Bad reviews didn’t stop Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice from pleasing (some) fans making over $800 million at the box office, which means the DC Extended Universe is moving forward full-steam. While it remains to be seen whether the other heroes in DC’s creative stable can carry their own franchises, one thing about DC’s films throughout the years is certain: Batman is box office gold.
Another element that bodes well for Batman’s next box office outing is that star Ben Affleck was recently confirmed as the director for the Dark Knight’s next solo film. Say what you will about the man as an actor (even a superhero), his high caliber as a director (particularly of crime dramas and thrillers) is pretty much above reproach.
This isn’t the Batman movie we need right now, but it’s the one we deserve.
While Affleck’s story treatment has already been approved by producers, here are 13 Things We Expect From Ben Affleck’s Batman Movie.
13. Real, Honest-to-Goodness Detective Work
In Christopher Nolan’s world, Batman can get away with being a dude who’s just really good at karate, but in the super-powered DCEU filled with metahumans and demigods, the Dark Knight needs to bring a little extra to the table.
Simply put, if Batman isn’t the world’s greatest detective, a master strategist one step ahead of every opponent and one of the most brilliant minds alive, he doesn’t have much to offer the Justice League (aside from his trust fund). Batman V Superman touched on his detective skills, but a standalone film needs to go deeper into that aspect of his character, and bring us the first real film adaptation of the very thing that makes his comic counterpart more special.
12. A Small, Intimate Gotham Story
Apocalyptic, high-stakes stories play well in ensemble superhero films like The Avengers, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or the forthcoming Justice League, but Batman is at his best when he’s dealing with crime down the block. Another way to put it is that a story about Batman is also a story about Gotham, so Ben Affleck will hopefully turn his focus to the streets of a city plagued with poverty and crime.
Affleck has shown skill at directing taut, minimalistic crime thrillers with Gone Baby Gone and The Town, and his Batman film will be at its best if it exercises that philosophy. First and foremost, Affleck’s Batman should be a crime story that explores the Dark Knight’s continuing war on a superstitious and cowardly lot of crooks. Maybe he can look to Netflix’s Daredevil for inspiration. That’s a joke.
11. The GCPD
We’re not trying to begrudge Fox’s Gotham, here. If anything, the success of that show means that Affleck is going to have to bring something a little extra to the table when he features Gotham’s finest.
We already know that J.K. Simmons is cast as Commissioner Gordon, so the GCPD’s presence is a given. What isn’t known is how the cops perceive Batman in the DCEU. Batman v Superman establishes that Affleck’s Batman isn’t afraid of a few casualties in his war on crime, nor significant collateral damage.
Despite his 20-some years of activity, it’s hard to believe that Gordon would give Batman a pass for that. The DCEU’s GCPD should be just as disillusioned as the Caped Crusader. Gordon himself, struggling with feelings of betrayal thanks to his once-trusted vigilante.
A damaged relationship between Gordon and Batman (and perhaps some political pressure in the form of a potentially-incoming Commissioner Yindel) should put the GCPD at odds with him and provide audiences with some interesting dramatic tension.
10. The Bat Family
The DCEU’s Batman is well-established, and has already been active in Gotham for the better part of two decades. That means he has had plenty of time to build the cast of supporting characters he has in the comics, and there’s no need to stall their big screen debuts by dragging us through another origin story.
Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is pretty much a given, and it was already revealed that Jena Malone had scenes as Barbara Gordon cut out of Batman v Superman, though whether she played Batgirl or Oracle is unknown. Still, it seems natural that she’ll play a role in the solo Batman film, hopefully alongside comic characters like Nightwing, Robin and maybe even cameos from Catwoman, Batwoman, Huntress and more. The sky is truly the limit.
9. Find Out What The Heck Happened To DCEU’s Robin
We already know from Batman v Superman that Batman had at least one Robin, though Geoff Johns and the creative team behind the movie have been purposefully mum about the identity of that Robin and what happened to him.
The likeliest explanation is that the dead Robin is/was Jason Todd, the second Robin in the comics who met a grisly fate at the hands (specifically, a crowbar) of the Joker. Still, the DCEU’s approach to that story (through flashbacks or exposition) doesn’t have to be a straight adaptation of Death in the Family. They’re sure to put their own twists on it, and we’re banking on getting at least a teaser in Affleck’s Batman.
8. Red Hood Debuts
In the comics, Red Hood was the identity (or a possible identity) of the Joker before he went for a nosedive off a catwalk into a chemical vat that turned him into the Clown Prince of Crime. But other characters have taken up the Red Hood mantle since, including …
… Jason Todd.
Todd returned to comics in the mid-2000s as a ruthless vigilante wearing a red helmet and going by the name “Red Hood” in apparent homage to the Joker’s original criminal alter ego. He continued to use the identity first as a member of The Outlaws and currently alongside fellow former-Outlaws member Arsenal in an ongoing series.
The point is, if the DCEU Robin is Jason Todd, it’s possible that his return was telegraphed in Batman v Superman, and an adaptation of his return story arc in the comics would make for a great central conflict in Affleck’s Batman.
7. The Joker
The Joker was teased in Batman v Superman and will make his DCEU debut in Suicide Squad later this year. While Batman will cameo in Suicide Squad, it won’t be the last time he faces his archnemesis.
