Friday, August 10, 2012

Why Ben Affleck doesn't need to direct Justice League...

I don't generally report on rumors, and there is a good chance that this 'news' in question won't come to pass. But the trades took turns attempting to out-scoop each other on Wednesday with reports stating that Ben Affleck would possibly/hopefully/maybe/theoretically direct the Justice League movie for Warner Bros  (Variety got the ball rolling).  The one bit of news is that while it would seem that Warner Bros. instantly raced into Justice League following the success of The Avengers, they've actually had a script penned by Will Beall sitting in an office for a year.  But regardless of whether I think Affleck can handle a film like Justice League (without question, my narrative issues with The Town aside) and however logical it may seem for Warner Bros. to court arguably the biggest director in their stable outside of Chris Nolan or David Yates, I sincerely hope Affleck turns the project down.  He doesn't need Justice League.  More importantly, Ben Affleck is already making the kind of movies that a mega blockbuster like Justice League would allow him to indulge in.  He's already won.  And we are benefiting from that preemptive victory.

All three of Affleck's directorial features thus far are exactly the sort of films that most directors make *after* they've made a mega hit and/or helmed a franchise entry with a token amount of success.  Movies like Gone Baby Gone (one of the best directorial debuts by a known actor in recent memory) are usually the reward for successfully helming a big box office hit.  It's a gritty, cynical, but humanistic character-driven crime drama without a ton of visceral elements, big stars, or overt sex appeal.  No wonder that it tanked at the box office five years ago.  It's no secret I have major issues with The Town, and I was put off by how much its mainstream embrace seemed to be the result of the very elements (media friendly movie stars, handsome men with guns, pretty girls in peril, action, romance, melodrama!) that Gone Baby Gone mostly avoided.  Still, other than Affleck's decision to cast himself in the lead role, it's a well directed version of a rather unpleasant story.  It actually stands as the first prime example of 'the return of the movie' trend I've spoken of, opening in September 2010 with all the hallmarks of old-school movies (a reasonable $40 million budget, an R-rating, a real-world dramatic narrative, movie stars mixed with character actors, etc.) and its box office success ($90 million in America) still qualifies as a win for adult film-making in general.

Argo opens on October 12th and certainly *seems* like a winner.  Aside from Affleck again casting himself in the lead (as a character who is Hispanic in real life, natch), it's yet another 'movie they just don't make anymore'.  Its a dramatic period piece about a stranger-than-fiction story concerning an attempted rescue of Americans trapped in Iran during the Embassy Hostage crisis of 1979.  Again you have character actors out the ears (Victor Garber, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Adrienne Barbeau, Bob Gunton, Phillip Baker Hall,  Zeljko Ivanek, etc.), a (hopefully) reasonable budget that doesn't require blockbuster success, and an R-rating that doesn't seem necessary except that it's supposed to be for adults anyway.  I obviously can't speak to its quality, but it certainly seems on paper like just the sort of film we all claim we want more of.  That it got made in today's risk-averse studio environment is already a moral victory.  Affleck is already one of the good guys in today's major studio directing bullpen.  He doesn't need to helm a major fantasy franchise entry in order to get his personal project funded.

Affleck didn't need to make Jerry McGuire in order to get to make Almost Famous.  He didn't have to helm Batman to get a crack at Edward Scissorhands.  He didn't need to make Ocean's 12 in order to fund The Good German.  Ben Affleck's filmography so far suggests the likes of Sidney Lumet.  He doesn't need to go the route of Jon Favreau.  Thanks to a solid relationship with Warner Bros., he's already making his 'one for me' pictures.  Like Tom Hanks in the 1990s and George Clooney in the 2000s and beyond, Affleck is using his clout to get interesting movies made that otherwise might not exist, the kind of theoretically challenging projects that need a strong ambassador.  He doesn't need Justice League, or The Stand for that matter, and I sincerely hope he doesn't go that route.  Ben Affleck doesn't need to helm a big-budget superhero movie.  By using his capital to helm old-school adult-skewing major studio genre pictures, 'real movies' if you will, he's already a superhero in the eyes of today's grown-up moviegoers.

Scott Mendelson


John Osberger said...

I don't know, I get the point of it being a distraction from other, more desired fare. But what's wrong with a guy like that elevating what may just be a garden variety genre pic in someone else's hands? And who knows, maybe after Daredevil he would see this as some sort of "one for me" mulligan.

Sati Lotus said...

What does Warner Bros want exactly? A darker 'gritty' Batman Begins type of Justice League or something to rival Joss's Avengers? Could you even blend the two styles sucessfully and come out with something worthy of the millions invested into it? Either way, I don't think Ben Affleck has the skills to do that.


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