From Efron to Gyllenhaal, can “Batman” be saved by a fresh face?

Batman V Superman

After Ben Affleck’s departure, can one of these five actors make The Dark Knight shine again?

-The Batman movie franchise is in trouble once again. Despite still being, both, one of the most enduringly iconic superheroes ever to grace the pages of a comic book and one of the most successful in making a comprehensive transfer to the big screen, there are things about Batman that just don’t sit right with audiences.

From Tim Burton and Michael Keaton to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale — no one seems to quite get the balance right. Burton couldn’t capture the madcap camp of the original Adam West-starring TV series and Bale’s gruff “I’m Batman” soundbite has been bitten consistently in everything from The Big Bang Theory to the Zac Efron and Seth Rogen movie Bad Neighbours.

And, of course, then there’s Affleck. In a way, his painfully unremarkable turns in Batman vs. Superman and Justice League were a necessary banality: a palette cleanser whose only lasting legacy is to leave no legacy whatsoever. Other, of course, than the video where Henry Cavill talks at length about absolutely nothing while Affleck looks dead behind the eyes. All that being said, and with Affleck now officially hanging up his cape, could a new actor also bring new life to the role? Here are five of our favourite suggestions (minus Tom Hardy — sadly already wasted on incoherent, mumbling form in The Dark Knight Rises.)

Zac Efron

Despite having been mentioned above solely for his part in mocking the franchise, Efron actually makes sense in a lot of ways. A lot depends on the success of his controversial turn as Ted Bundy in the upcoming Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, but you really can’t teach that mix of ego, physical presence and (as High School Musical and Hairspray can more then verify) the kind of musical theatre camp that can take the role out of its recent navel gazing form.

Michael B. Jordan

While Jordan has now already turned his hand to superhero movies twice in the last four years, with a standout performance in the Oscar-nominated Black Panther and — through no fault of his own — an appearance in the wholly forgettable Fantastic Four reboot of 2014, these showings have been confined wholly to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Add to the above his critically acclaimed showing as the eponymous Adonis Creed in 2015’s Creed and you have a promise of the kind of authentic intensity Bale tries so hard to replicate.

John Cho

While Cho may not have the kind of haggard physicality of Bale or the bizarre ice cream cone shaped silhouette of Affleck, there’s definitely room for a fresh performance to take on more of the Bruce Wayne persona and a little less of the Batman. With that in mind, what Cho lacks in physical presence — and, hey, you can put that together pretty quickly with the right trainer and enough money when the right role comes calling — he more than makes up for in a believable charm, style and wit that you really can’t fake.

Brad Pitt

This one is hardly a willard, but anything George Clooney can do, right? Frequently undersold for his outstanding comedic talent — see: Burn After Reading, The Mexican, Fight Club — and the melancholy he pulls off in By The Sea and Meet Joe Black, Pitt actually has the benefit of being able to play Batman in several dimensions. Put that together with the way he bulked up to an almost offensive size for Troy and the vaguely ill-looking frame of pure muscle he sported as Tyler Durden, and there’s proof that we could get either a beaten and long-suffering Dark Knight or a hero very much in his quick-witted prime.

Jake Gyllenhaal

Man of the moment thanks to a new Instagram account, a killer performance in Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw, a video in which he corrects some terrible pronunciation, and — of course — a very good face, according to almost everyone. Gyllenhaal has all the credentials to play both Wayne and Batman: he was physically imposing in Southpaw, fought crime in Prisoners and Source Code, and was kind of a boy scout in Zodiac. Sure, Gyllenhaal has a major role in the upcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, but we’ll let that slide.

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