While Jared Leto’s Joker doesn’t necessarily need to be the main antagonist of Affleck’s Batman, it’d be hard to get away with not featuring him in some capacity. He plays an essential role in Jason Todd’s return, but if Affleck chooses not to adapt that storyline, the Joker could still show up for his own cameo – maybe Batman visits him in Arkham Asylum in a Hannibal Lecter-esque sequence, or maybe he’s set free at the end, setting him up as the main antagonist of a future movie.
Any way you slice it, the Joker is probably going to show up in Affleck’s Batman in one form or another. Time will tell whether Leto’s portrayal goes down in history alongside Heath Ledger’s 2008 turn in The Dark Knight or Jack Nicholson’s performance in 1989’s Batman, but the odds are that he will be a frequent player in the DCEU for years to come.
6. Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum is an essential piece of the Batman mythos, and while we don’t need Affleck to adapt A Serious House on Serious Earth (though that would be phenomenal, eventually), he’s all but bound to showing us his take on where all the bad guys go.
Nolan’s Arkham was a decaying urban structure that was all but shuttered at the end of Batman Begins, while the films directed by he-who-must-not-be-named featured an extremely gothic, rural take more familiar to what we’ve seen in the comics.
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say – Schumacher actually got it right. While the urban Arkham of Nolan’s world was geographically convenient to the plot, Arkham is, according to its origins, a converted estate, meaning that it should be outside of Gotham City proper surrounded by storm clouds, dead trees and a general sense of ominous dread.
5. The Rogues Gallery
One of the only things The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did well was handle villain cameos in a way that wasn’t especially crowded or egregious. Sure, we rolled our eyes every time the film went out of its way to name-drop a comic baddie, but the way Marc Webb handled a small-time villain like Rhino actually worked quite well. He was a one-off.
Shoe-horning in villains really only becomes a problem when the villains are each competing for real estate. Spider-Man 3 didn’t work because Harry Osborn, Sandman and Venom were competing for the Big Bad. Batman & Robin didn’t work for the same reason (okay, there were a lot of reasons Batman & Robin didn’t work).
Affleck’s Batman would do well to perform a little fan service and include one of the smaller fish in his rogues gallery in a one-off adventure or pre-credits sequence. If Arkham is on the table, villain cameos are, too. Since the DCEU isn’t as grounded as the Nolan Bat-verse, we could even see some of the more fantastical villains in Batman’s repertoire as the Big Bad. Whether that’s in the form of a film redemption for Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy or an as-yet unseen film antagonist like Clayface, Affleck has a lot of interesting bad guys to play with.
4. The Mutants
Batman v Superman liberally borrows story material from The Dark Knight Returns, and Affleck could continue that trend. The mutant gang in TDKR represented how chaotic, violent and anarchical villains became in Batman’s absence, and if you really want to get all metaphorical about it, they represented the ruthlessness of youth and the threat it poses to an older generation.
Bringing the Mutants to the film as a credible, dangerous secondary or tertiary antagonist would underscore the brutality of Affleck’s Batman, and could go some ways toward justifying his increasingly violent and lethal characterization in the DCEU.
3. Wayne Manor’s Restoration
When we last saw Wayne Manor in Batman v Superman, it was fairly apparent that… let’s just say Alfred hasn’t kept up appearances and leave it at that.
While the mystery of what happened to Wayne Manor would make for a great storyline, its restoration to its former glory would be equally satisfying to see in Affleck’s Batman. It doesn’t have to have the focus of, say, Batman: Flip This House (we would totally watch that though), but the glowing fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and clock entrance to the Batcave should feature as background pieces for Affleck’s Dark Knight.
2. Gadgets, Gadgets, Gadgets
This may come as a surprise to you as a comic book fan and devoted reader of this website, but Batman doesn’t have any superpowers. Shocking, we know.
What he does have is a body at the peak of human physical performance and the world’s most brilliant mind. As if those two assets alone aren’t enough to stir up a little trouble, he also has a utility belt full of mysterious goodies.
Batman is prepared for any situation, and as a master inventor and scientist possessing nigh-unlimited resources, he has any number of tools on him at a given time to help him get the job done. Most of the Batman films so far have featured his Batarangs and grappling guns, and the Nolan-verse had those silly little smoke bombs. What else is in that belt? What’s hidden in Batman’s boots, gloves, and cape?
We’re not saying we want Bat-skates again, but Affleck has an unprecedented chance to cleverly show how Batman is prepared for any situation by opening up that belt and using some of the inventive goodies inside.
1. Cameos From Former Batmen
This might be a tad controversial, but it’s something none of the Batman movies have done before. Why not bring back Michael Keaton or Christian Bale in small supporting roles? They don’t have to come back as villains per se (though a fight between Bale and Affleck would be immensely entertaining). Keaton could cameo as the mayor of Gotham, and Bale, some kind of business colleague of Bruce Wayne.
Of course, they could multiverse the heck out of this and have Batman peer through a dimensional portal at alternate versions of himself from the Tim Burton timeline or the Nolan-verse and maybe they could all join forces to …
Nah, that stinks. But a nod here and a cameo there would be a pleasant surprise.
What do you think of our expectations for Ben Affleck’s Batman movie? What would you like to see in Batman’s DCEU solo film?