Superman may be about to make a triumphant return in Justice League, but it looks like another member may be bowing out. A recent report suggests that Warner Bros. are wanting to get rid of Ben Affleck as Batman, creating a vast rift at the center of the DCEU less than 24 hours ahead of their big SDDC panel.
The original story doesn't have much of detail beyond the basic headline, but THR's source stated "the studio is working on plans to usher out Affleck’s Batman — gracefully, addressing the change in some shape or form". The way they tell it, this may be before Matt Reeves' The Batman arrives. Reeves has stated previously he would keep Affleck on board, but if a higher-level choice was made he may have to adjust plans. The implication certainly is that Justice League will be the final, complete Affleck Bat-flick.
Should this wind up true, it will be the end of a protracted break of the once-and-always controversial Batfleck from the franchise. The press tours for The Accountant and Live By Night were dominated by reports of The Batman's script problems, and shortly afterward he left the director's chair. Then it emerged new director Reeves was scrapping the original screenplay and story to start afresh. Through all this, rumors he was sick of playing Bruce Wayne persisted.
The how and why of this - as well as which party is leading the break-up - will come once we have more information, but for now the question is how exactly will WB do it? How do you make the departure of an essential actor in any way "graceful"? Let's discuss.
Option 1: A Straight-Up, Unremarked Recast
The simplest (read: laziest) solution would be a straight-up recasting of Bruce Wayne in the DCEU, replacing Affleck in The Batman onwards with a new actor of similar age and style. Like a new James Bond, the change wouldn't be properly commented on and taken as the same character.
This isn't totally out of the question and just a couple of decades ago would have felt normal. After all, this exact thing happened in the 1990s with Val Kilmer replacing Michael Keaton in Batman Forever (and George Clooney subsequently subbing in for Batman & Robin), but that was a different era of superhero movies where overarching continuity was a tertiary concern (Bruce Wayne wasn't the only major switch-up between the Burton and Schumacher era). And while more recently Marvel have done similar things with the likes of Bruce Banner and War Machine, neither are quite on the level of Batman and those were both at the start of the MCU. In the five years since Mark Ruffalo took over Hulk's purple pants from Edward Norton the idea of canon has become more stringent.
Considering the DCEU's not had any such issues yet, it would be a particularly strange move. This is doubly so as the problems aren't necessarily just with Affleck. Yes, there's a clear lethargy on his part and he's been gradually distancing himself over the past year, but for all the praise of Batman v Superman's warehouse sequence the franchise's situation would seem to be a bit shakier. So what in-universe options are there for a "recast"?
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021