When Ben Affleck stepped down as Batman earlier this year, fans had mixed feelings about it. Some fans considered him to be the best Batman in movie history, while others considered certain parts of his take to be a disservice to the character.
Affleck wasn’t to blame for everything that was wrong with so-called “Batfleck,” since a lot of it came from Warner Bros. interference and Zack Snyder’s alterations to the source material. The debate over whether or not Affleck was a good or bad Batman will rage forever, because he was both. Here are 5 Things Batfleck Got Right (And 5 It Got Wrong).
10 Right: Bruce Wayne as a tortured rich guy
Ben Affleck did a good job of playing Bruce Wayne as a wealthy guy who is tormented by his past and his emotional struggles. Zack Snyder would place him in lavish country homes and high-society cocktail parties and Affleck would never look happy – especially if he was alone and given the freedom to reflect on his emotions.
A truly great Batman actor doesn’t just play Batman; he plays Bruce Wayne, too. And Affleck did a phenomenal job of portraying the emotional torment going on in Bruce Wayne’s soul, as a morally iffy vigilante whose parents were murdered in front of him.
9 Wrong: Using guns
This was the first big no-no for a lot of DC Comics fans, because there are two ultimate truths to the Batman character that exist in every incarnation in the comics: he doesn’t kill, and he doesn’t use guns. He watched his parents get shot to death, so he refuses to kill or use guns.
And yet, in Zack Snyder’s vision of the character, he kills people with guns all the time. In fact, he’s pretty much never not armed. At every key DCEU moment, like the core Justice League trio’s last stand against Doomsday, he’s seen wielding a pump-action shotgun. It’s just not Batman.
8 Right: Batman’s rage
Batman is a crime-fighter in the most crime-ridden city in America. He was driven to this by the murder of his parents in an alley right in front of him when he was a little kid. He’s filled with guilt over their death and he’s tormented by the fact that he’ll never be able to stop all the criminals in Gotham or save every one of its citizens who get targeted.
In certain incarnations of the character in the comics, this has all swirled around in his brain and combined to make him mad, and it’s easy to see why. A lot of critics noted that Ben Affleck’s Batman was the angriest we’d ever seen – but that’s a good thing, because the character is angry.
7 Wrong: No detective skills
Matt Reeves has pledged to make the Batman in his upcoming solo movie starring Robert Pattinson a skilled detective like he is in the comics. Apart from “the Dark Knight” and “the Caped Crusader,” Batman’s nickname is “the World’s Greatest Detective,” and yet, his detective skills are hardly ever shown on-screen.
Batfleck was no different, as he was essentially clueless if the bad guy wasn’t right in front of him. At least Val Kilmer’s Batman solved the Riddler’s riddles and Christian Bale’s version matched a fingerprint to a bullet. Affleck’s Bat didn’t do any detective work at all, and there were plenty of narrative opportunities for it.
6 Right: His fighting style
Ben Affleck’s Batman was an impeccable fighter. He had a very precise fighting style, with every punch feeling like it was calculated. Every other previous movie Batman has just had generically choreographed fights – and in the Christopher Nolan movies, they weren’t even comprehensible, because the cuts were far too quick and nothing was made clear – but Batfleck could really fight.
We felt the impact of every punch, just like we do in the fight scenes in the comics, and he seemed to have really trained as a fighter. The DCEU’s action scenes are often criticized for being mindless CGI-fests, but this one thing they’ve always done right.
5 Wrong: Inconsistent characterization
Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck got Batman pretty much nailed down in Batman v Superman. Many DC Comics fans were convinced that he was the best screen Batman they’d ever seen. However, when he returned in Justice League, he was virtually unrecognizable.
It’s likely that in the Snyder cut, Batman is consistent with the version established in BvS, but not in the cut that Warner Bros. released. In hiring Joss Whedon and pivoting away from the storylines set up by BvS, the studio tried to copy the MCU’s success. This meant turning Bruce Wayne into a second-rate Tony Stark. Very disappointing.
4 Right: His heroism
At the beginning of Batman v Superman, we see Bruce Wayne land at the Metropolis office of his company as it collapses during the destructive battle between Superman and General Zod from Man of Steel. Everyone is running out of the rubble and smoke, but Bruce runs into it, without a second thought, to see if there’s anyone he can help.
He’s not wearing his armor, he doesn’t have any of his gadgets – he’s just a guy who sees a dangerous situation and runs towards it to save any lives that he can. Batman is a hero, and Ben Affleck played him that way.
3 Wrong: The infamous Martha twist
The Bruce Wayne that we know and love from the comics is a smart guy. He’s also a passionate guy, so if he decides that someone is his enemy, he sticks to his guns. That’s why it felt so disingenuous that he would give up on his quest to stop Superman from causing the deaths of any more innocent people, just because their moms happened to have the same name.
The infamous Martha twist from Batman v Superman has become prime fodder for parody in the last couple of years, with everything from Deadpool 2 to Teen Titans Go! To the Movies poking fun at it, and there’s a good reason for that: it’s dumb.
2 Right: Bruce Wayne being the real mask
Most superheroes use their masks and their vigilante alter egos to cover up their true selves, but Batman is different. Batman is the true identity; Bruce Wayne is the facade he puts on to fool people.
The real Bruce Wayne died when he saw his parents get murdered, and ever since then, he’s just been Batman who occasionally removes his mask and goes to a board room meeting or a cocktail party to keep up appearances. Ben Affleck was the first actor to really nail that. (Will Arnett also did in The Lego Batman Movie, but that was a spoof.)
1 Wrong: Being close to retirement
The Batman that we met in the DCEU was already old and bitter and grizzled. He was talking about how he didn’t think he could go on as Gotham’s masked protector anymore and wanted to hang up the cowl for good.
It would be great if the franchise did this with a Batman that had been around for years, after we’d seen him face dozens of powerful villains and overcome several near-death experiences – sort of like Captain America’s arc in the MCU – but it’s not a good idea to introduce a character close to retirement at the very beginning of a cinematic universe.