The casting of Hollywood A-lister Ben Affleck as the new Batman sparked fan outrage on Friday, with petitions calling for the coveted role to be recast and widespread howling on Twitter.
Warner Bros announced on Thursday that Affleck – who earlier this year was the darling of Tinseltown when his Argo took home the Oscar for best picture – would next don the Dark Knight’s cape.
Affleck’s debut as the saviour of Gotham will come in a film slated for release in 2015 and also to feature Henry Cavill as Superman. Zack Snyder is to direct.
The Batman recast is not the first. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and, most recently, Christian Bale, have all played the role.
But fans cried foul, with more than 20,000 people signing a petition at change.org calling on Warner Bros. to ditch the 41-year-old star.
“His acting skill is not even close to being believable as Bruce Wayne and he won’t do the role justice. He’s not built, nor is he intimidating enough for the role of Batman,” the petition says.
“His portrayal of Daredevil was atrocious and he’s not remotely close to an action star. Please find someone else.”
Another petition was posted on the White House website for several hours before being removed.
On Twitter, the hashtag #BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck was trending. Many Internet users proposed other actors, from Josh Brolin to Affleck pal Matt Damon to – bizarrely – Meryl Streep.
Some defended the choice, including Travis Langley, a professor of psychology and author of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight.
“Just remember: ‘Michael Keaton can’t play Batman.’ ‘Heath Ledger can’t play the Joker.’ ‘Anne Hathaway can’t play Catwoman,’” he wrote on Twitter, referring to other casting moves in the Batman universe that were later praised.
In the industry daily Variety, film critic Justin Chang noted that while Affleck had successfully reinvented himself as a director with The Town and Argo, his acting disasters such as Daredevil and Gigli remain fresh in the minds of many.
But he gave the actor the benefit of the doubt, writing: “Ben Affleck has impressed us most as an actor by projecting not gravity but vulnerability, and vulnerability is an essential, often-overlooked quality in any bigscreen superhero.”