Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rebooting the Bat

A belated happy birthday to Mr Ben Affleck for Saturday. (I hope you spent your day off-line…)

Called it! Sort of.

Ben Affleck is to be the new iteration of the Caped Crusader, and right off the bat, as it were, I’m saying that I approve. A reboot was, it seems, always on the cards, contrary to a last-minute rumour over the past couple of weeks suggesting that both Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman were being courted in millions of post-Robert Downey Jr entitlements to continue their respective costumed hero roles. As it turns out, Batman as we’ve seen him within the frame of the Christopher Nolan movies is now affirmably as much a past incarnation as Tim Burton’s 80s/90s version. It’s all good, I think. Batman needs revision from time to time, and maybe more so because this is the same treatment he’s had in his near sixty year history in comics and on TV. Until then, we have the announcement of Affleck in the cowl (and, if rumour is to be believed, hot on its heels Bryan Cranston’s casting as Lex Luthor – fantastic!) But, hear the internet cry out, as if a great wrong has been done. Listen to the wisecracks born at least ten years ago and unleashed upon Affleck, poor sod (“they should have Matt Damon as Robin!” - ho ho. “Something something J-Lo!” - guffaw. “Indecipherable Good Will Hunting reference!” – titter). Well, enough for Stuff, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and the like. I’m actually surprised that some corners of the online communities I frequent – Outpost Gallifrey, 2000ADonline, seem to be pretty cool and balanced about the casting; even genuinely open-minded, if not already supportive in fact. Things might actually turn out okay. Even Comicbookmovie.com seems to have joined in the optimism.

I say this also as someone who doesn’t mind the Sony reboot – cynical though it may have been, of their Spider-Man series. I even liked quite a bit of it, and appreciated the attempts The Amazing Spider-Man made to actually seek out minor points of difference with the very well made and mostly superb Sam Raimi iteration. Yeah – mechanical webshooters like I wanted as a kid! Gwen Stacey in a non-cameo role! A new Spidey suit. Much of that might well have been a superficial attempt to cry ‘reboot’ rather than genuinely scare the horses by trying harder to reinvent the character, but I dunno – I’m not that schooled on the Marvel heroes. I am under the impression that – unlike Batman and his DC cohorts, the Marvel superheroes are altogether a little more in tune with one another and their own internal narrative continuity, so there’s less opportunity to look at different versions of the same man? That said, I got a real Nicholas Hammond vibe seeing the reflective lenses on Andrew Garfield’s mask (and I loved that movie when I was a kid!)

So, yes – a new Batman, by all means. And put him in a grey and black suit this time, please! Leave all-black costumes to ninjas and Bledisloe Cup champions. And yes – cast an actor who will play a more charismatic Bruce Wayne (as I believe Affleck will), in more stark contrast to his Batman than a road-metal voicebox. I also, albeit cautiously, approve of him sharing a double-head bill with Superman. Yes, I get the complaints about Batman versus Superman as a poor sequel idea to Man of Steel. As a sequel, no it isn’t a flattering idea to a franchise just out of the blocks. But then again, Batman versus Superman isn’t simply a MoS sequel anyway – we know that Warner Brothers are fast-tracking a cinematic universe to challenge Marvel Studio’s finely-crafted Avengers one, and with the clock ticking this is a smart move.

I say this also as a very infrequent moviegoer. You can talk all you like about superhero cinema being big now, but like its genre cousins Sci-Fi, Westerns and Fantasy, there’s the real world consideration that, unlike Comedy, Romance, Action or Horror, this is a genre which goes round in cycles, rather than hangs around indefinitely. WB are right to move quickly before superhero fatigue really sets in among moviegoers and they lose their audience (not the comic fans, I stress, but the mainstream audience.) Superhero movies are blockbusters by definition – they cost a lot of money to make and usually rely on something quite formulaic, which might be why the word ‘reboot’ is received with such dread by superhero fans. How many versions of the hero’s origin story do we need every time a film studio wants to reassert their rights to the franchise? Well, we won’t get that with Batman versus Superman, not unless Zach Snyder and David Goyer are absolute cretins. By combining DC comics’ two most recognisable and iconic characters in one movie, they’re making the wisest step they can towards building their Justice League onscreen. Safe hands. And hell, if Snyder and Goyer want to throw a few visual or verbal hints at one or two other DC heroes in the same movie without upsetting the balance, then good luck to them, too.

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