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Sean P. Means: Fanboys shouldn't decide Batman's fate

Published August 28, 2013 4:17 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

You think being the president is a thankless job? Try being Batman.

Ben Affleck learned that lesson last week, when Warner Bros. announced that the star and director of the Best Picture Oscar winner "Argo" would suit up as the Caped Crusader in "Man of Steel 2," the Superman sequel scheduled for a July 2015 release.

Director Zack Snyder, who made "Man of Steel" and will be back for the sequel, officially gushed over the Affleck pick. "He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne," Snyder said.

As soon as the announcement was made, howls rose up across the Internet. Fans wailed that Affleck wouldn't be as good as Christian Bale was in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, or that he would stink up the superhero role the way he did in "Daredevil" in 2003, or that he'd give billionaire Bruce Wayne a Boston accent.

Petition drives started online, demanding Affleck be dumped. One of these has received more than 82,000 signatures. Really.

Of course, following the script for such media firestorms, there was the response of Hollywood bold-faced names who liked the casting choice. Joss Whedon endorsed Affleck. So did Joseph Gordon-Levitt, seen as Bale's heir apparent after "The Dark Knight Rises." So did Val Kilmer, who played Batman in "Batman Forever."

Then, everybody saw Miley Cyrus twerking on the MTV Video Music Awards, and we all forgot about Affleck and moved on to the next idiotic media "controversy."

But l'affaire Affleck continues to rankle me, because it's a textbook case of everything that's wrong in today's movie culture.

In short, what's happening to Ben Affleck shows the problems when you let fanboys run the world.

It's the fanboys who shouted the loudest at the Affleck announcement. These self-appointed guardians of the Batman legacy have in their heads a perfect vision of what Batman should be, just as they have their own ideas of how every comic book, novel or other fictional character should be adapted.

Thing is, the fanboys are frequently wrong. They were wrong when they said Heath Ledger would be a bad choice for The Joker in "The Dark Knight." They were wrong when they said Elijah Wood would make a terrible Frodo Baggins in "The Lord of the Rings." They were wrong when they questioned whether Michael Keaton, known then for "Beetlejuice" and "Mr. Mom," would work as Batman in Tim Burton's 1989 version.

The fanboys are also wrong that playing Batman is the important part of the gig. With a sturdy set of Spanx, I could play Batman, because the armored suit and cowl are doing all the work. It's the portrayal of Bruce Wayne where the actor must pull his weight. Bale knew this and played up Wayne's surface nonchalance. Heck, George Clooney was a good Bruce Wayne, even though the movie Joel Schumacher built around him, "Batman & Robin," was dumber than a dozen Adam West/Burt Ward "Batman" episodes.

And the fanboys are wrong in thinking that they own the keys to the Batmobile. This is a franchise like any other, and it's going to be in the hands of Snyder and the people he and Warner Bros. hire to make their vision of Batman vs. Superman come to life.

Let me repeat those two words: Their vision. Not the fanboys' vision.

I'm not without sympathy to the fanboys. I've been there. I sat on the edge of my seat last month when the BBC announced Peter Capaldi would be the next star of "Doctor Who." I've been there.

I know that fanboys feel invested in the stuff they love. I can cite examples of franchises that went off the rails because their creators didn't listen to what the fans wanted. I think of George Lucas and the "Star Wars" prequels, and a shudder comes over me.

But listening to the fanboys too much is its own madness. Remember "Snakes on a Plane"? That 2006 disaster movie did reshoots to incorporate ideas generated by online fan feedback, and it turned out that most of those ideas made the movie dumber. (Example: insisting on the line "I'm tired of these motherf—-ing snakes on this motherf—-ing plane," which prompted obvious wincing when Samuel L. Jackson had to deliver it.) By the way, all that sucking up didn't pay off, because the fanboys didn't come to the movie and it earned only $15.5 million on its opening weekend.

None of this is new, or unique to the Internet. In 1939, fans of Margaret Mitchell's novel "Gone With the Wind" fretted over who would be cast in David O. Selznick's movie version. Most of the speculation centered on the role of Scarlett O'Hara, and after every major Hollywood actress tried out for the role, Selznick went with a relative unknown, Vivien Leigh.

The Internet has, however, made the irritation constant — and applied it to practically every new movie coming along.

A recent, maddening example is the buzz surrounding the adaptation of Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy." Since the first of the year, it seems that every week has brought another breathless casting announcement, followed by reams of opining about each pick. Heck, we even had a solid month of speculation about whether Vin Diesel would provide the voice of a frickin' tree.

Here's my plea to fanboys everywhere: Knock it off. How about we let 'em make the movie before you jump all over it? Can we do that?

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seanpmeans.






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