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For comic book fans the world over, the hot topic on The View has been Warner Brothers'
announcement that two-time Oscar winner Ben Affleck is the next actor to play Batman in the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel. Before the ink had even dried on his contract, the web was alive with poisonous vitriol and petitions demanding the studio have a re-think on their decision. Not since the casting of Michael Keaton back in 1989 has there been such a huge wave of negative response to the casting of the Dark Knight. Christian Bale got a bit of flack, George Clooney escaped relatively unscathed when he was cast (In stark contrast to what happened after the film was released), but Affleck has been hit by a fully-fledged comic book geek smack down.

Before the pickaxes get sharpened, perhaps a step back is in order. With all the negative comments flying across the web, there is a distinct feeling that the fact that the next Superman movie will primarily focus on Superman, not Batman, has been lost in translation. There is no doubt that Batman is going to feature very prominently, but the film is not going to head that far into the dark recesses of Bruce Wayne's mind. Superman will be front, right and center of the movie, as he rightly should be in a Man of Steel sequel.

From a business point of view, this is a smart move from Warner Brothers. The rather fiery departure of their former president Jeff Rubinov meant that the new bosses at WB could lose some high-profile talent to rival studio Twentieth Century Fox (where Rubinov has been rumored to be headed), of which Affleck is one of them. So it is something of a coup to have signed up Affleck to one of their tent-pole franchises. To have a big name star attached to the franchise is also something of a home run for the studio - Henry Cavill is unlikely to fill cinema screens on his own without the red and blue suit, so a big name like Affleck is significant plus. And his casting will also re-ignite the Justice League rumors once again (Affleck was the hot favorite to direct it), and if they can continue to attract big name stars to the franchise, the future for Warners and DC Comics looks very rosy indeed.

Some noted critics have also stressed a fear that after all the hard work Ben Affleck has done to reach his current position in Hollywood, he is about to undo it all by signing up to the Superman franchise. The thoughts that he has tied himself to the DC Comics universe means that instead of working with renowned artistes and auteurs, Affleck is wasting his talents in comic book lore. This is rather harsh, and also rather unfounded. It has been announced that his upcoming Denis Lehane adaptation Live by Night will still be going ahead in 2014, before the Superman sequel is to begin production. His Whitey Bulger biopic with Matt Damon may be moved until after Man of Steel 2, but it is still on his radar and should still be a viable entity in 5 years from now. And should the Justice League movie fall into his hands, few would doubt that he hasn't earned the chance to make a movie of such scale and influence to so many.

The elephant in the room is Daredevil. Yes, response to Mark Steven Johnson's Marvel adaptation did not go well and Affleck did not do himself any favors. However what is still absent from most people's memories is that studio interference resulted in the removal of a significant subplot that severely damaged the final film - something that was remedied by the release of a director's cut soon afterwards. The new cut resulted in a superior film that has been accepted by those who have seen it as a proper and faithful adaptation of the character, with Affleck playing a significant part in that. It would therefore be rather unfair to label Affleck as a liability to the film; some have stated that it is the role of Batman that is poor for Affleck, as opposed to the other way around. Casting of beloved characters has always been tricky, and not more so than in the present day of instant information on the web. Heath Ledger as the Joker and Daniel Craig as James Bond are both fine examples of this, and yet look at how well they were received by the public. Affleck has much work to do to convince everyone that he is the right man for the job - perhaps he should be afforded the chance. It was in fact Superman that rescued his career before (his performance as George Reeves in Hollywoodland is still one of his finest acting moments), so a chance to repay the favor would seem perfect for him. And to those that threaten boycotting the film - do you really think that a movie in which Superman and Batman go toe to toe against each other is going to fail?

 
 
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Today sees the UK release of Walt Disney's big summer tent pole movie, The Lone Ranger.
Re-uniting the trio that brought us the Pirates of the Caribbean films - director Gore Verbinski, star Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer - high hopes were placed on this big budget western, but reports of a troubled production (most famously with regards to the colossal budget) and poor critical reception has seen the movie nosedive at the US box office, with little hopes for success at the international markets either. Walt Disney themselves have already released a press statement that says the company is estimating The Lone Ranger will lose them between $160m - $190m, largely thanks to heavy spending on the film's promotion which has failed to bring in the audiences. 
 
This is just one of several high-priced studio blockbusters that has disappointed at the box office - After Earth, Pacific Rim and White House Down are some of the examples. And unlike previous summers, there is not one film that has brought in extraordinarily high box office returns - for example, Iron Man 3 and Man Of Steel have been financially profitable, but have not hit the heights that were expected of them. Why has this happened and is this the first nail in the coffin for mega-budget summer blockbusters?

Almost two months ago, directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas stressed that Hollywood's love of big expensive summer movies could lead to an implosion, where "three or four, or maybe even half a dozen mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground", leading to inflated prices for these high budget tent pole movies and a squeeze on ticket prices for smaller budget, independent or foreign films. This will lead to these films being pushed out of the cinemas in favour of high ticket income for blockbusters, making it even harder in today's cash-strapped industry to get independent films into production. As more of the current big budget films fail to recoup their finances, it seems that two of the principle engineers of the summer event movie were right - which does not make comfortable reading for struggling new film makers.

What adds fuel to the fire is that Hollywood has green lit plans for even more $200m+ films in the coming years, with further adventures for Spiderman, Superman and the Marvel heroes among many others. Unless the big studios apply the breaks and considers working on more lower budget projects, Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas will have correctly identified the death of the independent movie on the big screen.