Silver Screen Spotlight: Ben Affleck

Actor, humanitarian, director, and acclaimed writer, Ben Affleck is man of many faces, and very much one of the most elusive actors I've had the pleasure of seeing on-screen only a handful of times. Budding as a television star on mostly-forgotten network shows (as most Hollywood stars did) and developing from a college drop-out-turned comedic actor to one of the most talked-about dramatic actors/directors today, Affleck has been met with a number of roles in his career -- some that were perfect for him, and others that neared more the opposite. From his many encounters with his best pal Matt Damon -- most notably their Oscar-winning debut in 1997's Good Will Hunting -- to his unique debuts as director in 2007's Gone Baby Gone and most recently 2012's Argo, Affleck has grown from a low-level comedic actor and nearly non-existent writer to a star similar to Leonardo DiCaprio, who only shows up when he's got something spectacular to deliver on-screen. Now, as he enters one of the biggest budding superhero franchises since the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Affleck pulls on the cape and cowl to prove to audiences his Batman could change the character forever.

One of the first Ben Affleck films I remember seeing would have one of the actor's first blockbuster roles, in 1998's Armageddon. Still retaining his boyish charm and romantic-comedy persona, Affleck was generally memorable as a lover boy driller-turned-astronaut in this Michael Bay disaster flick. While the film itself wasn't as memorable -- or at least as memorable as most of Bay's films are -- Affleck was an effective supporting player in this sci-fi action flick. Another memorable role the actor had -- ironically in another Michael Bay film -- was in 2001's war-epic Pearl Harbor. Playing a lover boy yet again -- this time forced to tackle his love for Kate Beckinsale, while dodging an incoming attack from the unflinching Japanese forces on the onset of World War II -- Affleck secured another major blockbuster role with a memorable aftereffect. While the film was later butchered by critics, Pearl Harbor remained one of the most memorable Ben Affleck films I had seen.

With Affleck's career before 2003 mostly consisting of the occasional sleazy supporting role in comedies and a few popular outputs along the way, I took plenty of notice to the actor when he entered the superhero genre in 2003's Daredevil. While the film was inevitably trashed for its unoriginal and campy feel as it told the story of Marvel character Matt Murdock and his struggles as the blind vigilante Daredevil, one of the highlights of the film had to be Ben Affleck. While his take on the character is nothing compared to the newest actor to take on the role in Netflix's series of the same name, at the time I thought Affleck's version provided an intriguing and dark peek inside the actor's range. Ultimately becoming a film that both annoys and entertains me to this day, Affleck's dive into the superhero genre provided a favorable -- while not entirely exciting -- performance from the actor in his early career.

Well, second time's the charm...
I didn't entirely respect Affleck as an actor until I first saw him as a director, ironically. While I missed out on the actor's first director's jobs in 2007's Gone Baby Gone and 2010's The Town, 2012's Argo was one I knew I couldn't miss. A political thriller based around the struggle for CIA operative Tony Mendez to rescue six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979–1981 Iran hostage crisis, Affleck took center-stage in top form as he led the show to nearly seven Academy Award nominations. Probably one of the most defining roles I've seen in my limited exposure to the actor's career on-screen, Affleck's performance -- as well as his direction -- was both riveting and unforgettable. Pulling together a rag-tag cast for this dramatic thriller, and providing audiences with a profound true-life story that was meant to be told on-screen, I gained a new perspective I never saw before once I saw Argo. Now, as he sets out to direct even more projects -- including a possible Batman solo film as soon as next year -- I'm very excited to see what Affleck has up his sleeve as a director.

Returning to his acting career, 2014's Gone Girl was the next performance by the actor that stole my attention. Notably one of the best thrillers of the year, the David Fincher-directed film -- based on the screenplay by author Gillian Flynn -- I fell instantly in love with Gone Girl. Sporting his pre-Batman build and a nerve-wracking performance as the hysterical husband of a wife gone missing, Affleck delivered one of his best performance after Argo, as he trekked into the dark reaches of mystery. While the "gone girl" herself, Rosamund Pike, was the true star of the film, it was Affleck's shaky yet cynical husband figure that really made the film such a nail-biting good time.

I knew I skipped one. One of the most defining roles on the actor's career had to be his slim yet humorous contribution to the 1997 classic Good Will Hunting. Just recently picking this one up, after years of the film evading my eye, Hunting delivered a powerful pack of characters and hard-hitting storylines that I'm surprised it took me this long to finally see the film. With a brilliant and pungent screenplay concocted by both Affleck and fellow co-star Matt Damon, one of the actor's first writing gigs might've been his best. While Affleck only played a minor role in the film, as the cocky Boston-born pal of Damon's unstable laborer-turned-genius, the duo of Affleck and Damon behind the camera is what really shined in this movie.

While there remains a number of films from Ben Affleck's colorful filmography that I've yet to see -- from his sub-par dealings with Matt Damon in Dogma to his take on Superman actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland -- there no doubt that I'll be in the theater very soon to see one of his biggest roles to date, as he tackles the overwhelming mantle of DC's own Caped Crusader in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Looking to be one of the highlights of the film already, I have plenty of faith that the actor's second taste of the superhero genre goes far better than his first. Or at least better than Ryan Reynolds' many takes.

What's your favorite Ben Affleck film? What did you think of him as the newest Batman in Dawn of Justice? Let me know in the comment section below, and stay tuned for my thoughts on his Batman tomorrow when I finally review the superhero epic for myself!  

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