Under the Cowl and Behind the Camera: Imagining a Batfleck Spin-Off Movie to Soothe the Savage Fan
The Internet was shaken to its core last month. An announcement was made that was read and shared far and wide, across every corner of the e-world and bringing with it many cries of pain and anguish and probably a few almost not-hyperbolic death threats. Why? Ben Affleck was cast as Batman, that’s why. Despite the efforts that the former matinee idol put into redefining his career as a thoughtful cinematic artiste, people just hated (and still do!) the idea of Ben “Daredevil/Gigli” Affleck starring as the world’s most favorite comic book derived superhero — sorry, Wolverine — despite the fact that he was the bomb in Phantoms, yo. This reaction was silly for lots of reasons, especially since another Zack Snyder Superman movie should really be what got people’s goat. But it was proven even sillier when rumors started to spread that Justin Bieber was rumored to co-star alongside Batfleck as the character’s partner in crime fighting, Robin. Perhaps the fact that it wasn’t true and was obvious trolling is the reason Biebin didn’t cause the hackles to flair, or maybe “true” fans’ heads just up and exploded all over their computer monitors?
Regardless, Batman vs. Superman should be the least of anybody’s worries, because, if it actually happens, it won’t be Affleck’s only chance at playing the Dark Knight. It’s either going to bomb or succeed, be tolerable-to-good or downright awful, but it will likely be a mere a blip on the Batwing’s radar because a new standalone Batman movie will definitely follow. For Batfans, that ought to be what excites or dismays you the most. (Other than paying your mortgage or passing that sophomore-level Spanish class, naturally.) Before all this hullaballoo, I’d written that Affleck was a likely candidate to down the cowl and that he could make the character work if he was also the director, ala creative achievements of The Town and Argo. With news coming that his Bruce Wayne will be older and Rogues Gallery weary — and capable of co-existing with space alien ubermenschen — this seems like a perfect opportunity for Affleck and Warner Bros. to use another recommendation of mine by essentially crafting a live-action adaptation of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series.
That ostensible children’s cartoon is still the finest distilled version of the character. Christopher Nolan’s movies are, without question, about his character and not the comic book character even though they draw from the comics much more than Tim Burton’s did. This isn’t bad, it’s just been done. Certainly, some of the character’s best stories were told in his medium of origin with storylines like The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, and most of writer Grant Morrison’s run. But, as a whole, BTAS, as fans condense its name, is simply the perfect take on Batman. That show allowed for realistic fisticuffs against criminal gangs and the likes of Joker, Two-Face, or Catwoman, but also enabled stories with magic and super science so Clayface, Mr. Freeze, and Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit could all make memorable appearances. And it was all taken seriously. This can be done on film with movie stars and special effects, it just hasn’t yet. Affleck could be the one to do it, proving to all the haters that the actor/director really can handle sh*t.
If he does, that movie series may wind up looking a little something like this, and that couldn’t possibly be any worse than Bat-nipples or an illiterate Bane. Right? Right. So let Batfleck Begins begin…
Alan Rickman as Alfred Pennyworth
Experience being British all his life and butlering Reagan in Lee Daniel’s The Butler as Ronald Reagan, Rickman has also worked with Affleck before in Kevin Smith’s Dogma. No attempt has ever been made to hire an Alfred that looks like his comic, or cartoon, counterpart, so why start now?
Casey Affleck as Robin/Nightwing
Experience side-kicking with one ex-Batman in Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, Casey Affleck is just about the only actor who could believably play Dick Grayson’s trauma and snark while also believably looking up to and down on Ben’s Bruce. Matt Damon was the Internet’s cheeky choice, baby Affleck is the right one.
Titus Welliver as Commissioner Gordon
Experience as a cop isn’t necessary for the role (after all, when did Gary Oldman ever play a by-the-book good guy before?) but being able to grow a fantasic mustache is key and Welliver’s can be pretty damn fantastic. He’s also been in every single Affleck-helmed movie so far in minor roles, so it’s time he got his shot at the big show.
Jennifer Garner as Catwoman
Experience busting skulls and kicking ass in skintight leather catsuits and high heels in both Affleck’s unfortunate Daredevil and the more-fortunate-until-season-4 Alias, Garner is obvious for Batman’s frenemy with benefits. She’d also get to play a Catwoman who doesn’t start as harassed secretary or prostitute, but rather an socialite animal rights activist. Anything’s better than whatever Halle Berry was doing.
Jason Lee as The Joker
Experience as a grinning, diabolical asshole in the Smith ouevre, as well as carrying super villain bonafides from The Incredibles, Lee is perhaps a more traditional choice for the Clown Prince of Crime, in the vein of Jack Nicholson, after Heath Ledger’s impossible-to-surpass performance. That’s good, that’s the animated Joker all the way. We can always dub in Mark Hammil later if we don’t like Lee’s laugh.
Matt Damon as Harvey Dent/Two-Face
Experience as a lawyer in The Rainmaker and as a with identity issues in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Damon’s history as Affleck’s best friend would inform Dent’s and Wayne’s friendship like nothing we’ve ever seen in a Batman movie. His turn to Two-Face could be emotionally charged without throwing a love interest to the fire. And, c’mon, Robin? That joke went stale about a minute after Batfleck’s wicked Boston accent.
Michelle Monaghan as Harley Quinn
Experience playing unhinged (at least slightly) in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and as the love interest to mishap prone, but charismatic men in far too many romantic comedies, Monaghan would get to play a character that nobody has officially done in live action before since Harley was created for the cartoon. It would be a tough role for anybody, but hearing her smokey accented voice uttering the immortal words “puddin’” and “Mistah Jay!” would be worth the price of admission.
John Goodman as Detective Bullock
Experience is one of Goodman’s middle names (the other is “Aloysius”) and he can clearly work well with Affleck onscreen and off. Bullock is nothing he hasn’t played before, just see Smith’s Red State for the basic template. Plus, it’s a known fact that John Goodman should be in everything.
Alan Arkin as Mr. Freeze
Experience as brilliant mad scientist in… probably nothing, but experience as a droll, stiff authority figure with a penchant puns in Argo and pretty much everything else. Actually, the best way to imagine Arkin’s take on the man who only commits crimes in order to save his dying wife is to combine two completely separate roles from his past: Grandpa Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine and Roat the thief from Wait Until Dark. It’s just too bad Audrey Hepburn isn’t alive to reunite as Freeze’s wife. Then again, the part isn’t that demanding.
Jon Hamm as Clayface
Experience as a handsome actor since playing “Gorgeous Guy at Bar” in an episode of Ally McBeal in 1997, Hamm is perfect for an actor driven to madness and poisonous make-up by the constant strain of keeping a pretty face. In truth, I’d still rather Jon Hamm play Batman, especially in this kind of movie, but the metatextualness of Clayface is too indelible to ignore.
Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes as the Ventriloquist and Scarface, respectively
Experience playing the silent partner and the outrageously cruel and vile mouthpiece since at least Clerks, it was only inevitable that Jay and Silent Bob would show up with so many connections to other actors on this list. They shouldn’t be more than a cameo, but it would be a fun little in-joke if Affleck made this happen. Just keep “snoogans” out of the script and don’t, for the love of Bat-Mite, let them improvise.
Rob Payne also writes the web comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He initially titled this post “Gotham by Gas-Lit Farts” as a take-off on an excellent graphic novel, but decided to mostly go a different way.