*Minor Spoilers Follow*
Batfleck. Five years ago that wasn’t a word. When Batman v Superman was announced everyone lost their collective minds. However, when the casting list went up is when everyone found them again and had formed an opinion that largely equated to “no”. At the time Ben Affleck was announced to play the role of Batman, armchair critics and diehard comic fans seemed more ready to take George Clooney back than see this iteration of the Dark Knight; and thus the word Batfleck was created to describe this abomination of the character. But then something happened no one expected, save for a very, very small group. Batfleck became great.
Over time, as the press pictures began to surface, pictures of a tall, jacked, and absolutely shredded Ben Affleck started surfacing which turned out to be the falling pebble which eventually moves boulders. At first, people were still skeptical. Okay, he’s getting bigger, but everyone does. You can't be Batman and look like the Riddler. However, it was enough to turn the hate into patience. Then the first photo of Batfleck appeared, and the tune began to dramatically change. There was a Batman. He was jacked. His costume was taken straight out of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. With his short ears, long black cape, and a fatter Batman symbol than we’ve seen in movies so far, Batman fans knew exactly what they were looking at when they saw him. It gave them a hope they had not realized they should’ve had, and that was that this Batman was not going to be serious and grounded like Nolan’s universe; it was not going to be campy and over the top with one liners like the lesser movie who’s name I will not utter here in good company, and it was not going to be like Keaton’s Batman who looked and could play the part but couldn’t turn his head to back out of the driveway. This Batman was going to be a Batman that was from the comic books.
Now what does that mean? Haven’t they all been from the comics, I mean, he is a comic book character after all? Well, not exactly. You see, each Batman brings something to the table that draws off of its source material. If he looked the part, he was too slow or unrealistic in combat. If he could fight better and faster, his suit looked too different. If he could fight decent enough and look the part, (you bless us Micheal Keaton) then his gadgets were slow and clumsy. We’ve never had one that could bring it all to the table.
Batfleck did all that and more. When we first see him, it’s like something straight out of a horror sequence. The cop sees the victim and then slowly gets that “there’s something watching me” feeling. He looks up into the corner of the small room, to his horror, to see Batfleck mounted in the top corner of the wall maybe five feet from him. He’s huge, his cowl is so dark you can barely make out he has eyes, and his small ears on the top of his cowl are just the right sized for demonic horns on his head. With a yell and decent shot placement, the cop tries to shoot this monstrosity, but he is far too slow to tag Batman. Batman takes off, crawling upside down on the ceiling avoiding the shotguns blasts, his cape flowing behind him that surrounds him like a black aura as he crawls up through a hole in the ceiling faster than you can blink. The cop is left stunned and scared from just having sighted Batman, which I personally loved. Just looking at Batfleck was enough to intimate you.
As the movie progresses we see exactly what kind of Bruce Wayne Affleck brings to the table, and it’s one that fills me with joy as he absolutely nails the part. He’s dark, pessimistic, and loves to brood. A constant frown is usually on his face unless he’s out in public, in which case he’s an eccentric billionaire who drinks too much and stumbles around a crowd aimlessly (at least, so it seems) talking to people and wondering if he owns who they work for because he just can’t keep track of things like that anymore. His public face is great, but fans know better than that and should be filled with joy to see how everything Bruce does has a purpose. He got lost drunkenly on the way to the bathroom? He was hacking the server room. He fancies an art exhibit to perhaps purchase something new for his mantle? He was tracking someone who stole his tech. Hiding behind smiles and smooth talk, Ben plays a Bruce who knows what he’s doing in every scenario; he’s planned ahead and is usually in constant communication with Alfred. When he’s with Alfred the two play a classic dynamic off each other with Alfred muttering things under his breath, usually insults or sarcasm, while Bruce antagonizes him playing off his witty remarks. Alfred serves Bruce loyally and Bruce is never one to take him for granted. As he puts it in the comics “He’s not a Butler. He’s a friend”.
