Dear Internet: Please Shut Up About Ben Affleck & Batman vs. Superman For The Next Two Years

tumblr mrz0l6ZA2n1ri1m9po1 500 Dear Internet: Please Shut Up About Ben Affleck & Batman vs. Superman For The Next Two Years

Dear Internet,

I wish I could say I was disappointed right now, but the truth is, I am far past that point.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but that emotion too has long since gone out the window, right alongside your collective sense of shame, class, dignity, logic, and most importantly, patience.

No, what I really feel right now, less than 24 hours after seeing Twitter, forums, and entertainment websites all explode at the news of Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman vs. Superman film, is exhaustion. Exhaustion tinged with anger and bitterness, because this cycle of overreaction during largely uninformed circumstances is slowly driving me crazy, but exhaustion nevertheless.

Last night, I was out of the house for six hours or so attending a screening of Edgar Wright’s incomparable Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. A glorious time was had by all, as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are masterpieces and classics, and The World’s End lived up to every bit of that reputation and then some. For six blissful hours, I got to forget about the current, underwhelming state of mainstream cinema, escape from the pervading cynicism of the online entertainment community (which includes both the people who write film news and the readers who comment on it, myself included on both sides of the equation), and instead focus solely on enjoying and digesting three truly tremendous movies.

At the end of the day, that is all I personally want out of my relationship with cinema – good movies that provide fulfilling experiences and make me think and feel both while I watch and long after I leave the theatre. Everything else – save actual discussion of the art itself, be it through writing, recording, or in person – is, to me, is a distraction.

And I was reminded of how much I despise those distractions when I got home last night, high on the energy of the Cornetto films, only to find my Twitter feed ablaze with people talking about – or, should I say, complaining/poking fun at – Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman. My personal thoughts were something along the lines of: “Huh. Didn’t necessarily see that coming, but I can see it working. I will be interested to see what comes of this in two years time.” Naively, I thought other people might be on the same wavelength – a quiet, initial burst of interest, followed by moving on to something else instead of spending the next two years wringing hands over a casting choice we know next to nothing about.

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As I got deeper in my Twitter feed, I realized it wasn’t going to be that easy. I may have been perfectly content to wait until 2015, when the movie will actually be arriving in theatres, to make substantive judgments on Affleck’s casting, but the Internet is not that patient. The Internet wants to judge Affleck now, to speak of his casting as though they have seen the movie, are aware of his (and the filmmakers’) specific interpretation, and are generally omniscient in all things related to this bit of news. And of course, the Internet, for the most part, wants to do so in the most immature, childish way possible.

So we already have two separate Change.Org petitions to remove Affleck from the role (I would say Change.Org loses all credibility because of this, but that happened a long time ago). We have Twitter hashtags mocking the choice, and countless people thinking themselves clever for bashing Affleck, Snyder, and Warner Bros. in 140 characters or less. We have forums, talkbacks, and comment threads aflame with people explaining how they would do things differently (or, more likely, resorting to petty name-calling and such), as if they have (or should have) any control in the creative direction of a film the world knows nothing about, because a script has not even yet been completed.

And my reaction, as stated above, is one of exhaustion. On some level, it does not even matter to me what the general online atmosphere about this news is – what bothers me is that the news has, in less than 24 hours, become so incredibly all-consuming. And at this point, I just don’t have the energy for this any more. I don’t have the energy to care strongly, one way or the other, about a project that is at least two full years from arriving in theatres. It is the same way I feel about Star Wars Episode VII, or Avengers: Age of Ultron, or any of the other big 2015 releases we have spent the majority of 2013 talking about. My favorite part of being a film fan, as I previously noted, is watching and discussing movies in the here and now – not dealing in broad hypotheticals about movies that will one day exist. When those movies arrive, and we have something tangible to examine and discuss, I will be happy to participate in the critical debate – because at that point, the movies will actually matter. Right now, they do not, because they do not exist. And when there are plenty of movies that do exist being released into theatres every week, and hundreds of thousands more that have existed for much longer and are still 100% worthy of evaluation, I think it is borderline insane to devote more than a modicum of energy to films that have yet to even be scripted, let alone filmed, edited, or released.

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Case in point: Before last night, when the Affleck news broke, everybody on Twitter was abuzz with excitement for The World’s End. As well they should have been, not only because it is a truly great movie, but because it is relevant. It exists, not hypothetically in the future, but here and now. It is in theatres, easily accessible and ready to be experienced, enjoyed, discussed, and debated. I was overjoyed to see Twitter embracing the movie so fully, even before I had seen it, because for once, the entertainment world was talking about something that mattered, not something that may or may not matter dozens of months down the road.

