Considering the uproar that consumed the internet and pop culture when Ben Affleck was announced as the next Batman, I was a bit surprised that our daily lives didn’t come to an immediate stop when a photo of Affleck in his new Batsuit had hit the internet.
I was in my car at the time and radio stations didn’t immediately break into programming to announce that director Zack Snyder posted an image of Affleck as Batman on Twitter. Neither family nor friends had called me. When I got home shortly thereafter, CNN wasn’t talking about it.
C’mon, CNN — this is breaking news, not Donald Sterling’s warped tirade against Magic Johnson. The network should have brought out James Earl Jones himself to give us the news: This is Batman.
Amazingly, the internet and social media didn’t shut down upon Snyder breaking Bat. My Twitter timeline hadn’t become a logjam of photo after photo of #Batfleck. I was still able to do research for upcoming baseball articles to write and radio calls I had later in the day.
Life as we know it appeared to be continuing. I looked out my window to see that the sun was still shining and the homes around me remained intact. There was no crying or looting. I think I even heard children playing somewhere in the distance. We were all OK. Good job, internet.
Let’s be serious, however: There should’ve been a little bit of crazy going on outside of our computer monitors and smartphones. An image of Affleck as Batman was basically the pot of gold at the end of the comic book and movie geek rainbow. It was only a matter of time before Warner Brothers released a photo to feed the voracious appetite of fanboy culture.
But what was taking them so long, man? Everywhere you looked, it was Captain America, Spider-Man and X-Men. Where was the biggest, baddest superhero of them all? The “Batman vs. Superman” movie (which hopefully gets an actual title eventually) won’t be released until May 2016, but there is so much anticipation to build. Throw us a bone!
Releasing the photo of the new Batman and his Batmobile two years before the film’s release fits the same timetable that WB and Snyder followed for Man of Steel. The first image of Henry Cavill as Superman was revealed in August 2011, approximately two years before that movie hit theaters in June 2013.
One key difference is that Snyder and WB teased out this reveal a bit more, correctly judging the heightened yearning for anything Batman-related.
A day earlier, Snyder tweeted out a photo of the Batmobile, almost entirely covered by a tarp. But there was just enough of a peek to give fans an idea of what was to come. The big wheels resembled those on the tank-like Tumbler in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. Yet there was some flair to this design, a sports-car element, that harkened back to the sweet ride we saw in Tim Burton’s Batman films.
But we’re here (well… I’m here, at least) to talk about Batman’s new look. The first thing many people seemed to point out was the short, stubby ears the Caped Crusader is sporting on his new cowl. They don’t quite form the same fearsome silhouette that we’re accustomed to seeing from the character. However, many pointed out the likely inspiration for those shorter Bat-ears: Frank Miller’s rendition of Batman in the 1986 comic book, The Dark Knight Returns.
Snyder and writer David S. Goyer appear to be heavily influenced by the older, weary, grizzled and angry Batman that Miller portrayed in the miniseries that has essentially defined the character ever since. When the announcement was made that Gotham City’s protector would be part of the Man of Steel sequel at last year’s Comic-Con, actor Harry Lennix recited a passage from The Dark Knight Returns that was essentially Batman’s victory speech to Superman.
That would explain what is hardly a dynamic pose by Affleck here. Batman isn’t flaring his cape out dramatically, like a comic-book splash page come to life. He doesn’t have his fists raised in an attack posture. This Batman looks… tired. He looks sad (which has already become an amusing internet meme). He looks beaten down. That could be quite a contrast to the ray of hope that Superman presumably represents.
A closer look at his costume (Yahoo! Movies has a hi-res photo) shows it’s pretty roughed up, marked with scrapes and scuffs. This Batman didn’t hang up his cape and run off to Italy with Selina Kyle, like Christian Bale’s version did at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. Although maybe he wishes he could, and that’s why he looks so somber. The fight never ends.
There is still some mystery to this Batman, thanks to Snyder taking the photo in black and white. It does appear that this isn’t a straight black costume, as Batman has worn in virtually every movie since 1989. Personally, I hope there’s some contrast, some black and grey — or better yet, the dark blue and grey that he’s worn in the comic books throughout the decades. Of course, we’ll find out soon enough.
To me, the most exciting aspect about this new Batman is that he closely resembles what we’ve seen in the comics. He’s a Miller or Jim Lee drawing of Batman made real — or as real as can be on a movie screen.
No, he’s not wearing spandex. That would look dumb and be impractical. But Affleck almost looks he’s in skintight fabric. He’s showing off his muscles. And he looks jacked, just like the guy on the comic-book page. (If you’ve seen recent paparazzi photos of Affleck, you could tell he’s bulked up big-time.)
Superhero movies are so prevalent now that these characters and their costumes no longer have to be sold to a skeptical audience. People have bought in and have been willingly suspending their disbelief for years now. The character that Snyder, Goyer and Affleck have created doesn’t have to wear armor plates that make him look more like a Star Wars character than Batman. He doesn’t have to be “real world.” How can he be, when he shares a world with Superman?
I was actually disappointed when I heard Batman would be in the Man of Steel sequel. (However, I wasn’t a sad Batman.) We’ve already gotten seven Batman movies. I wanted another Superman film, following up on what I felt was a strong reimagining of the character.
But thanks to Marvel and The Avengers, superhero flicks have to up the ante now and bring all the good guys together. Warner Brothers will do that by teaming up Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in a Justice League movie. This “Batman vs. Superman” thing is the next step toward that. The first glimpse of Affleck as Batman shows how cool it might turn out to be.