In the past few years, superhero movies have become one of Hollywood's top commodities. Along with this shift toward mainstream relevance has come an increase in the community of filmmakers willing to contribute to the genre. Since it's no longer "niche" to handle a comic book adaptation, studios begin to vie for all sorts of names to attach to new projects. Marvel has employed artists like Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnston, and Joss Whedon (who has recently been assigned responsibility for The Avengers 2).
DC Comics, on the other hand, has churned out fewer pictures, and is an organization largely associated with one behind-the-scenes name: Christopher Nolan. Along with his recently concluded Batman trilogy, Nolan holds writing and producing credits on the forthcoming Superman film Man of Steel (directed by Zack Snyder). But the filmmaker has been open about his decision to leave Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent behind after this next turn, asserting that he will not be on board for DC's developing Justice League movie. As such, it should be no surprise that Warner Bros. is seeking another high-profile director to handle the project (which has recently picked up a writer), but if the rumors mentioned by Variety hold true, their top choice is a shocking one: Ben Affleck.
To date, Affleck has had two directorial projects released. His debut was the 2007 mystery drama Gone Baby Gone, starring Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and Affleck's younger brother Casey as a private detective hired to track down a missing four-year-old girl. In 2010, Affleck delivered the more widely-appreciated The Town, which starred the director as the central figure in a group of lifelong con men. In both pictures, the city of Boston stands as a significant character in the identity of the story and of the people therein. Affleck's third feature is the international hostage crisis drama/thriller Argo, which seems like a departure for the artist, yet not too far from his established wheelhouse.
But Justice League will be different. Rather, it should be different. Granted, a Justice League flick in the vein of The Town is hardly inconceivable; the idea of humanizing the superheroes involved down to the level of well-meaning Southie roughs could work... but it's probably not really what anybody is looking forward to. Yes, Justice League should be real and gritty, as opposed to The Avengers' near cartoonish whimsy (which worked perfectly for the Avengers, but DC is an entirely different animal), but this calls for delicate handling.
Nolan made it work in his Batman series; the trailers for Man of Steel predict another victorious embodiment of this mentality. But Affleck's pictures lack this kind of gravity. They might be stories about the down-and-dirty heroes and villains of a Gotham-in-its-own-right town, but you don't find yourself as ensconced in the inner workings of Doug MacRay and Patrick Kenzie as you might hope to. Certainly not to the degree that you do in Nolan's Batman movies.
In a pre-The Dark Knight world, Affleck handling Justice League would probably fly just fine. Audiences hadn't seen a real examination of superheroes, so the demeanor of Affleck's Gone Baby Gone and The Town would apply quite interestingly to the adventures of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the like. But now, the world is used to its caped heroes packed with supernatural weight — at least on the DC side. Affleck might be better suited for Marvel. He has a proven ability to excite and keep interest. Whereas Marvel has crafted a world in which fun and excitement take precedent, people approaching a DC movie look for real introspection. While Argo does look like a step up from both of the director's previous pictures, we can't help but feel uncertain about the idea of Affleck handling a Justice League movie with the required degree of sincerity.
Guardians of the Galaxy, however... that's a movie I'd like to see Affleck tackle.
[Photo Credit: David Edwards/Daily Celeb]