letting the air out of the balloon that is a superb performance from Wonder Woman – Gal Gadot (of Fast and Furious fame,) and decent showings from Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Layne (as Martha Kent, Clark’s mom,) and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. The odd man out is Jeremy Irons as Alfred, more appealing than Affleck in his role as Batman’s partner (what? No Robin? You can hear Matt Damon on the phone screaming with Affleck right now, and what a disaster that would have been…) but still, a strange “Alfred” indeed.
The problem is age-old: these film companies try to be cute when all they have to do is stick to the original comic book stories that we know and love, just do screenplays of the original comics, just as the Star Trek film series should have done sequel after sequel to the great stories on the original series. See Wrath of Khan for proof of how well that worked – and look at the remake of Wrath of Khan’s failure to see how shortsighted Hollywood has become.
At 250m, it is a bloated budget that needs the hype to save the day. The first weekend took in a big haul, but this movie, no matter how well it does financially, has put another dent in the Dark Knight’s armor. What a pity. Deadpool cost a mere 51m and is raking in the greenbacks. Batman v Superman’s rival, My Big Fat Greek Wedding II cost a mere 18m and may bring in a profit the first week it hit the theaters. A little more creativity and less money spent blowing things up will do wonders for the future of comics in a film. But the casting director can pull a turkey out of the fire and the casting of Lex Luthor and Batman in this campy mess is so off the mark that it probably has the Marvel/Disney people opening the champagne and continuing their quest for world cinematic domination.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.