Ben Affleck was once the core creative force behind the DCEU's Batman, set to act, write, direct, and produce the caped crusader's solo movie before giving up the creative reigns and losing enthusiasm for the role, but now there's new rumors that he'll be back after all - what's going on?
When Ben Affleck signed on to play Batman, one of the great icons of superhero lore and modern blockbuster cinema, his career had reached new heights. After a period of bad movies and personal turmoil, he established himself as an acclaimed director with films like Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Argo landed him the Best Picture Oscar and a whole host of outcry after he wasn’t nominated for Best Director. In the space of a decade, Affleck had gone from much sought after leading man to tabloid joke to serious artist. He had limitless options ahead of him. The fact that he decided to take on the hefty mantle of a big-screen legend speaks volumes.
As divisive as Affleck’s casting was at the time, it made a lot of sense, both from a creative stance and from Affleck’s point-of-view. He wouldn’t just be playing Bruce Wayne – and Affleck’s brand of slightly smug charisma was always ideal for the Wayne side of Batman – he would be writing and directing himself in a solo Batman movie. Now, he could be both a leading man and an auteur, and in a role that had gained new life as a serious endeavor thanks to the Christopher Nolan trilogy and work of Christian Bale.
Of course, as we now know, things didn't go as planned. While Affleck's work in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was reasonably well reviewed, the film was not. Justice League was a further disappointment and it became tough to ignore the problems surrounding the DCEU. The Batman solo project never seemed to get off the ground. The film that was announced in October 2014 remains in production. Affleck was announced in 2016 to be directing and co-writing with Geoff Johns, then the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment. Shooting was rumored to begin in early 2017, but in January of that year, Affleck stepped down as director and was replaced by Matt Reeves. Later that year, it was confirmed that Affleck's script was being re-written. Affleck remains signed on to play the lead role, but since then, there have been myriad rumors that Affleck is eager to get out of his DC contract. Affleck and DC initially denied these issues, but DC’s long-time PR problem couldn’t ease those concerns, especially once the Sad Affleck meme was born.
- This Page: Affleck Was Promised a Very Specific DCEU Batman Vision
- Page 2: Affleck's DCEU Role and the Future of the Franchise
Affleck Was Promised a Very Specific DCEU Batman Vision
The DCEU has made a lot of changes during its short run of only five films. Zack Snyder, the director of three of these films and the main creative force of the franchise, had a distinct vision in mind that DC and Warner Bros. seemed 100% behind at the time. It seems that the original plans for the franchise were slower paced, more detailed and less tied to the Marvel formula of expanded universe franchise film-making. Instead of focusing on a whole universe of characters the Man of Steel arc was intended to continue through five movies including Batman v. Superman and a possible Justice League trilogy. This series would center on Superman, with other DC icons entering as supporting characters before getting their own solo outings outside of Snyder's core Superman story.
Snyder's planned build-up to Darkseid in Justice League via the character of Steppenwolf seems to have been a potential set-up for a version of Final Crisis, the Grant Morrison written comic event where Batman sacrifices himself to kill the Lord of Apokolips. If this were the case, then Affleck’s five-film contract would be completed as Batman would have come to a fiery and highly satisfying end. Logistically, it would have made sense for Affleck to keep his Batman run reasonably short, since it's doubtful Affleck and Warner Bros. would have wanted to keep him in the role well into his late 40s and early 50s.
Whatever the case, the Batman narrative Affleck signed up for is not the one he and audiences got. The franchise has tried to make drastic changes in style and tone, Justice League swapped directors and now DC Entertainment is undergoing major management restructuring. The vision for Batman's arc that made Ben Affleck to get over his bad memories of Daredevil – the movie he considers his only career regret – probably doesn’t exist anymore.
Page 2 of 2: Affleck's DCEU Role and the Future of the Franchise
Affleck Was Supposed to Have a Creative Say Justice League
On top of helming his own Batman film, Affleck was meant to be more heavily involved with Justice League. He's credited as an executive producer and was supposed to be involved in the editing process. It's not unusual for a star of Affleck's stature to get a say in these kinds of projects, and it probably would have been a greater priority for the actor given the disappointment of Batman v. Superman.
As Justice League's production rolled on and re-shoots continued, Snyder was replaced by Joss Whedon, citing personal reasons, although rumors still persist that DC actually fired the director due to ongoing creative differences. Given the closeness with which Snyder worked with Affleck and his vision being a key part in Affleck's involvement, it makes sense to imagine Affleck's own interest in the franchise as a whole cooling without Snyder in charge as its guiding hand. By the time re-shoots were done and trailers were being released, the changes were obvious and not ones that fans seemed particularly excited about, such as a notably bumped brightness and color saturation, and the inclusion of a number of quips and jokes that clearly weren't part of the original script. He backed out of directing The Batman (in part due to his own personal issues) and further distanced himself from the franchise. While other actors in the series like Henry Cavill still seemed genuinely enthused to be involved with the process, Affleck looked so over it. No wonder so many rumors swirled about him wanting out.
The DCEU is Getting Back On Track Again, and Affleck Might be Interested
Things may be on the up for the DCEU. Their PR problem has been greatly reduced, they’re seriously rethinking their long-term plan, and the projects currently in development have more positive buzz around them than Justice League or Suicide Squad ever did. The DCEU was never supposed to be rushing around after Marvel and dropping that style was the best decision they've made in years.
What previously seemed like bad news for the character of Batman feels more sensibly thought out now. Matt Reeves is taking his time with The Batman script, something Affleck himself said was hugely important, and the film currently has no release date. Therefore, there's no pressure to rush this thing out to keep up with a franchise model that doesn't work for them.
Officially, Affleck is still signed on as Batman. The rumors of him wanting to pull out remain but aren’t as loud as they were, and there's even a number of rumors that he wants to commit to the role again. If he still wants out, then ending his brief run with his solo movie would be a good move to make. It would also suggest a greater level of confidence in the franchise.
When Ben Affleck agreed to be Batman, it was under the promise of immense creative power and the unique opportunity to combine his forces as an A-List leading man and acclaimed writer-director. That dream never came to fruition and even those who don’t hold the DCEU in particularly high regard have to admit that his casting and involvement became a missed opportunity for all involved. All hope is not lost, and Affleck can still bring out the big guns for a climactic appearance as DC’s greatest detective.