Last night, it was announced that playing opposite the reigning Superman, Henry Cavill, will be Ben Affleck in the role of Batman, in a special crossover movie. The Twittersphere from Hollywood to Kazakhstan exploded with rage. Sardonic hate-filled tweets about the casting decision caused the news to trend. Apparently, no one in the world thought Affleck was a good choice, especially in light of his failure at playing a superhero in Daredevil, a decade ago.
Superman is the most blue-chip of all superhero franchises. Since being created in 1933, there have been movies, comic books, cartoons, radio programmes, television series, video games, t-shirts, action figures and countless lunch-boxes. The movies alone have grossed more than $1 billion, not adjusting for 2013 money. Adjusted, the original Superman in 1978 earned $1,075,544,773. The most recent movie earned almost $650 million worldwide.
The actor who played Superman on the silver screen has always been largely unknown as a movie star before playing the titular role. It’s a deliberate strategy that adds to the mystique of the character. He really is Kal-el from another planet, with chiselled, all-American good looks, or Clark Kent, the unassuming boy from Kansas.
Every time there is a new Superman, there is a huge jump in profits, because the new actor exceeds expectations. (Since there aren’t any.) He allows us to believe anew in the narrative of the beneficent alien. Batman, like his character, is played by a well-established actor, showing a side of him we had never seen before.
The news comes hot on the heels of what the blogosphere amusingly calls “confirmed rumours” that Apple will be releasing a champagne gold iPhone. In the days since, there have uncountable articles, posts and essays by pundits about what this means.
Early prognostications for both the next Superman movie and the next iPhone release indicate that, in light of all the negative reviews, practically every single adult male and female in America will see the Superman movie and buy the new iPhone, earning executives and shareholders at Warner Brothers and Apple, respectively, oodles and oodles of dosh.
Americans love their superhero movies, especially with a strong literary tradition and expensive CGI. Even lacking both these factors, Daredevil, the movie Affleck supposedly tanked, earned a profit.
It is ludicrous to assume that moviegoers will not wish to see the latest instalment of how a muscular, superhuman character with sculpted abs and eyes you can lose yourself in saves the world, simply because some 41 year old is sharing some screen time.
Just as it is absurd to fathom that people won’t purchase the iPhone because one of the versions will be a champagne gold colour. There will be a gaggle of teenage girls in every school who will go out of their way to choose that colour instead of their boring current white one. It’s Apple’s illusion of choice and personalisation.
Here’s my point: according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s latest theory, these franchises are “antifragile”. They only get stronger with every failure and criticism. No one remembers that Superman IV lost money. Nor does anyone remember the antenna problems from the iPhone 4. The franchises emerged better and more resilient after every mis-step.
Both have cemented their places in the American psyche, transcending a simple movie character or technology product. They convey courage and creativity against all odds. So, enjoy the movie and latest iteration of technological perfection. In spite of your protestations and mindless tweets, you know that you are going to spend your hard-earned money on both of them.
So just stop it. It’s not like you are watching the movie for the gripping dialogue or storyline in any case – nor that you buy an iPhone for its intuitive user interface. If worse comes to worst, just mute the upcoming film and enjoy the eye candy. That, after all, is what these franchises are about, isn’t it?