Batman Fans Howling After Ben Affleck Casting

Melissa Block talks with NPR pop culture podcaster and blogger Glen Weldon about the news that Ben Affleck has been cast as the next Batman.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

There's a new Caped Crusader coming to the movie screen and legions of Batman fans are howling about the choice. Filling out the bat-suit will be Ben Affleck, who most recently directed and starred in the Oscar-winning film "Argo." So why the Affleck backlash? To answer that, I'm joined by Glen Weldon. He blogs about pop culture for NPR. And Glen, you are steeped in this world, right? You're actually working on a book about Batman's allure in popular culture.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: I certainly am, yes.

BLOCK: Well, this is all for the upcoming movie with Batman and Superman on the screen together for the first time. There's been a big buildup. What's the beef with this choice of Ben Affleck?

WELDON: All right. Well, let's stipulate that there's nothing more tiresome, more churlish, more predictable than a bunch of nerds getting their nose out of joint over the latest announcement of a superhero casting.

BLOCK: So stipulated, Mr. Weldon.

WELDON: Absolutely. You know, this is something that happens every single time. There is no name they could've thrown out that wouldn't have resulted this morning in a lot of tweets complaining. Now, as far as I'm concerned, however, we've already seen him give this performance. In 2003, he played Daredevil, another dude whose dad was killed by gangsters, who dresses up in a cowl, who crouches on rooftops, who delivers lots of chewy noir-inflected dialogue based on a comic by Frank Miller.

BLOCK: This is a man blinded by toxic waste, am I right?

WELDON: Exactly. It's the least of his traits...

BLOCK: Okay. Well, let's take a listen. We have a bit of a clip of Ben Affleck as Daredevil.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM "DAREDEVIL")

BEN AFFLECK: (As Daredevil) Tell the guys at Rikers all about how you got beat by a blind man. Be like blood in the water.

WELDON: Affleck's performance in that film was very stiff. It came off very silly. He can't deliver that kind of steeped gravelly dialogue because the guy is a great actor and a really good director, but when it comes to soul-deep hurting, he just doesn't got it.

BLOCK: Can I just tell you, Glen, my favorite tongue-in-cheek tweet from last night? This is from the 65-year-old actor Richard Dreyfuss, who tweeted: You read for a part. You feel good about it. You feel confident. Then they cast Ben Affleck.

WELDON: Yeah, right. That was great.

BLOCK: Among the legions of the disappointed.

WELDON: Yeah, well, I mean, that's the thing. Here's hoping that he gets to use his Southie accent. Here's hoping he gets to say something like, so Riddlah, I've been stalking you for five blocks. You made one mistake. You pahked your cah too far from the bah. Hoping something along those lines.

BLOCK: You think that's in the cards?

WELDON: I don't, actually. You know, it's going to be interesting. I think his Daredevil was a guy who walked around and glared from rooftops with a constipated look on his face and that's kind of basically what he's got in the cards here for Batman.

BLOCK: So, you are not a happy camper?

WELDON: No, I just don't think - again, if you ask me who should it have been, I've got no idea. They were throwing out names like Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon Levitt. I don't know who it could've been, but, you know, it's not my job. I'm a nerd. I'm supposed to complain. It's what we do.

BLOCK: And you do it so well.

WELDON: Thank you.

BLOCK: Well, let's scroll through a few Batmen of years past in the movies. So we had Michael Keaton in 1992.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM)

MICHAEL KEATON: (As Batman) I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: What are you?

KEATON: (As Batman) I'm Batman.

BLOCK: And then there was Val Kilmer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM)

VAL KILMER: (As Batman) I've left Wayne Enterprises, en route to the Bat Cave.

BLOCK: And there was George Clooney. And then for the last three Batman movies, Christian Bale.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: What the hell are you?

CHRISTIAN BALE: (As Batman) I'm Batman.

WELDON: Now, I just bet that Michael Keaton sent Ben Affleck a bouquet of flowers this morning.

BLOCK: You think he knows what this experience...

WELDON: He knows exactly what this was, 'cause this is exactly what happened when he was cast. There was the same level of nerd outrage. People were complaining about the shape of Michael Keaton's jaw because that's the only part of the character you can actually see and they were saying he was the wrong guy because before that, he was an outright comedian.

That performance still divides Bat fans. There's some who say it was good, some who say really he was never the right guy. Let's give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but let's be cautiously pessimistic.

BLOCK: As all good nerds are.

WELDON: Exactly.

BLOCK: Glen Weldon blogs about pop culture for NPR. His upcoming book is "The Caped Crusade: The Rise of Batman and the Triumph of Nerd Culture." Glen, thanks so much.

WELDON: Thank you.

BLOCK: Glen, do you have a favorite?

WELDON: Yeah, but it's not one you've played. It's old-school Batman. It's Adam West.

BLOCK: Adam West.

WELDON: He's the guy who got me into comics. It's silly. It's goofy. It's not remotely self-serious, but it's a lot of fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW)

ADAM WEST: (As Batman) Batman to Coast Guard. Batman to Coast Guard. There's a drifting submarine two miles east of Sandy Nose lightship. It's filled with human jetsam.

BLOCK: Do you get a little misty-eyed?

WELDON: Come on, come on. That's my guy.

(SOUNDBITE OF "BATMAN" TV SHOW THEME MUSIC)

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