Before everyone gets unnecessarily angry, let’s get one thing out of the way – we are very aware that Zack Snyder‘s DCEU movies are not to everyone’s tastes, and we’re not saying that the movies in which Ben Affleck‘s Batman appears are the best ever. But, whether you love or hate action movies like Batman v Superman and the Justice League movies, we want to put forward the case that Ben Affleck actually offers the best interpretation of the two-sided coin that is Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Since taking on the cape and cowl in something of a shock career move back in 2016, Ben Affleck has had his fair share of critics, as have the superhero movies he appeared in. But we wanted to look deeper than the overall movies, and explore the actual work Ben Affleck did in bringing his older, more grizzled Batman to life on the big screen.
The debate about who is the best Batman has been raised time and time again over the years, and will no doubt open up again when we get to see Robert Pattinson in action in the superhero detective movie The Batman. But for now, we examine how Ben Affleck actually gave us the best of both worlds, with a brilliantly brutal Batman, and a charming, caring Bruce Wayne.
It’s always hard for actors to step into this iconic role, with the difficult balance of figuring out what to bring to the character, how to set your interpretation apart from the pantheon of great Batman actors that come before you, and of course, what inspirations to lean upon. It’s this concept that we will first use to examine the effectiveness of Ben Affleck’s iteration of the Dark Knight.
Arguably, Batfleck is unlike any other Batman we have previously seen, at least in live-action. As mentioned earlier, he is older, wiser, but also more disillusioned; he has a whole crime-fighting career full of pain, suffering, and loss to contend with. The emotional weight of his past makes this the darkest version of Batman we have seen on film, and that’s a good thing.
Many critics of Zack Snyder’s superhero work have bemoaned the dark, gritty atmosphere he utilises, but should we not expect a violent vigilante who prowls the underworld of Gotham City to embody exactly that persona? Do we not want the grime and grot of settings like Arkham Asylum and the Narrows to seep under the skin of our Batman?
Snyder took inspiration from the comics of Frank Miller, most notably the incredible The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, which is one of the best Batman stories ever put to the page. The conflict within this Batman is one of a man who is ready to give up on the world, but a hero who just can’t help himself. And, Ben Affleck captured this perfectly.
His Batman is a brutal, beast of a hero. He stands above his city, clinging to gargoyles and striking fear into the hearts of the criminals he stalks. Surely, no other Batman has the same fear factor as Ben Affleck’s hulking, ferocious caped crusader. He takes no prisoners, and it’s thrilling to watch.
We cannot ignore the other versions of Batman though, and let’s face it, we’re all here for a comparative discussion, right? So what does this Batman do better than his predecessors? Apart from being an absolute badass who can throw bad guys through walls, Batfleck is also more accomplished and equipped in the technology department.
His arsenal of weapons, vehicles, and Batsuits, is incredibly impressive. Admittedly, Christian Bale‘s Batman has quite the array of tech at his disposal too, and definitely rivals Ben Affleck’s, but when you consider the mech-Batsuit, and his equally magnificent tactical suit, Batfleck wins this contest. And, that’s not to mention the fact he was able to build a weapon that can take down Superman!
Speaking of the Son of Krypton, as Bruce Wayne, Ben Affleck embodies the compassion needed to call out the unnecessary and reckless damage that Superman causes. As much as this Bruce Wayne presents a façade that he is tired of his duties, he immediately stands up and challenges a literal god.
Previous Batmen have not had the luxury of taking on such adversaries, of course. Michael Keaton‘s Batman had the Joker and Penguin to deal with, while Val Kilmer came up against a camp, comedic Riddler and Two-Face double act. Christian Bale, admittedly, did face off against some genuinely scary Batman villains. But, Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne has had to stand up and be counted alongside his superhuman Justice League counterparts.
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Speaking of the Justice League, let’s not forget that this Bruce Wayne was capable of uniting the team of heroes for the first time in live-action. He is charming, knows how to deliver a good one-liner, but most importantly is pragmatic, magnetic, and is a born leader. Not content with saving Gotham, when the fate of the whole planet is in the balance, Ben Affleck’s Bruce steps up and compels the metahumans to become his allies.
Every Batman actor has their merits, of course. Adam West brought an undeniably endearing energy to his camp incarnation of Batman in the ’60s. Michael Keaton is an exceptional Batman, there’s no doubt he is one of the best. But when it comes to his Bruce Wayne, he just doesn’t quite have enough charisma. Val Kilmer never really got a fair shot at the role, and Clooney had nipples, so there’s that.
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For me, the closest rival to Batfleck’s crown is Christian Bale. It’s hard not to muddy the waters here, and we should separate the Batman from the actual movies themselves. There’s no doubting that Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy is a mainstay in the comic book movie hall of fame. And Bale certainly offers a great insight into the psyche of a younger Bruce Wayne, but his Bat-voice, which has been parodied so much now, definitely tarnishes his reputation.
So, there can only be one contender for the Bat-throne. Ben Affleck throws himself into the darkest depths of a broken Bruce Wayne, and comes out the other side ready to save the world with his newfound Justice League comrades. As Batman, he becomes a gargantuan beast, capable of inflicting pain and justice like no other Batman before him.
While some actors may be able to exhibit certain qualities of either Batman or Bruce Wayne better than Ben Affleck, no one can encompass both sides of the coin quite like Batfleck can.