And then the Affleck news broke and all that went away. No more talk of real movies. No more meaningful discourse about films we should all concentrate on enjoying now, in the moment. Just a whole lot of tweets about Ben Affleck and a film that may or may not arrive in theatres two July’s from now. And that annoys and exhausts me to end because I really, really liked the idea of the Internet actually calming down for a few moments and focusing on the cinematic world as it exists right now. I liked the idea of a great, landmark dramatic comedy like The World’s End driving the cinematic discourse for a couple of days, rather than a product that has yet to even be fully conceived by its creators. But I guess that was all just too good to be true, because living in the moment is hard for people (which is, coincidentally, a theme of The World’s End, albeit with characters looking to the past rather than the future).

To be clear, my disappointment goes for people ardently defending Affleck’s casting as much as it does those endlessly mocking the man. Either way, people discussing this casting in any detail whatsoever are trying to make something out of nothing, and I am tired of that. At its full potential, the Internet should be making something out of something, not blowing a lot of hot air around about largely meaningless news.

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Because here’s the thing: All we literally know about this situation is that a good actor has been cast as Batman. That is not an opinion. One does not get to argue about that. It is simply a statement of fact. That does not mean you have to personally like Ben Affleck, or be a crazy devotee of every single movie he has ever made, but when performances like his work in The Town or Argo or To The Wonder or State of Play or Hollywoodland exist, and are readily accessible and objectively solid-to-excellent pieces of acting, you do not get to claim Affleck is a less-than-good actor. Because he isn’t. He had a stretch in his career when he made an awful lot of bad decisions about which movies to star in and how to approach those roles, but pretending that this is still the status quo for the man is just that: pretending. Such an insistence has no basis in reality.

And on the flipside, people trying desperately to convince the rest of the Internet that Affleck is the right choice are also overreacting and wasting our collective time. If I see one more person go “Well the Internet complained about Heath Ledger as the Joker at first too,” I am going to throw my computer through a wall. That’s not the point, and in its own way, that argument is just as bad as insisting Affleck will be terrible, because it is using the example of one of the most inspired casting choices in modern cinematic history, and therefore connecting a performance that has not even been given to an endlessly iconic piece of acting. I get what people are trying to say with that statement – never count someone out until you see the finished product – but I still find it overly presumptive. People arguing this point should instead be saying that “the Internet complains about everything no matter how much information they are or are not given, so everybody shut up and wait to see the movie.” That is a counter-argument I can get behind.

Affleck could be a great Batman. Or he could flame out spectacularly in the role. There is absolutely no way to know which one will be the eventual outcome because again, at this point, all we know is that a good actor has been cast. And good actors can be wrong for certain parts. People defending and decrying the choice alike are ignoring the fact that we have no way to know whether or not Affleck will be a good fit, not only because we haven’t seen the movie, but because we lack even a mildly clear indication of where Snyder, David S. Goyer, and the team at Warner Bros want to go with the character this time around. That, to me, is a much more important part of the equation than who has been cast – interpretation has to come first when building a character, and that is especially true when reestablishing an icon.

If Snyder wanted to go in an Adam West direction, for whatever reason, Affleck obviously would be a dreadful choice. If he wanted to go down a more Animated Series-esque route, in which Bruce Wayne is a strong, decisive businessman and Batman a confident but vulnerable superhero, Affleck is probably a tad too deadpan. But if Snyder is envisioning a take similar to what Frank Miller or Tim Burton did in the 1980s, with a dark, brooding Batman and a visibly detached Bruce Wayne? Sure, Affleck’s specific skill set fits that interpretation. And if they are simply going to try recreating Christopher Nolan’s take, with tortured playboy Bruce Wayne and impossibly dark Batman, they should stop right now and reevaluate, because Christian Bale already did that, and no one else could do it as well.

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But again, all of this is nothing more than idle, uninformed speculation, which is all we have to discuss at this point. And if that is the case – if there is literally nothing of substance to be said as of now other than “a good actor has been cast to play Batman” – then what I ask from the Internet is silence. I want the Internet to shut up about this and focus its collective attention elsewhere, to something that is actually relevant right now, in August of 2013, and not return to talking about Affleck and Batman for another two summers, when the discussion actually has a degree of relevancy or significance.

