EDITORIAL: What I, Just Me, Not You, Want For BatFleck & The Future of Batfilms.
There are countless debates being held over Ben Affleck getting cast as Batman. I am not joining that debate, instead, I'm going to talk about what I would love Batfleck to be. Including what I would love to see the next Batfilms become. Read on for my minor vision into the future of Batfilms.
There are (virtually) countless arguments for and against Ben Affleck’s Batman casting. I've stayed out of the online debate, because there really doesn’t need to be another random argument for or against the controversial pick. Besides much of those arguments are pointless; many great debates for and against Affleck have already been made. A good chunk of those great debates are already on this massive website. There are 5800+ results when you search the site using,"Ben Affleck", feel free to read through them.
I’m not adding to that, instead, I’m moving ahead of said arguments and pointing out what I want from Affleck in the upcoming 2015 Superman/Batman crossover. For me, there are quite a few topics I think that need to be addressed for this film to be a pinnacle of comic book movie making.
We already know the storyline that pits Superman and Batman together; it was also quoted at the Comic-Con panel to announce the film, by using the dialogue from the recent Frank Miller graphic novel based animated feature, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part II. We already know this crossover leads to a World’s finest entry - heading towards the Justice League film. With that in mind, Keep true to the characters, and focus on a general take from Miller's works; move on from there. So long as the characters are represented properly, it should set the stage for the rest to fall into place.
I love the Nolan films, I thought they were both amazing "films", and amazing "comic book movies"; the films all happened to (also) be great summer popcorn flicks. There are people that argue a lot over these movies; to be honest, I don’t care about those arguments. Cry me a river, but I just don’t care. In the end, two of those films from Nolan's trilogy are in the top 2nd and 3rd spots for highest grossing comic book films ever. Call that the proverbial Bazooka kiddies, your arguments are invalid. Nolan’s movies resonated with millions of people, and provided such a profit line for WB/DC that its allowing them to overcome failures like the Green Lantern film, which can be summarized (now) as a pricey experiment.
However, the Nolanverse helped the studio move on to make Man of Steel, and this crossover possible. So arguments against Nolan’s films are pretty moot. Consider it this way, "he already won…He already won." It’s time to move on and go crazy with a new Batman film and his characters portrayal.
Affleck has the opportunity to do with Bruce Wayne what Ledger did with the Joker. Completely redefine the character, make it his own, and set the standard for how future incarnations will be measured. It doesn't need to be focused on realism. We already had realism in spades (in truth, we've always had realism with all the other incarnations). We want fantastical, jaw dropping, escapism. I believe in Ben Affleck (I kind of have to, it’s not like the studio gives a shit what I have to say, so I’m getting behind him!).
Go back to basics with the Batsuit; give us something akin to the beauty seen in the comics, that isn't so bulky and difficult to move in. Most of us should understand that the Nolanverse was as much a discovery and origins trilogy as much as it was a Batflick. We had to see Bruce stumble, make mistakes, and adapt to get it right. Just like many other issues in Waynes journey through the series, we spent so much time dealing with the suit; we lose screen time of Batman actually being Batman.
I’m old school, I love the simplicity of the Frank Miller suit, but I also think Burton had the suit that most incarnations emulated later on. With the exception of the (not very tactical) yellow emblem, and yellow utility belt. How about just keeping it simple and completely functional.
Batman was a highly trained martial artist that literally flipped and somersaulted over his opponents with extreme amounts of grace and poise; all the while throwing all kinds of weapons at his enemies while in mid air. That would never have happened in the bulky Nolanverse Batsuit. Eliminating a huge element we loved in other Batman media, his acrobatics.
I don’t want a Real Batman. I want my comic book characteristic Batman. I want the guy that makes our jaws drop because he is a good old fashioned, flesh and blood dude, using his wits, detective skills, extremely committed martial arts skills against his larger-than-life enemies. I want the Dark Knight. I want a Millerverse! We already know that the crossover is steeped heavily in Frank Miller’s graphic novels. I do not want a Watchmen style adaptation. But I do want Batman himself, to be solidly based out of that text. In other words, look no further for context and reference material; put Miller on the payroll, and have him help Snyder shape the character.
Bale and Keaton’s cape killed fight choreography. To a small degree these franchises showcased some interesting points with the use of the cape; which was a nice attempt, but those were usually represented within static movement, or simply falling, not really in combat, not enough at least.