The thing I really loved about Batfleck in this movie is that his Bruce is always haunted by Batman. Everything from “Knightmares” to waking up the next morning and wanting to break into Lex Luthors house, Bruce is constantly obsessed with his monster. Before he leaves for Lex’s house party, he stands alone in the Batcave, staring at his suit, brooding. He has to be Batman; it eats away at him when he has to do things as Bruce. One of my favorite moments that show this is when Batman and Bruce Wayne briefly coexist during the attack on Metropolis. When everyone else was running away, Bruce Wayne was running in. He starts helping, giving direction, and in a moment of clarity when he sees Superman, amongst all that destruction, we see that he is not scared, he’s angry. That anger we see many more times throughout the film, the Batman Ben plays is a brutal one (some say too brutal but I’ll address this later). When he fights he decimates his opponents. He uses gadgets in quick succession and fans of Batman games such as the Arkham series are going to be blown away when they see Batfleck move quickly across the room from one opponent to the other, take on four men at once in a room of around fifteen using a system of counterattacking and finishing beat downs, all the while using gadgets such as Batarangs, the Gun Disrupter, extensive grappling hook usage, environmental takedowns with the grappling hook, tracking devices that stick to things, smoke bombs and at one point he even does and inverted takedown. His hits are fast, precise, and when he finishes someone he sends them through the floor. He comes through walls, the ground and the air. His Batmobile is menacing and near indestructible, easily making short work of the things it crashes into including cars he rams, although in this film, he seemed to use the batwing to get around more, but it’s still precise and fast.
All the abilities mentioned above are very well displayed during the Superman fight. Batman is cunning, meticulous, and every single moved was planned. At the beginning of the fight we see that Batman sticks his kryptonite spear into the ground of an abandoned building. As Superman answers his challenge, we see Batman display patience and back up, as if retreating, making Superman walk into the first trap of the night, a sonic disruptor turret of sorts and it immediately stops Superman in his tracks. It is when this happens that Batman cracks a smile for one of the only times throughout the movie. If his weapons can affect him, then he knows Superman won’t be able to take what’s coming. Now we see Batman egging on Superman by making him think he is in control. He gets right up in his face, screaming at him daring Superman to strike, which he does, clearing Batman and getting Superman to walk into the second trap set up, automated machine gun turrets. Now Superman is done playing around and destroys the turrets and attacks Bruce head on. His attack takes him to the roof of the building with the Bat Symbol Floodlight, and Batman uses the distance created to drop a smoke screen. My personal belief is that this smoke was lead based, because Superman wasn’t able to see through it, giving Bats the chance to get behind him and fire off a grenade. Superman catches it, of course, but the moment he does it explodes and reveals a weaponized kryptonite gas that can affect the skin as well as be breathed in. Cue one of the most satisfying bat beat downs in fan history. Superman is powerless and running scared as Batman clearly outclasses him in hand to hand combat, and not only was Superman outsmarted here, he was out of his depth trying to fight Bruce without powers. Not one hit he threw connected and in fact it had the opposite effect and only led to a stronger counter-blow from Batman. The only turning point for Superman was when the Kryptonite ran its course through his system and he regained some of the indestructible skin and super strength. Short lived however, as Batman fired another round at Superman that connects and once again Superman fell victim to the kryptonite, except now he’s really in trouble. Batman is out for blood this time and ties him by the leg and proceeds to make him his personal wrecking ball. It is finally revealed that every move Batman has made during this fight was planned. From getting hit at the top of the building to the fight commencing through each individual floor to the ground level, we see that it is the same place Batman set his spear. He was waiting to get to this location. The world’s greatest tactician had this fight in the bag since the start. Batman had beaten Superman and the only reason why it wasn’t curtains for the big blue Boy Scout was because of a powerful scene and revelation of Batfleck.
Martha. This movie turned one word into a very powerful and humanizing moment that I really admired. Batman was stopped, confused for a moment why Superman was telling him to save Martha, Bruce’s mother's name. It is revealed to him that this is Clark’s mother's name as well, and we get an insight to Batman that changed the way we look at him. This revelation immediately triggers a flashback to Batman’s parent’s death, and in this moment Batman realizes that HE is the gunman in the alley, and that everything he had projected onto Superman, his fears, insecurities, and self-worth, had made him out to be this alien monster that was capable of killing everyone and everything if he wanted to. And it was only in this moment of clarity did Batman understand that it was actually he who was all these things. He was a good man turned cruel by the feeling of helplessness and now he was holding a metaphorical gun to Superman and instead of being the solider for humanity he had pictured himself as, he was the gunman in the alley, about to separate a scared son from his mother; just like he was long ago. This is the reason Batman has such a quick turn around with Superman and agrees to save Martha Kent. He rejects this idea of him being the same as the monster that killed his parents and returns to that crusade he started twenty years ago, that he was going to stop the crime that causes a little boy to never see his parents again because of some punk with a gun. This turnaround is again referenced at the end of the movie when Bruce tells Diana “I’ve failed him in life; I will not fail him in death.”
