Monday, August 26, 2013

Ben VS Batman

Once upon a time I was a dude in college, and at that college we had a little cable channel that showed five or six movies per month. 


Much like real cable, the movies were shown over and over and over again, which is how I came to see Chasing Amy approximately four million times.  Much to way Top Gun followed me around for years, Chasing Amy was just always on, even if I never quite seemed to catch it from the beginning.


I didn’t give the movie a whole lot of thought, at least critically.  But I soon came to realize that even watched out of order, with pieces I was sure I had missed, the movie worked.  Each scene was funny, and often tender, though there was a certain flatness to the direction.  It felt like it was more of a stage play that was sometimes filmed outside.


This is because Kevin Smith just doesn’t have that much of an eye.


Now, granted, he’s gotten better at it.  And his writing has almost always been interesting, even if it isn’t always good. 


But let’s go back to Chasing Amy, and not get off onto Kevin in general.


I knew who Kevin Smith was at the time.  I’d seen Clerks, and had been impressed that he’d made a movie for almost nothing, but I hadn’t been that enamored with the actual movie in question.  And I’d caught bits of Mallrats thanks to cable, but it, too, hadn’t done much for me.


(Today, I think it was ahead of its time.  Back when it came out, no one knew who Wolverine was.  Now he’s been the subject of two of his own movies.)


But we’re getting off topic.  Again.  Sorry.


At the center of Chasing Amy was the character Holden, who mostly impressed me with his hair.  I literally had no idea what the dude was going for, but it often struck me that it couldn’t have been that, whatever THAT was.


But over time, what really got me was how solid his performance was. 


The fact is, Kevin Smith will cram your mouth with dialogue if you let him, and it takes a certain amount of magic to make the words sound like they’re fresh and interesting instead of scribbled down and recited.


And Holden could do that.


And Holden was, of course, Ben Affleck.


I was impressed by Ben, which inadvertently caused me to have a hipster moment of sorts.  Because now I knew who he was, and I thought he was talented, and then Good Will Hunting came out and he won an Oscar and suddenly everyone was all “BEN!” and I was, like, yeah.  He’s talented.  He was really good in Chasing Amy.  I knew him back THEN.  (Which was, like a few months earlier…)


At any rate, Ben got really hot after that.  He made a bunch of movies I mostly didn’t care about.  He got himself into a superhero movie.  He got into a few relationships and one of them became more important than the movie he was acting in at the time.


And… people started to hate him.


And where was I?  I was the neutral party who doesn’t care one way or the other. 


People talk about how he walked away from the movie business because of all the mockery, but a quick bounce across his IMDB listing says otherwise. 


If I had to guess, I’d say he had two really rough years – they were 2003 and 2004, wherein he put out five movies:


Surviving Christmas

Jersey Girl





I’m quite sure he was coming off some big movies by then, and he was pulling in money left, right, and center.


More to the point, while most of those weren’t critical favorites, I do have a soft spot in my heart for Jersey Girl.  At the time, Ben and Jennifer Lopez had chemistry, and it wasn’t their performances that killed the movie.  It was their relationship, both the good parts and the bad parts.


And it was the fact that it’s an imperfect film.  Too clean for most Kevin Smith fans, not clean enough for people looking for a regular old rom-com/drama.  It was a movie designed to appeal to just about no one.


But I digress.


Ben didn’t put out a movie in 2005.  But you know what?  He had put out FIVE movies, four of which starred him.  The dude probably just needed a nap.


Then, in less than ten years, he put out three highly respected movies in which he directed, wrote, and acted. 


And this is on top of all the other roles he played, large and small, most of which went unnoticed by the general public.


The fact is, for better or for worse (almost all for better) he was never gone.  He just didn’t spend every day sitting in the limelight, something that was sometimes his choice and sometimes not.


And now?  Now he wants to be Batman, and the world is up in arms.


Look folks, let’s just be clear about something:


If we start in the 1980s, back when we started taking Batman semi-seriously (I suspect there’s no Nolan Batman without Burton’s Batman, even if Burton’s Batman has more camp in it than I figure most people were who kids back then remember today) four different people have portrayed Batman.


And you know what? Even if you want to argue best to worst, none of them were actively bad.


Now, granted, the MOVIES had some serious problems.  I’ll watch just about any movie from beginning to end in hope it gets better, but I’ve surrendered to a handful over the years, and Batman and Robin was one of them.


But even that movie wasn’t taken down by the actors.  It was the awful script, the terrible story, and in general it was just a bad movie that got made and released, which happens every day.


To be honest, Ben may not be a great Batman.  But at worst, he will be a just-okay Batman, and even that won’t take down the movie.


No, what’s going to take down the movie is the fact that they have no story yet.  No script.  All they have right now are actors, but they don’t know what they’re going to do or say.  And they need to know what they’re doing and saying NOW, because they have to shoot it, edit, animate large parts of it in computers, and then go in and fix all the broken parts.


Because there are always broken parts.


Especially on a movie made this quickly.


Because what they do have is a release date, and that release date is two years away.


But here’s an actual fact – by getting a guy who is, quite frankly, a good actor into the mix, they’re also picking up a guy with TWO Academy Awards.


Now, I’m not saying he can’t make a bad movie this time around.  The fact is, bad movies get made all the time, even with care and love and talented people behind them. 


But ultimately, Ben will not be the one to take the movie down.


Movie studio greed, on the other hand…


At any rate, here’s to Ben, who on many an afternoon was my study (well, study-avoidance) companion in college.  He was good then, he’s good now, and in conclusion:


Seriously, folks, what’s with all the nerd rage? 

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