The DCEU Wasted Ben Affleck's Batman (& His Other Skills)

Justice League and Ben Affleck as Batman

After many months of speculation, Ben Affleck is officially out as Batman and the news only further reminds us of how the DCEU wasted such mighty potential. It’s been all but confirmed for many months now that Affleck would not be returning to the DCEU as the Dark Knight.

Endless speculation over the matter, coupled with internal troubles regarding the franchise’s future, not to mention the very public difficulties Affleck has been dealing with in his private life, made the recent news less than surprising to most fans. The upcoming solo Batman film, directed by Matt Reeves, will feature a new star in the role. Affleck tweeted out a story confirming the news, adding that he was exctied for what Reeves has in store.

Related: Why Ben Affleck Is Out As Batman (& Why It Took So Long)

Affleck’s two films as Bruce Wayne signaled a strange bump in the road for the character and DC franchise alike. While the news of his casting, fresh off his 2013 Oscar win for Best Picture with his directorial effort Argo, inspired the usual furor and divided fans, people have primarily been very sympathetic towards Affleck’s tenure. Even people who really didn’t like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice typically singled out Affleck’s performance as a high point. Nobody ever put the weight of the DCEU’s problems on Affleck’s shoulders, but people also didn’t blame him for looking so checked out of the entire experience. By the time this news broke, his departure felt inevitable and somewhat unfair. Warner Bros. wasted a lot of goodwill and good ideas with the DCEU but the frittering away of Affleck’s potential felt especially sad.

Ben Affleck Signed On For A Different DCEU Story

When Affleck signed onto the DCEU to play one of the genre’s most iconic heroes, he was on top of the world. He’d clawed his way out of the blockbuster wilderness after many years of being a Hollywood joke thanks to a series of flops and the tabloid frenzy that was his engagement to Jennifer Lopez. He took a step back from the spotlight and worked to re-establish himself as a more serious actor as well as a successful director. He won the Best Actor prize at the Venice Film Festival for his performance as George Reeve (the original Superman) in Hollywoodland, his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone was well received by critics, and his Oscar-nominated follow-up The Town made back four times its budget. By the time Argo became the Best Picture winner of 2013, grossing over $232 million worldwide and led to endless headlines about how Affleck was snubbed for a Best Director nomination, Affleck had regained the industry’s support. Between this and working as an actor with auteurs like David Fincher and Terence Malick, it seemed that Affleck had begun a new age as a Clint Eastwood style actor-director. He could do anything he wanted. He chose to be Batman.

Affleck seeking to return to blockbuster glory wasn’t a surprise, especially given what Warner Bros. had originally promised him. Not only had he signed on for a radically different interpretation of the character, driven by Zack Snyder's 5-part DCEU plan, but he was committing to a multi-picture deal that would see him direct his own solo Batman effort. It was an auteur's dream, especially since Batman's most defining films are typically seen as auteur's works (Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan). But it’s the interpretation of the character himself that seemed especially intriguing to Affleck, an actor with his pick of projects who would probably be a dream piece of casting for any franchise.

Related: The Best Ben Affleck Batman Replacements

Snyder's original vision for the role had Affleck starting out as a broken Bruce who was inspired to return to his Batman duties by Superman. Snyder also planned to take the unprecedented direction of killing off Batman, having him sacrifice himself at the end of his arc. It certainly would have been creatively risky but it's not tough to see why such a narrative would be of interest to Affleck: It would make his version of the character unique from the many others before him, it would give him plenty of big actor moments to sink his teeth into, and it would provide a natural ending to his multi-film contract. For all of the grumbling over the now mythic Snyder cut of Justice League and how much the director’s vision was compromised throughout his run at DC, it’s perfectly understandable how such turmoil would leave Affleck feeling dissatisfied with his lot. After all, this wasn’t what he signed up for.

Page 2 of 2: How Justice League And The Batman Wasted Ben Affleck

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