I know that is probably too much to ask. I know the Internet has become far too attention-deficit to live in the moment, or even the near future. It is simply the state of entertainment culture and reporting right now. This very website is guilty of it – we make our money reporting on the news stories we think people are interested in, which often involve projects far off in the future. We are fueled by the hyperactive fandom, and yet we also give fuel to it by perpetuating the cycle; it is just the way things go right now. I consider my work in film criticism to be my primary role as a writer, for both We Got This Covered and other publications, so I try to remove myself as much as possible from writing or reading about far-off projects (I personally do not even like watching or covering trailers). As long as I work online, though, or am involved in online communities, there is only so much I can avert my attention from, both as an active and passive participant. And at this point, the amount of attention being given to the future, always at the expense of the present, is seriously eroding my love for this medium. It has already sapped nearly every ounce of enthusiasm I once had for mainstream cinema.

The question I ask is this: If we invest ourselves entirely in the future, always debating and discussing the hypothetical ‘next big thing’ rather than focusing our energies on what actually exists to engage with in the world right now, then what chance can we possibly have of properly enjoying (or reviling) Affleck’s Batman when he actually arrives in 2015? If we expend all our praise and vitriol before there is anything to get emotional about either way, what will we have left when the product actually arrives? Do movies themselves even matter to us anymore, or is it the hype that we crave?

If the answer is the latter, then more power to you, Internet – you and I no longer see eye to eye, and I may have to extricate myself from this increasingly uncomfortable relationship.

But if, deep down, what we really want is the former – real, tangible movies that we can debate, discuss, and revel in – then I think we all need to clean up our act and get back to basics. Stop chasing every piece of casting news like it is the Holy Grail. Stop working ourselves up over information that literally does not matter. Stop ignoring current or older movies to focus on upcoming ones.

And most importantly, we need to quit prioritizing the future at the expense of the present. Because no matter what your opinion, stance, or viewpoint may be, constantly living outside of concrete moments is never a path to a happy, fulfilling fandom – nor, indeed, a worthwhile life.

Yours Truly,

Jonathan R. Lack 

P.S. – Send me hate mail on Twitter @JonathanLack – or, if you feel more positively inclined towards me, buy my book about the art of film criticism, Fade to Lack, at www.fadetolack.com. Be warned, though – it was written before the ‘great hype breaking point’ of 2013, and is therefore much more optimistic about cinema in general.

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  • Brian Kirchgessner

    THANK YOU.

    • Jonathan Lack

      You’re welcome.

  • Kenneth Serenyi

    That’s what you get for having a Twitter account…

  • 2face

    This is the Batman we are talking about. The caped crusader that strikes fear into the hearts of criminals. Ben Affleck?…….. Ben Affleck????…. BEN AFFLECK???????????? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. He couldn’t strike fear into a house cat.

    Better get used to the internet ridicule. This is gonna be relentless, mercyless and non stop.

    • Jonathan Lack

      Okay, less than 12 hours after the article went out, let’s count the idiots. Here’s idiot number 1 – thank you for proving all my points in the article, you near-perfect summation of internet stupidity.

  • abugadi13

    You shut up … everybody has a right to have his opinion on this matter and certainly everyone has the freedom to express it specially in the internet … you hypocrite … I did not even bother to read whta you have to say it is so long short of a novel and all just to express your opinion on Ben Affleck being cast as Batman … you are insane big time :P

    • Jonathan Lack

      Idiot #3 is a fine specimen, you see, the classic “I-didn’t-read-what-you-wrote-but-I’m-going-to-bash-your-work-anyway-and-make-fun-of-you-personally” sort of online idiot. This species of idiot dates back to the inception of online commenting.

  • Ivor Haresh-Trewth

    Aw, diddums! Are we exhausting the poor baby by being fully invested in our characters? No doubt you’d moan if no-one was interested. It must be simply delicious to be able to ignore the future and concentrate all your remarkable powers on the here and now while some of us *can actually imagine the future!*.
    People bitching about people bitching just propagates the bitching, baby. Enjoy that.

    • Jonathan Lack

      Hey, it’s Idiot #5, who really takes the cake – like a child, you see, he resorts to personal attacks when the writer pushes him outside his comfort zone. Like a two year old whose toy was just taken away, he resorts to metaphorical biting, kicking, and flailing. And then tries to defend his rampant stupidity by hiding behind a veil of “being invested in our characters.”

      Guess what, Idiot #5? You can’t be invested in this version of Batman, because HE DOESN’T EXIST YET. THERE IS NOTHING TO BE INVESTED IN. There have been countless different incarnations of Batman. Countless. And there will be countless more. Some versions are great. Some suck. I can tell you right now I don’t feel the slightest investment in certain Batmans, while I feel highly invested in others. Personally, I’d like to wait and see which side of that line Affleck falls on.

  • Voltaic

    *raises hand* Why the hell did you waste your time with this as you’ve just stated our reactions are noise to you?

