When it was announced in 2013 that Ben Affleck would portray the next big screen Dark Knight in Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the Internet (putting it mildly) went into a frenzy. The casting was the first of many controversies the film would go on to generate, with many fans concerned that Affleck was the wrong choice. After all, he had tried to play a superhero once in Daredevil, and that didn't turn out so well. From the beginning we believed the Oscar winner could work in the role, but for a while Affleck's involvement remained a point of contention among comic book aficionados.
How things change. During the movie's marketing campaign, images and footage of Affleck in-character started to sway some of the naysayers. When Batman V Superman finally arrived in theaters, even those who weren't particularly fond of the final product could agree on one thing: the new Batman was perhaps the film's strongest element and viewers couldn't wait to see more of him. No matter how one feels about Dawn of Justice and its perceived shortcomings, Affleck emerged relatively unscathed - save for a sad, yet humorous Internet meme.
Though it hasn't been officially scheduled yet, Warner Bros. is planning to release a solo Batman movie starring Affleck before 2020. Judging by the response to Batman V Superman, it'd be safe to assume the studio would make it a top priority, but updates on the film are few and far between. Affleck recently confirmed earlier rumors that he is working with DC head honcho Geoff Johns on a mystery project, which many believe is the latest live-action Batman flick. If WB is smart, they'll fast track it so it comes out as soon as possible. There are several reasons why.
Capitalize On Positive Buzz
Between Man of Steel and Batman V Superman, the DC Extended Universe is 2/2 in terms of delivering adaptations that divide audiences. For now, things seem to be working, with Dawn of Justice setting box office records. However, mixed word-of-mouth typically does not yield sustainable, longterm results. Batman V Superman could already be suffering the consequences of the negative response, since it saw the steepest Friday to Sunday drop-off during its opening weekend. Though Batman V Superman has its supporters, there are also plenty who are against it, so it will be interesting to see how Dawn of Justice holds up over its entire theatrical run.
Simply put, WB needs to give die-hard fans and casual audiences a tangible reason to be excited for another DC film. Given that Affleck's Batman received high marks, the easiest way to accomplish that just might be pushing Batman to the front of the slate and capitalize on the positive buzz. It's a situation similar to Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, who is getting her own vehicle in June 2017. After she stole just about every scene she was in (particularly the Doomsday fight), there are those who could be anticipating Wonder Woman more than Snyder's Justice League. If the studio is listening to what fans are saying, Batman will get a set release date so viewers have something to look forward to - no matter what else happens in the DCEU.
At the earliest, a new Batman movie wouldn't be able to hit theaters until 2018; Snyder will start production on Justice League Part One in the very near future, and Affleck is finishing up work on his crime drama Live by Night for an October 2017 release. That means there's inevitably some time to wait before it comes out, but WB would still be striking when the iron is hot. Affleck's version of the Dark Knight resonated strongly with moviegoers, and he'll no doubt get the spotlight in the big team-up film next year. Even if Justice League sees a similar response to Batman V Superman in terms of reviews, that probably won't be enough to quell anticipation for the next Batman. That character is pretty much a lock to be a success.
Give A Talented Cast The Spotlight
From Affleck to Gadot to Jesse Eisenberg, DC's speciality seems to be out-of-left-field casting choices that inspire impassioned comments about why the actor is a bad fit, but now that fans are getting a chance to actually see everyone in action, the Gotham City portion of the DCEU is in great shape. As mentioned previously, Affleck has proven his worth as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Jeremy Irons was a wonderful successor to Michael Caine as Alfred. The two actors' interactions in Batman V Superman were stellar, giving viewers a tantalizing taste of their chemistry. It's hard not to crack a smile at Alfred wondering if there will be future generations in the Wayne family, or tear up at Bruce having an emotional talk about being older than his father ever was.
