If Matt Reeves is really looking for a young actor to play the Caped Crusader in The Batman movie, then that’s a good thing for Ben Affleck (and for Affleck fans). Originally, Affleck planned on writing, directing, and starring in a solo Batman movie that would’ve dived deep into what makes the character the world’s greatest detective, but something on that scale can understandably become overwhelming, which is why he relegated himself only to a starring role (and possibly as a producer). And the project has had a tumultuous developmental journey ever since then.
The Batman lost a writer and director but gained another in Reeves, who is currently in the process of rewriting the film’s script. While everything seemed to be going smoothly behind the scenes, it all got turned upside-down when it was revealed Reeves was looking to possingly make a Batman trilogy. In doing so, he was reportedly looking to recast Affleck with a younger actor who could logically carry on the role for many more years. That much was heavily suggested when Reeves turned in the first act of his screenplay for The Batman, which focused on a young Dark Knight.
While Affleck’s fans certainly aren’t okay with Reeves and DC Films looking to cast someone else as Bruce Wayne in The Batman – possibly someone like Jake Gyllenhaal or Jack Huston, who’ve both reportedly met with WB about the role – it’s not actually a bad thing. In fact, an origin story (or trilogy) with a new actor as Bruce Wayne/Batman might end up working in Affleck’s favor overall – and, in turn, in the favor of his fans.
When it was decided that WB’s follow-up to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel would include Batman – with the film later being titled Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – it was clear that the creative team behind the project (including Christopher Nolan, who produced the movie) were looking for an older actor to portray a hardened, seasoned warrior that audiences hadn’t yet seen onscreen before. Affleck fit the bill, and he made his debut in the 2016 film with a 20-year career in crime-fighting already established. As Affleck’s Bruce Wayne tells Alfred (Jeremy Irons) in the movie, “20 years in Gotham, Alfred. We’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stay that way?”
At this point, a new origin story just doesn’t make sense. Sure, it’s easy to blame WB for putting themselves into a corner by casting an older Batman to begin with, but this could actually be a blessing in disguise. Affleck’s Batman is already established; he has already fought countless bad guys and gone up against, presumably, most of his rogue’s gallery. So, why not explore that past in greater detail? Fans still want to know what happened to Jason Todd, after all. By having a younger actor, one that’s 15-20 years Affleck’s junior, take on the role of Batman in Reeves’ origin trilogy, WB and DC Films can really dive into those 20 years that Affleck’s Batman mentions.
What’s more, exploring that past will give greater insight into Affleck’s Batman and even explain the way he is in Batman V Superman. One of the chief complaints about Batman in Snyder’s film was his sheer brutal nature, the fact that Affleck’s version was “okay” with killing. To understand why Batman had fallen so far – most likely due to the death of Jason Todd by the Joker and Harley Quinn – audiences need to experience all that onscreen. Seeing Affleck’s Batman (through a younger actor) go from being a newly-established superhero to eventually losing Robin in a live-action adaptation of Batman: Death of the Family would not only enhance Bruce Wayne’s story arc in Batman V Superman but give moviegoers an origin story they haven’t seen before.
Practically every superhero movie that released within the past decade has been compared to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and possibly rebooting Batman for the third time in the same decade is not what audiences need. It would just further encourage comparisons to what many people consider to be the best superhero trilogy of all-time. Trying to compete with that, while already being down for the count (in the eyes of certain corners of the fan space, that is), isn’t a particularly good idea for WB’s untitled DC movie universe. Rather than completely reboot the Caped Crusader, a pseudo-reboot, with a new actor portraying a young Ben Affleck, would be better suited.
WB is currently testing the waters with Todd Phillips’ Joker origin movie with Joaquin Phoenix, while also pursuing additional movies with Jared Leto’s Joker, so it’s theoretically possible to have two different Batman actors onscreen at the same time, but it doesn’t make sense for them to be in two different continuities. There’s a significant difference between telling a character’s origin story for the first time, especially in a mid-budget production like Phillips’ film, and retelling an origin story for a well-known character for the umpteenth time. So, by exploring Affleck’s continuity would still be considered another origin story but in a different light, since it would be a prequel to an already known version of Batman.
Furthermore, comparing something like Spider-Man and Iron Man’s trilogies to Nolan’s films is one thing, but to start another Batman story over from scratch, especially when audiences are most likely familiar with the tale already, just doesn’t make sense – and it will be directly compared to Nolan’s Batman Begins every step of the way. WB already went through that when people (understandably) compared Affleck’s Batman to Christian Bale’s version in Batman V Superman.
Recasting Ben Affleck as Batman is easily the number one concern that has been looming over the DC film universe for over a year. Even when taking all the Justice League issues into account, and the fact that so much was changed at the last minute, Affleck’s decision over whether or not to remain in the role is still unclear – and any sign pointing to his continued involvement would come as a relief to many fans. According to WME-IMG’s co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell (via THR), Affleck originally signed on to appear in three movies as Batman, not including his cameo appearance in 2016’s Suicide Squad. So, he’s appeared in two movies so far – Batman V Superman and Justice League – with one more still in the cards.
It was initially believed that Affleck would star in Justice League 2 – which is what Emanuel and Whitesell believed – but plans got changed and then it was rumored that Affleck’s final appearance would be in DC’s Flashpoint movie. We argued that it was the best way for Affleck to exit DC universe as Batman, while also setting the stage for another person to take on the role. But considering that The Flash movie may be steering away from the Flashpoint story arc, there is still the chance that Affleck could appear in a Justice League sequel, or at least another team-up movie before calling it quits… if that’s what he ultimately chooses to do.
However, if Affleck wants to stay in the role, as he’s somewhat indicated in the past (such as at Comic-Con 2017), then having another actor take over the reins of the Caped Crusader in an origin movie, while the creative team at DC Films works on developing another Justice League story, could work in his favor. He would be free to relax for a bit, recuperate, and then return for one last showdown – or relegate himself to a role that’s mostly out of the suit, a la Robert Downey Jr.’s role as Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Nick Fury in, well… everything.
Ben Affleck is a filmmaker – and a creative one at that, having made films such as The Town and Argo – not just an actor. There are multiple projects on his plate that he would like to tackle, such as The Accountant 2, not to mention writing and directing another Oscar contender. But being restricted to a superhero role may not allow him to pursue other projects. He would spend most of his time training, preparing, and starring in these roles for DC Films. Take a look at Jeremy Renner, for instance. The one reason he’s not in Mission: Impossible – Fallout is because of his commitment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe… and he wasn’t even in Avengers: Infinity War! And look at the debacle that was Henry Cavill’s mustache with the Justice League reshoots.
Being in a superhero movie contract is like being a series regular on a major TV show; it’s great and everyone wants to do it, but it’s time-consuming and it restricts freedom to take on other projects, especially in a creative role as a writer, director, and producer, not just as an actor, which itself can be quite taxing. If Affleck’s Batman can get an origin story – a trilogy, if everything goes according to plan – with another actor in the role, then that would free up Affleck from appearing in so many DC films. (Remember, he’s the only actor to ever portray the Dark Knight in two movies in the same year: Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad – both in 2016.)
However, when the time comes for the Justice League to reunite for another showdown, or if DC ever does want to adapt the Flashpoint story arc for the big screen, then Affleck can return to the role for those installments. That way, audiences get to see Affleck continue as Batman while also seeing his character’s 20-year history play out in the meantime. It’s a win-win for everyone… including the fans. Whether or not that’s something WB, DC Films, and Matt Reeves actually plan on doing is another matter entirely, but it’s certainly the best idea, and it should very well be on the table.