    • Jonathan Lack

      I didn’t write it for your reactions, Idiot #4. I wrote it because I wanted to give voice to something many in my business (online reviewing/reporting) and many readers of that business have been feeling, and because that voice is nearly always drowned out by the cacophonous din of shouting about things that have not happened yet.

  • Batfleck

    This guy’s an idiot if he thinks writing this pointless letter would “shut up the internet”, he basically just wasted his time. If you truly don’t care, then ignore it, it’s simple you moron. By the way, BEN AFFLECK IS THE NEW BATMAN!? NOOO NO NO NO NONO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    • Jonathan Lack

      And here’s Idiot #2! Who, if he had read the article, would realize I state multiple times that I obviously do not believe I can shut up the Internet. Just giving voice to a growingly significant opinion among people who don’t like perpetually living two years in the future, because, you know, we have lives in the real world.

  • Dacajun

    I might be the only guy on the planet, who liked Ben Affleck as the Daredevil. But Him as the cape crusader will defiantly SUCK…. I say bring back Michael Keaton

    • Jonathan Lack

      Oh, ladies and gentleman, Idiot #6 is the cream of the crop. Really and truly. For in the midst of bashing Affleck without giving a single piece of evidence or reasoning, he misspells “definitely” as “defiantly.” Yup. Affleck will “defiantly” be a bad Batman. Defiantly.

  • James Thompson

    It’s hard to say whether he’ll be a good Batman. Affleck usually does good when he plays in movies that he directs, but other performances seem a little stiff.

    • Jonathan Lack

      Which is, of course, the point of my article. It’s hard to say, because we have nothing to go on. Let’s wait to say when there actually is something to say.

  • Keet

    As fans of Batman we have a right to voice our opinions. I like Affleck, I watch his movies. But NO WAY is he BATMAN… And this is not the same as RDJ as Ironman or Heath as Joker…

    • Jonathan Lack

      Keet, I’m not going to call you an idiot. But I am going to ask you why you’re treating this like it’s a political election. It’s not. It’s a creative enterprise, and sadly, not you or anyone else gets a say in the casting, and whether or not you have a completely uninformed opinion about what kind of Batman Affleck will be (BECAUSE THE MOVIE DOES NOT EXIST), Affleck will be Batman, and in two years time, you will be able to actually watch the movie, look at it critically, and then report on how you think Affleck DID, not how you resolutely believe he will DO without a smidgeon of information to go on.

      • Keet

        LOL thanks for not calling me an idiot… I think…
        I understand YOUR point in your article and don’t even have a problem with it because its your opinion. But if we were having a conversation I would then give you my opinion.. And I would say I can not ever see Ben as Wayne.. If anything this outcry will let them know we care about the character so don’t screw it up…

  • BatmanForever
  • Earych

    They haven’t seen one frame of the movie yet and are already bellyaching. It’s all in the writing! Hell, I thought Keaton as Batman was a crappy idea and was proven wrong (some might disagree but I liked him).

  • Eric Weik

    I am glad to see some speak up and this. TOO many times things are bashed before it is seen, new James Bond casting anyone. And these are good movies that are loved and everyone is saying I knew Daniel could pull this off.
    I was surprise by Ben being picked, but I am not going to bash the move until I see it. Then if it is bad I will, not any sooner.

  • Al

    thanks for writing this article. I am also so sick of hearing all the whining over this casting choice. and honestly, ten years ago I would have also been upset with this casting choice but I think Affleck has really grown as an actor (and become one hell of a director). I think he’s going to do an awesome job as Batman/Bruce Wayne! I’m really excited about it. after seeing his work in the Town and Argo I thin he’ll bring a lot of depth to the role as well as physically looking the part.

  • Hmmm

    “At its full potential, the Internet should be making something out of something, not blowing a lot of hot air around about largely meaningless news.”
    And which are you doing here, Jonathan?

    • https://www.facebook.com/groups/133833423430874/ Matt Clarke

      Indeed. It’s largely the same thing as what everyone else is doing, just posting their opinions on pop culture. Since when is there a “Shhhh be quiet about things I don’t want to listen to” time?

      #rhetoricalquestion (for Jonathan to find)

  • Michael McStay

    Well said, and thank you. You seem to have a writing style like my own, and I could not have put it into better words. Is it worth arguments and speculation now to think that a couple of years down the road, something might not be what you idolize it to be?
    Take a chill pill people. worse things have happened.

  • 7992

    People have actually petitioned to the Obama admin about this, it’s pathetic, get a f*****g life, how about a petition to stop the Obama admin funding the unlawful coup in Egypt or take a look at Syria there are bigger issues and if this is what you spend your time doing then you have to ask yourselves what sort of a life do you have!