Another thing this movie is able to properly convey to the viewer is that, even though Batman is capable of combat in a fictitious manner, he is still grounded by the limitations of being human. What this means is that even though Batman was able to build a suit of armor and had enough preparation to fight and win against Superman during their battle, he was unable to do much of anything against Doomsday and he knew it. There is a moment during the engagement with Doomsday where Superman and Wonderwoman are both pushed back, and Doomsday sees Batman out in the open and attacks him. From the very first move Batman knew he was outclassed here, and he runs. He runs like a giant space monster who shoots lasers from his face is hot on his tail. Making extensive use of his grappling hook, he manages to put a small amount of distance between him and the monster. One thing I feel Batman did that deserves way more praise than it received is; he got away. Using a smoke screen and grappling hook Batman is actually able to out run and successfully hide from Doomsday himself, and stay hidden and out of sight until he gets his opening, and the next time we see Batman it’s at a critical moment in the film and he successfully hits a monster, one with the reflexes to fight Superman and Wonderwoman at the same time, with his kryptonite grenade. If that doesn’t prove that this Batman can disappear and reappear any time he wants to I don’t know what will, because if he is capable of hiding and stalking from the shadows Doomsday, your average thug on the street will never see him coming.
The movie, and Affleck, nail almost every aspect of Bruce and Batman. In fact there’s really only one thing wrong with this iteration of him compared to his comic canon, and I suppose it has to be addressed. This Batman kills people. Not the Nolan implied deaths either, there are some points in the movie where Batman blows through people with his vehicles mounted machine guns. Personally, I was fine with this, and I’ll explain why. The big argument for a no killing Batman people seem to have is: in a world where Batman kills, how can the Joker still be alive, especially with the death of Jason Todd being movie canon? Anyone who is upset with Batman killing should be, but anyone who thinks they have ruined a key element of the character is wrong. Batman doesn’t kill in his inception in the DC movie universe and likely will not in the future. This was the entire scene with Alfred in the Batcave and the whole “turns good men cruel” speech. The Batbrand had been written about in the newspaper about being a Death Sentence in prison and Alfred drops the paper in front of him and literally asks him “new rules?”. New; As in he’s never done it before. People are missing the entire point of this movie having Batman kill. It is supposed to make you angry. It is not supposed to make you think that the producers don’t understand the character. Batman in this movie has hit a new low and is desperate. His war on crime hasn’t led anywhere. Superman makes him feel powerless and Batman feels like it’s time to finally go all out and drop his moral high ground. He has to kill Superman. He was literally going to do this in their fight and was seconds away from it. Batman knew that this was his end game so he drops to an all-time low as he goes through this moral crisis, and fans should be upset that their favorite character has reached new depths but they should not be upset that the character is ruined. People are thinking that Batman is some cold blooded murderer, but that is not what is happening, rather Batman feels he needs to do anything to stop Superman, and in that desperateness he has lost his original way. He finds his way again at the end of the movie. This was the significance of when Bruce tells Diana “I’ve failed him in life; I will not fail him in death”. This is why he chooses not to brand Lex Luthor. He realizes that he was in the wrong and picks back up his original rules or at the least reforms them for the future movie canon. This is how the Joker is still alive even after what happened to Jason. This is why fans of Batman should not be, in any way, worried about their beloved character.
Ben Affleck has done a phenomenal job in the Batman he brings us. This project was clearly one of passion from him. In fact, he has done so well of a job that even with Batman being in the what was a Superman sequel in it's inception people are crying for more Batman and are awaiting his solo Batman film, the script of which is he is rumored to be working on right now with Geoff Johns. In this film he brings us a broken Bat in an entirely new aspect, one that is cold and cruel. Through that cruelty we see a complex and emotionally driven man who’s suppressed merciful nature is revealed in a spectacular way as the events of the movie unfold. I struggled to find a flaw in the performance Affleck brought to the table. The true tale of the Batfleck will come with the Batman solo film, when we can really see the range of Batflecks abilities and morals. So for what he did show in this film, this writer gives Batfleck a 10/10 and is hungry for more.