The Fight scenes suffered because of a real world set of physics affecting the movement of the cape, that in the comics and animated series appear to be nearly alive and artfully graceful. This hindered those fight scenes greatly. Special Effects, creative editing, and solid choreography can control this aspect (well enough) to allow for proper movement that lets us, the audience, get completely immersed in the film.
Remove the issue of the cape getting in the way for the fights, and you have immediately improved the potential for the fight choreography. Nolan’s fights were simply, OK, “Elbows Up” style movement, with an extreme amount of cuts that really didn't let you experience the fights. Burton’s fights were a little more visceral with a few specific memorable scenes where the cape didn't really play a role, but was used in graceful movement; specifically the front kick scene against a martial artist coming at Batman with Twin Wushu broadswords. But other scenes seemed to just have him use the suit to protect himself without much activity on his part. Schumacher even tried to have more fights in his films, but really the best fights occurred with Robin in the alley scenes, without any costume or cape hindering the fight choreography.
Show Batman’s agility! His near Spider-Man-like swinging-in-the-streets and over buildings capability; including his Batman-esque parkour style chases of his villains.
Schumacher's Bat-films were, for all intent and purposes, over-the-top with a “toy” selling mentality; unable to accomplish Batman's abilities well. Consider, for most of the series, and animated films, we’ve seen Batman move, run, jump, swing, and fight in ways that would thrill (and scare) any normal person in the real world. We’ve seen him do things that seemed superhuman.
You try standing on the edge of the Empire State building without any rope attached to you, and jump off; go ahead, try and land on a building a block away. That’s extremely ballsy, perhaps really stupid; either way, it’s what Batman does normally on a daily basis. We've never really explored this concept in full with the live action films; save a few specific scenes.
We've seen (mostly) how “some” of Batman's abilities can be done in the real world, and Hollywood productions are constantly obsessed with how this translates onto the big screen.
Here's the answer: Treat Batman almost like Superman; realize that he has to be able to hang with Kal-El on the big screen. Nothing in any of the past live action films will ever convince me that this character can actually do anything more than save a cat from a tree if Superman existed in the same world. The failed Green Lantern film alone is evidence of the same argument. Affleck has the opportunity to use this to his advantage and MAKE us BELIEVE in Batman.
Affleck has the size, the build, and 10+ years age difference, to help him look the senior role; the world weary detective, that could have almost been a film-noir representation of a comic book character. The tough and intelligent type that doesn’t throw himself into a stupid fight.
Give us a performance that shows Affleck is completely a step ahead of the game. Always thinking, always planning. Always ready.
I want to hear him say those same famous words, even if the whole film is modified from the source. The same words stated to Superman when Batman defeated him. I want to see Batman get the upper hand on big blue and then walk away. But we need to get back to basics, back to the Batman that actually did detective work. Not the Batman that in TDK looked at luscious Fox (all) fanboy-mesmerized over a cell phone with sonar built into it; lacking the intelligent words to understand what he was playing with. That Batman was a different take, I still loved him, sure... But I want the Detective version of Bruce that could solve the mysteries confronted by Superman all on his own. The same genius that created all of his own gear.
Leave that shit for Lethal Weapon, and Bruce Willis movies! I expect a Batman that is tireless, fearless, stubborn, prudent, patient, and unflinching in the face of everything he has to overcome. I won’t chastise what we saw in TDKR; it was somewhat necessary. Yet the manner in which the flow went, from sickly and “I’m too old for this shit”, to ass-kickery (while) escaping strange awkward prisons was odd at best. We don’t need to see any of the issues Wayne deals with for his personal demons. Because a lot of TDKR was about his personal shit, his age, his will... We know all of this already! Moving on.
Affleck needs to Be cautious that a team-up with Superman is going to be about two types of personalities clashing; easy prey for a films screenwriter and director to fall into. Accidentally (and unintentionally) using the “Buddy Cop” theme; especially with the older Bruce Wayne wanting to retire. Bruce, may, in the end, respect Kal as his friend; but his attitude and behavior is analogous to the the United States (Sovereign), while Clark is the more like the UN (and wants to play nice with everyone).
Bruce is never willing to give up his autonomy, and he behaves like a damn honey badger, “he don’t give a shit” about what you have to say; he does what he feels is right and necessary. He backs up his actions. Affleck needs to be able to convey this.