  • Andrew Arnold

    Pre-Argo I would dismiss the idea of Afflac out of hand. After I saw that movie, I’m willing to give him a shot. As long as they play on him being aged in his mid to late 40′s.

  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/133833423430874/ Matt Clarke

    Welcome to the internet.

  • Been there done that

    You are speaking/writing directly out of my very soul. Thank you for that.

    Friend sent me a Photoshopped picture of him this afternoon, one with and without a mask put on and I was hooked right away.

    Imo an actor is only as good as his director and his script and I am very very sure that Snyder and Nolan will do a great job, as they did with Man of Steel. I can still remember when I first HEARD the news that Ledger was going to be the Joker. Couldn’t picture it in my mind. Thought it to be a bad joke. But then I saw a first still from the set. Him sitting in the prison cell and looking up into the camera… and I became a believer.

    My guess ? Will be a similar effect with Affleck. Let’s wait and see.

  • http://www.thegraphicmac.com/ JimD

    I would love to hop on the bandwagon, but after thinking about it for a while I couldn’t come up with a movie he starred in that I didn’t like. Daredevil wasn’t a great movie, but I thought he did great in the character. And no, I didn’t see the Jennifer Lopez movie.

  • JimH69

    Dear Hollywood echo chamber,
    Please get out of pro-Afflack propaganda mode and DON”T GIGLI UP BATMAN!
    Love,
    the internet

  • pooch

    Dear Jonathan Lack: Please Shut Up About People Expressing an Opinion about Ben Affleck For The Next Two Years

  • Pronk

    Let us complain about people complaining about something they have complained about for 24 hours.

    Get over yourself j

  • Wolfheart

    So..you want to stifle peoples opinion about something they fell passionate about..not matter what it is?
    The fans going to see these superhero movies, is what fuels studios to jump on board and make money. The bar for these movies have been raised recently, and fans expect a great movie.

    Ben Affleck IS a horrible choice to play Batman.

    But I get it, you want to seem clever, so you want to bash everyone.

  • Mistahman

    Jonathan, you’re grossly over generalizing the reactions of those who are against this casting. However tedious the last two days have been for you, not everyone disapproves of this decision purely because of a dislike of Affleck as an actor. I also suspect that you don’t read comics which could account for some of your disinterest in the matter.

    Regardless, I find it funny that you would devote five pages of ranting to the subsequent media backlash, in effect becoming part of the very thing you’re taking aim at…

  • Ix

    I can’t stand Ben Affleck as an actor and I have no intention of watching him in anything, period. I’m not really sure why this is so hard for people to understand. I’m certainly not going to feel bad about my opinion just because somebody else might believe differently.

  • Jay

    For someone who wants people to shut up, and claims to be “exhausted” over this you sure blabbered on long enough.

  • Slick

    Look at all these critics slobbering over Ben Affleck. The critics are whining more than the public! Falling over themselves to defend Reindeer Games. LMAO.

  • Henrietta Smithers

    There are only two reasons I can think of that you would write this ridiculous article: 1) This is a cynical ploy to gain more traffic for this website and therefore gain more advertising dollars. 2) This is some passive-aggressive plot in order to gain attention for yourself – you’re essentially hitting the hornet’s nest with a stick, knowing full well that it will make the hornets inside angry, then you whine bitterly after having gotten stung multiple times. Grow up…

    • Tom Pakwin

      Exactly! The rage about Affleck lasted what? 2 or 3 days? Then it’s sites like this one that keep dredging up the subject so we get more rounds of bile.
      “Dear ‘We Got This Covered’ and Jonathan R. Lack: Please Shut Up About Ben Affleck & Batman vs. Superman For The Next Two Years”

  • ray

    It’s simple: for starters, your opinion doesn’t matter any more than mine or anyone else’s. That being said, Affleck has made all the right decisions career-wise over the past few years so I personally see no reason to doubt that he’s made the right decision again. Many people would disagree and that’s their right as movie goers. Some go too far and others just express their distaste. Their choice, not yours. Unless of course you’re paying their internet bill? No? Stfu then. Let em bitch. After all anyone with a keyboard and a modem has that right, dickhead.

  • Ivor Haresh-Trewth

    Dude! You deleted my comment after it hit your hot buttons and you back-spited? Tut, tut, sirrah.
    Anyway, we’re all over that and will wait and see what a dogs breakfast – or NOT – Mr Affleck makes of it while we’re *now* getting fizzed up about Colin Firth being the new voice of Paddington Bear. Afflect Bats was bad but this is CRIMINAL!
    Anyway, how about you? Panties unbunched yet?