The first image of Jared Leto's tatted-up Joker rubbed some people the wrong way, but the brief snippets of him in the Suicide Squad trailers have changed the tune somewhat. Leto seems pretty charismatic in the role, and his deranged commitment to playing the Clown Prince of Crime should make for a compelling performance when it's all said and done. Margot Robbie has had a high approval rating ever since she was cast as Harley Quinn, perfectly capturing the traits that make the character a standout. Even on the off chance that these characters are among the weakest elements in David Ayer's film, Batman has a long list of rogues to choose from for a solo movie.
Affleck, Irons, Leto, and Robbie would already be a killer ensemble, meaning the recent addition of J.K. Simmons as famed Batman ally Commissioner Gordon is just the cherry on top. If these five are brought together for their own movie, that's four Oscar winners (though Affleck's Oscar wasn't for acting), and one rising star who is talented enough to become an Academy Award winner one day. The pedigree of comic book movies continues to rise, but that's still an impressive roster to headline an adaptation. It's reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, which provided meaty roles for thespians like Christian Bale, Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman. The cast here has the capability to transcend the genre by supplying the necessary gravitas to their characters and make them feel real. Overall, DC has done a good job casting their universe, but Batman takes the cake and Gotham deserves a moment in the spotlight - sooner rather than later.
Affleck the Filmmaker
It's difficult to get a complete read on the DCEU, since so far it consists of only two films and they've both been directed by the same filmmaker. WB maintains that the franchise will be "filmmaker driven," however, meaning that all the directors who come in will have relative creative freedom in crafting their movie. For those not enamored with Snyder's version of DC's famous icons, that's an enticing development because the studio has recruited top tier directors like Ayer, Patty Jenkins, and James Wan to play in their sandbox. And for Batman, there's one name that makes the most amount of sense: none other than Ben Affleck.
After a rough period in the 2000s, Affleck redefined his career by stepping behind the camera and demonstrated he had adeptness at directing. Though he's only made three films to date, all of them have been very well-received, and 2012's Argo won Best Picture (making up for Affleck's infamous Best Director snub). His track record speaks for itself, and Affleck has quickly become one of the best filmmakers working in Hollywood today. So far, he's made "smaller" dramas (in comparison to a superhero film), but those sensibilities are a perfect fit for a serious Batman story and could just be the palate cleanser moviegoers need in the DCEU.
Though he's very skilled at staging action sequences, even those who like Snyder's DC films will admit that he has a tendency to go a little overboard with CGI. For some viewers, the finales to Man of Steel and Batman V Superman overwhelmed the senses with all that was going on. Nobody's saying that the next Batman movie should resemble an indie film, but more than any other upcoming title on deck, it has the potential to be the most toned-down in terms of fantastical elements. Nolan showed that it's possible to keep things somewhat grounded with these mythos, and after larger-than-life battles with gods, monsters, and presumably the end of the world, audiences probably wouldn't mind something scaled down, while still maintaining a grand scope. The ability to blend multiple genres is what makes superhero movies such an appealing prospect, so WB should take advantage of what they've assembled.
More than anything, the DCEU needs a film that earns near unanimous acclaim from critics and audiences. They have to look no further than Gotham City to find all the ingredients there, waiting to be mixed into a movie that can put the brand on top. It's true that nobody's perfect, but for now it's difficult to bet against Affleck as he continues his resurgence. Over the last handful of years, his involvement with a film has become a reason to get excited for it, so seeing what he can do with Batman could be a treat for everyone.
If WB is smart, the studio will turn on the Affleck signal and hand him the keys to the Batmobile as soon as possible. The way things have shaped up, Batman is one of the franchise's best assets and the focus needs to be on him moving forward. Snyder is doing this in a way by having Bruce Wayne be the one to recruit the fellow Justice League members, but in a team-up like that, Batman is still sharing screen time with other superheroes. This is a well-realized character that has earned his moment in the sun. If people walk away from Batman V Superman demanding more Batman, then the studio should give them what they want.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020. Solo Superman and Batman movies are coming before 2020.