“I hate ‘Daredevil’ [the movie] so much,” says Ben Affleck in a 2022 interview with the New York Times, “The Netflix show does really cool stuff. I feel like that was there for us to do with that character, and we never kind of got it right.”
In the same interview, Affleck claims that he took Batman on because he “wanted to do one of those movies and sort of get it right.” After the standard dose of internet backlash following his casting announcement, it seemed for a while that fans doubted he could pull off such a thing. Yet, it would seem the backlash has died since Affleck’s first movie, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, hit theaters in 2016.
Having a cult following of fans, Batfleck feels like a criminally overlooked and underrated Batman. This is perhaps because of the excellent portrayal by Robert Pattinson. And perhaps, it’s due to the brilliance of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and how they transformed superhero cinema. But whatever the reason, there’s something about Ben Affleck’s performance that nails the character more than any other actor has. So, what is that exactly?
One of Batfleck’s most iconic scenes is the quiet moment Bruce Wayne stares at his Batsuit in Batman v. Superman. Here, Wayne appears to reflect on the tragedy and pain he’s endured during his superhero career. Indeed, this remarkable, subtly powerful moment is preceded by a shot of what appears to be Robin’s old costume. On it, spray-painted words mockingly read, “Ha-ha-ha-ha, the joke’s on you, Batman.”
You don’t need to be a Batman-esque detective to work out the backstory here. At some point in Bruce’s past, he’s had to experience the death of his friend and mentee at the hands of his archnemesis. And the thing is, it isn’t merely the defaced Robin suit that tells this story. It’s also reflected in Affleck’s cold, penetrating stare, filled with dread. And man does Affleck nail it.
Because that’s who Bruce Wayne/Batman ultimately is. He’s a tortured soul who fights psychopaths regularly while still haunted by his parents’ deaths as a child. In some Batman stories (i.e., Robert Pattinson’s 2022 debut movie), even Batman himself is implied to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Your average joe doesn’t roam the streets at night in a Batsuit beating people up, after all. The scene described above makes you second-guess Bruce and imagine some of the hell he’s been through to become the cynical aging man he is in the movie. It’s stuff like this that shows what Affleck brings to the character.
Clothes Make the Batman
The next part that makes Batfleck an underrated Batman isn’t necessarily all his doing. In fact, real props must go to costume designer Michael Wilkinson who oversaw the creation of the super-suits in Zack Snyder’s universe. The suit looks imposing and powerful, molded on the physique of bodybuilder Rossano Rea. And the design itself echoes Frank Miller’s revered comic, The Dark Knight Returns, with its short ears, grey textures, and exaggerated bat symbol.
The design helps distinguish Ben Affleck’s Bat Suit from Christian Bale’s. Compared to Christopher Nolan’s ‘Nolanverse,’ which attempts to plant itself in reality (somewhat), the Snyderverse is far more of a ‘superhero fantasy world.’ So, while some may deride Batfleck’s muscle suit as exaggerated and unrealistic, it suits what Snyder goes for. It helps Batman appear physically intimidating as well as appearing to be a plausible contender to fight alongside Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Henry Cavill’s Superman.
What of the voice that Ben Affleck adopts to accommodate Bruce’s masked alter-ego? Luckily, Affleck doesn’t quite go to the often-parodied lengths that Christian Bale went in The Dark Knight trilogy. However, he does employ a deeper, gruffer vocal register that distinguishes him from the relatively lighter, softer tone of his Bruce. Regardless, Batfleck never overdoes his voice to the point of silliness – something that’s underrated in terms of what he gives to the character.
It’s Just Pure Chemistry
Ben Affleck’s underrated Bat-manning is also evident in his chemistry with his co-stars. This is the first live-action Batman to interact with other superheroes in a shared universe, so obviously, this is something the movies needed to get right. Luckily, Affleck hits the nail on the head in this regard. He feels like a real natural performing alongside Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher.
This is a useful skill since Affleck’s Batman is leading a superhero team. Both Christian Bale and Robert Pattinson excel at playing a solo Dark Knight. However, unlike those versions, Affleck needed to be able to be around the other heroes and maintain his presence. Because of this, Batfleck can express the leadership qualities of his character that previous iterations couldn’t do. He’s been given the opportunity – and excels at it.
And this ties into DCEU Batman’s sense of purpose. A considerable part of Zack Snyder’s Justice League revolves around his mission to build the titular team. Affleck’s Bruce just oozes determination – he’s the guy who hiked a mountain just to recruit Aquaman, after all. Batfleck’s studious gaze and unflinching certainty make you believe this fella can hold his posture among superheroes. And, in doing this, it’s almost hard to believe this is the same actor who pulls off Bruce Wayne’s charming playboy persona to boot.
Bring Back the Batman
Unfortunately, Ben Affleck had bad experiences filming Justice League. The poor fella cited his then ongoing divorce, the movie’s behind-the-scenes politics, and the director’s changeover contributing to “the worst experience.” In the same interview, he doesn’t imply that he has negative feelings toward the creative direction.
In contrast, the actor claims his work on the June 2023 movie The Flash features his “favorite scenes in terms of Batman and the interpretation of Batman that I have done.” And when you consider how he felt during his previous turn as the Dark Knight, it’s heart-warming to hear. Affleck claims he has finally “figured out” how to play his character. Yet, regardless, many of us feel as though he figured it out well before The Flash.
This is why we need the Batfleck movie. After movies sharing the screen with other superhero characters, DCEU’s Batman needs his solo time to shine. All he really needs is the right material to propel him into Batman history. Then, general audiences can see just what made his devotees love his performance, to begin with.
But that’s just our take. Do you think Batfleck is an underrated Batman? Or do you think the grief he gets is justified?