We really didn't get much of a Cave in the Nolan films, it was more of an aesthetic, we knew it was there, and yet again got partially destroyed. Just like in the Schumacher films. Although, personally Riddler’s “Joygasm” was more enjoyable and believable to watch then Bruce standing there while dudes casually set fire to the mansion.
The Batcave is synonymous to me in the comic world as is New York and a Natural Disaster, Terrorists, or Kaiju invading the city. We get it; everyone wants to mess Batman’s shit up. It’s been done. Be original. How about we get some of the Burton-esque Batcave that was actually functional. I don’t want the same thing, and it doesn’t have to be based on the comic, or as campy as the Burton and Schumacher films. But let’s use his lair, with some real purpose; and by-the-by (actually) keep that mofo a secret this time!
The MCU has 10 movies completed of 17+ already planned. What does DC have? One failed Green Lantern film, One failed Superman Returns film, and One Man of Steel film; that while successful, has been teetering on a see-saw of debate from the fandom vs the mainstream. Then account for a no-longer-being-used needing-a-reboot Batman Trilogy, with one new Man of Steel and one Justice League movie still in the works. So technically, one film...One F'ing film, with two incoming. DC needs to push forward without the fear of setting up future projects, like Marvel has been doing, and get us to the JLA film and beyond.
I made a comment a while back on a different article that the name "Batman" can be said in a remote location in Africa and people will say “Kevin Conroy!” To illustrate an exaggerated example that everyone knows Batman. Focus the bulk of the screen time on pure story and action of the film. We don't need the flashbacks about his parents, we don’t need to see anymore breakdowns of why they died, turning him into who he is. Aside from a child sent from another planet, raised by farmers, Batman's beginnings are among the most well known origin stories in comics. Move on, don’t waste any time in the film with this aspect, give us pure screen joy; have us marvel at the fights, the grandeur of the enemy, the wonder and concern of the divide in mentality between our two principle heroes. Everything else is moot, because it’s already well known.
Get Affleck a vocal trainer, preferably someone that has worked with voice actors in the past, and help him train his vocal range. No one knows the vocal profiles of the characters in the DC universe better than Andrea Romano, I worked with her on Guardians of Luna for a while (in early development) when I was producing and watched her direct in the booth; she is absolutely amazing. She brought in Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Clancy Brown, and Mark Hamill in all of the original DC animated works; and has been their voice director for the bulk of over 20 years in those roles. If anyone should be brought in as a consultant to help make sure Affleck's voice is not whatever-the-hell Bale was doing in the Nolanverse, it should be her.
I read a lot of material, and I laugh all the time when I read someone comment “He doesn’t have the chops” (RE: Affleck), this is plainly stupid, because Bale butchered the voice, and Keaton, well he just used his own voice, as did both Kilmer, and Clooney. It worked, generally, but they could have done more with it. Keeping a strong mind to understand that the Schumacher films were really for children. Bale & Keaton both have tremendous acting “chops” but I bet they didn't have Andrea Romano working with them as a vocal coach.
Merchandise the film, sure! "Get yo money boo boo!" But stay true to the original tech Batman uses and keep it simple enough that its meaningful, purposeful, allows for action, mobility, and high levels of combat, without having to waste time explaining what it is, or money making random crap (affecting the overall budget). We know his tools, we know the gear. Take a Doctor Who approach and presume we just accept it without having to explain any of it. We spent entirely too much time in the Nolanverse “discovering” his gear, playing with some of it, and (sure) fawning over it; and less time actually using it.
Seriously, Superman saved the world from a gravity well style device terra-forming our planet by affecting it’s gravity and density. There is no realism here. It’s pure science fiction, and comic book fantasy. Do the same for Batman, make him over the top, don’t be afraid to follow some of the comic book characteristics. Just don’t turn it into a Schumacher-Burton world of strange color palettes. Keep the same feel as with Man of Steel, and keep your reference material handy, and specific. Vary that material too much and it’s the same as a brainstorming session with multiple visions. If you end up compromising, you’ll end up with exactly that, a compromised vision, and it will be noticeable.
These are some of the things I want to see brought into action by Affleck in his role of Batman. I think he will do just fine in the much loved role. But I also think he has the opportunity to redefine this role. He has the chance, he has our attention.
What do you guys think? Comment, share, tweet, complain, bitch, praise, and let me hear from you. @emanuelfcamacho
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