His first foray into the world of comic book superheroes didn't go as anyone had hoped, but when the news came that Ben Affleck would don the cape and cowl as Zack Snyder's Batman, those who scoffed at the decision were living in the past. While the heartthrob actor had been tied to the troubling Daredevil, the man cast as DC's darkest icon was taking the part as an Oscar-winning director and writer. And at the time, some sources went so far as to claim that a solo Batman film for Affleck to write, direct, and star in was part of the deal, as one of his demands.
In the months since Affleck's performance in Batman V Superman was generally praised, Warner Bros. made another fan dream come true: not only would Affleck write The Batman, but would be doing it with DC Comics legend Geoff Johns (the talent fans had downright demanded take a guiding hand in the DCEU). That excitement apparently wore off when a script took longer to form than expected. In recent weeks hyperbole and rumors have spun out of control, implying Affleck hasn't just lost interest in the film... but that it may not happen at all.
The questions about that Batman script have been coming fast and furious, leading Affleck to - at least to those following the story since the beginning - find clever new ways to repeat the same basic sentiment. In fact, it's the same one he offered during our interview on the set of Justice League. In short, that whatever Warner Bros. may have planned for a release date, he's not moving forward until the script passes his "very high bar" for it (and given his clout and role, he's more able to stand his ground than others).
Yet the cloud of critical bashing remained over the DCEU as a whole after BvS and Suicide Squad, and with each report of a departing director or internal struggle, Affleck faced the same questions. His responses reinforced the notion that the script, while among his priorities, was being given time to gestate: That it was "on the right track," that he wouldn't "reverse-engineer projects to meet a release date," and that there was "not enough money in the world to make a mediocre version of Batman worth it."
Despite Affleck's comments, clearly spoken from a creative-over-financial stance, the studio plugged on, stating it would meet its placeholder 2018 release date as reports added that Justice League 2 would be postponed to make room for it. But no matter how many times Affleck stated, re-stated, and re-re-stated the film's early stage of development, his recent choice of words let the hounds of suspicion and speculation loose: That The Batman movie coming to the DCEU was "not a set thing." For those who had gotten on board with Affleck's stance of 'taking his time to get it right,' it was another way of wording his refusal to make a bad movie.
But for those who either couldn't or wouldn't place the comments in context, it was a bombshell. A comment that, admittedly, implied far less certainty and structure on a studio level (again, to those not aware of his existing stance). But even those unsurprised by the comment, believing the status of the project to be... well, the same as it has been for months, there is a question to ask: Why is The Batman script taking so long to come together? Thankfully, Affleck has answered that question directly. And no, the movie isn't in the kinds of trouble some are claiming.
While fielding questions (in theory) about his latest film, Live By Night, the topic of The Batman was hard to avoid (the same same junket in which Affleck offered the brief, but positive update of the script being "good and going"). When speaking with IGN on the same topic, Affleck first confirmed that 2016 has been a packed year, with an executive producing and directing workload that left little time for anything else:
"It was a very busy year, yeah. We did the BvS press while I was finishing [post production on Live By Night]. Went right into Justice League... just finished it as I was finishing Justice League, and then had to go into promoting The Accountant, and then go into promoting this. So it's been a busy year, but it's very satisfying. I'm proud of all of the movies. I look forward to people seeing Justice League... but it's a lot of work."
Considering that workload, and taking Affleck's claims of wanting to do The Batman right at face value, the script remaining 'under construction' isn't all that surprising. Affleck went a step further, voicing his excitement over the script and project, and reminding everyone that while a Batman update may be more appealing to outlets and fans - and the online traffic those headlines bring - it's all business as usual, as far as he's concerned:
"It's the same thing as any other movie. When I'm excited about it, we're working on the scripts, when we get there we're gonna make it. I'm really excited. There’s great stuff in it now, it just needs to get better and better. And it’s the same way I felt about [Live By Night] when I was prepping it, it’s just that no one was asking me questions because nobody gave a s***, because there wasn’t any click-throughs. But it took me a year plus to get this movie ready to launch. Hopefully it won’t take me that long for Batman. But we’re working, I think we’re ahead of the curve, and we’re excited."
Although the questions are guaranteed to continue, the tone and content of Affleck's comments are as candid as they are concise. It's unfortunate that after taking home the Academy Award for Argo, his next directorial outing should be so overshadowed by a film so early in development. But, as Affleck notes, the reality of the projects is different. Where anticipation for Live By Night was focused on the finished film, any and all updates, insights, and descriptors concerning the script are being sought from the very outset. Unfortunately for detail-hungry fans... that doesn't meant the story takes shape any faster.
It's hard to imagine any more substantial updates being offered until the script is actually finished, or a working draft is at least submitted to the studio. But we doubt that will stop the online pendulum swinging wildly from fears of the DCEU taking shape before it's able to bear its own weight, to fears that time spent getting a script to sing is somehow also cause for concern.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- The Batman release date: Dec 16, 2018