An announcement that felt inevitable for the last two years has finally arrived – Ben Affleck is out of The Batman. But how has this happened and, frankly, why did it take so long? There was great excitement, at least for most fans, when Affleck first signed on to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in Zack Snyder’s Batman VvSuperman: Dawn Of Justice. His take was pitched as an older, more brutal version of the character and one that would lean closer to the Batman depicted in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
Affleck was also coming off the back of the acclaim that greeted his directional efforts like Argo. While the star received generally positive feedback for his performance, Batman v Superman itself was greeted with a very mixed critical response. After it failed to gross $1 billion worldwide – a target that should have been easily achievable for a blockbuster combining two iconic superheroes – it was clear all was not well with the DCEU plan.
Following the underperformance of Justice League, there were reports Affleck wanted out as Batman ASAP, and his commitment to The Batman seemed to shift depending on the month. Now Ben Affleck is officially out of the project (with Matt Reeves' Batman movie set for a 2021 release with a new actor), let’s take a look at the myriad reasons for the end of the Batfleck era.
The DCEU Plan Changed... And It Hurt Batman Most
Affleck signed on for Zack Snyder’s vision of the DC cinematic universe, which consisted of a five-film story arc that allegedly ended in the character's ultimate sacrifice. Batman v Superman was chapter two of that story, with Superman’s death inspiring a bitter Batman to regain his faith. Of course, the reception to Dawn Of Justice and its downbeat tone made Warner Bros concerned about the future of the series, leading to the dramatic re-edit of Suicide Squad to brighten the tone. Snyder jumped right from Batman v Superman to Justice League, so there was no real time to course correct.
After the filmmaker delivered what reports describe as an "unwatchable" first cut, Joss Whedon came on to script and ultimately direct major pickups. What happened next was drastic to say the least: Whedon reshot half of Justice League, made it "funnier" and changed much of the story that had been mapped out. The reshoots particularly hurt Batman, with the character was saddled with lame humor and proved fairly useless in most battle sequences. If Affleck had been burned by the reception to Batman v Superman, he was positively cooked by Justice League and was talking openly of a "cool way to segue out"of Batman.
Ben Affleck Gradually Stepped Away From The Batman
Affleck is arguably more acclaimed as a director than actor, so it made sense he was originally signed on to write, produce, direct and star in The Batman. At first, it looked like Affleck’s The Batman would have seen the character face off against Joe Manganiello's Deathstroke, and he even joked in interviews of the fan pressure involved with developing the project. However, the one-two punch of Batman v Superman’s reception and the box-office failure of directorial project Live By Night in 2016 appears to have influenced his eventual decision to step down as The Batman’s director in 2017.
Reports also suggest he felt Live By Night was comprised by his heavy DCEU workload, and it didn’t turn out how he envisioned as a result. He was still attached to star in The Batman, but following Justice League reports quickly snowballed that he wanted out fast. Considering the star had initially been reluctant to sign on for Batman following a bad experience on 2003’s Daredevil - Affleck had grown up loving the comic and calls the movie the only one he truly regrets making - to watch DC's vision for Batman gradually (and embarrassingly) come undone must have been painful.
Matt Reeves Wanted A Fresh Start For The Batman
Matt Reeves proved with his Planet Of The Apes series (he directed the second and third parts of the prequel) he excels with character-driven blockbusters, so he’s a very exciting choice for The Batman. After stepping up, rumors quickly spread he wanted his film to be a noir-inspired detective story, and he wanted a new, younger Batman to take the lead. Warner Bros allowed the filmmaker time to develop a solid script, while Affleck’s attachment felt more tenuous by the month.
Until everything was set with a new release date, though, nothing was made official (WB has been burnt by announcing DC plans ahead of time before). This will likely be why everything has felt so protracted; it's not that Affleck remaining was ever really on the cards, more that Warners weren't ready to officialize the end of the era just yet.
It goes without saying it’s a genuine shame Affleck’s Batman era ended this way. He’s a truly gifted storyteller and could have done great things with the role. Instead, Batman v Superman will likely be considered the highlight of his short run.
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021