Who is the Batman? The simple answer is Bruce Wayne. The real answer is that he’s been a lot of different things at a lot of different times. When rebooting the character there are certain questions that need answers: Origin story or no origin story? Robin or no Robin? Nipples or…?
When Ben Affleck put on the suit for Batman v Superman, he knew he was part of a solemn tradition that dates back at least to Adam West not-so-solemnly punching goons with an onomatopoeiac POW. “Batman is basically the American version of Hamlet,” Affleck says. “We accept that he’s played by actors with different interpretations.”
Affleck’s version of Batman is older than Christian Bale’s in the Dark Knight trilogy—a lot more tired, too. “He’s at the end of his run and maybe the end of his life. There’s this sort of world-weariness to it.”
Drawn in part from the even more aged version of the character in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, the Batman in Zack Snyder’s 2016 film is bowed if not broken after two decades at his Sisyphean task of cleaning up the streets of Gotham. His temples are streaked with gray and Wayne Manor is little more than a desolate husk, overtaken by weeds and water-stains after years of neglect. Of course, if he’s taking on Superman, he can’t be too rickety. “I liked the fact that Ben was 6’ 4″ and taller than Henry,” says Snyder. “I wanted Superman to have to feel like he was looking up to Batman despite being so much stronger.”
Of course this isn’t the first time Affleck has put on a superhero costume. He played a similar urban warrior 12 years ago in Daredevil, a not very beloved movie made during the genre’s larval stage—before Christopher Nolan answered the question “Why so serious?” with “Why not?” They were, essentially, B-movies. “Daredevil didn’t work, at all. If I wanted to go viral I would be less polite,” says the actor. “That was before people realized you could make these movies and make them well. There was a cynical sense of ‘Put a red leather outfit on a guy, have him run around, hunt some bad guys, and cash the check.'”
But with the massive success of Marvel and the impending DC universe-map, Affleck thinks his second time in a cowl will go better. “They really learned how to make this stuff work,” he says. “Good is the new bad.”
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