The future of Batman in cinema has been in flux for the past few months.
While nearly everyone was convinced that Ben Affleck was long gone, and Robert Pattinson would be our new and only Batman going forward, DC, as it turns out, had some surprises in store for us.
First came the news that classic Batman actor, Michael Keaton, would be returning to the role in the upcoming Flash movie. Then came the news that Batman’s on-screen future over the next few years would be even bigger than we imagined as Matt Reeve’s new spin-off series was announced, promising to explore Gotham City and the GCPD more than ever before.
Then, last night, the biggest shock of all came with the news from Vanity Fair that Ben Affleck would be returning. And if you’ve read either of those previous two posts, you’ll know I’m all about that.
So, to round out this impromtu trilogy of posts (unless, somehow, we get even more game-changing Batman movie news this weekend at DC FanDome), I’m going to talk a little bit about ‘Batfleck’s return, and then throw out some speculation on what might come of it.
As we know, Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in 2013. Reactions were mixed, but I was keen to see what he would do (although I was also keen to see Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker, and we all know how that turned out). Then came Batman v Superman, and in my opinion, it was… a let down. A big one. But, in spite of that, I loved Affleck as Batman.
There was potential there. I won’t go into it too much, because I’ve covered it in previous posts, but I loved Affleck’s performance, the design of his Batman and Batmobile, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, and perhaps most importantly, the stage Batman was at in his career. I respect Zack Snyder and I’m excited to see the Snyder Cut next year, but I was, all those years ago, even more excited to see another director (which, obviously was initially meant to be Affleck himself) get their hands on the character for a solo movie.
Then Affleck ran into some hard times. Divorce, alcoholism, rehab, critical panning of his movie and lesser interest in his own projects led him to step away as Batman, seemingly forever. Robert Pattinson was given the cowl, and the age of Batfleck came to an end far too soon.
But now he’s back, thanks to the Muschiettis approaching him about a role in the aforementioned Flash movie.
From the looks of things, Affleck’s Batman will be present at the start of the movie, giving someone to contrast with when Ezra Miller’s Flash travels into the multiverse and encounters Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight.
From there, there are multiple possibilities.
The one I’ve seen floated the most (and I even suggested it in a prior post) is that Batfleck will be present prior to Flash’s journey through the multiverse, and this movie will act as his swan song, as the Flash’s multiversal high-jinks lead to him returning to an altered universe where either Keaton or Pattinson are now the ‘Prime’ Batman (Keaton’s return to the role is said to see him take up something of a Nick Fury-type gig, something that, unless they’re doing Batman Beyond, doesn’t seem all that likely if it’s not part of the central universe).
While I could get on board this idea, I’m still not sold on a 70 year old Batman rubbing shoulders with his far-younger Justice League teammates. No offence to Keaton (great actor), I just want to see our main Batman be a little bit closer to his prime.
Plus, Pattinson’s Batman films seem to be their own thing, off in a separate universe from the majority of DC’s current outings, which suggests that it either will be Keaton, or… potentially, Batfleck is more onboard than we thought.
If that is indeed the case, and I hope it is, then I’d like to see Affleck get the deal that was supposedly being floated for Henry Cavill’s Superman going forward: predominantly cameos in other people’s movies.
Because while it would be great to see Affleck helm his own movie or HBO Max show, the truth is, I’d rather he take it easy and stick to whatever he’s comfortable doing. The pressures of the gig, starring in multiple movies as Batman, doesn’t seem to be something he’s 100% into, and so I’d like to see them build up a world around him, while simultaneously allowing him to do his own projects.
So, how would that work? By bringing back seemingly forgotten projects like Nightwing, Batgirl and Justice League 2. Through these, we could get our fill of Batfleck, without him having to be front and centre all the time.
A Nightwing movie could touch on his past with Robin (the first one, retroactively confirming the ‘dead Robin’ to be the second Robin Jason Todd), before the movie goes forward with Dick Grayson’s own solo career as a superhero. A Batgirl movie could see him inspire Barbara Gordon to take up the cowl, while he mentors her from afar (plus, that means more J.K. Simmons, which is always a plus).
A Justice League sequel would obviously require the biggest commitment, but the load would also be shouldered by the likes of Cavill, Miller, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher, plus whatever new actors and heroes they want to throw into the mix. It could even mean a follow-up on Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke.
Then, even without a Affleck-led Batman movie, we still get to see Batfleck’s journey from violent loner, to a more open, inspirational figure. They could even kill him off in a Justice League movie down the line, and have whoever they cast as Dick Grayson take up the cowl going forward.
All of this would keep Batfleck’s commitment, as I imagine he wants it, to a minimum (compared to his co-stars), but allow audiences to explore his Gotham in a way that didn’t seem possible just mere days ago. Three or four supporting roles could give us our fill of Batfleck, and give him a chance to star in films that everyone agrees are good.
Plus, keeping him as a supporting character doesn’t detract from Robert Pattinson’s Bat-films, where we’ll get to see a younger Batman, thus not oversaturating the superhero genre any more than it already potentially could be.
It could work.
But regardless of what they decide, I’m just excited to see my favourite Batman return to the screen at least one more time (or two more times, really, if the Snyder Cut is really as different from the theatrical cut of Justice League as people seem to think), because…
Thanks for reading! What do you think of Ben Affleck’s return? Let me know in the comments, below!
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Plus, before you go, FanDome, DC’s virtual convention, starts around this time tomorrow. But while I am finally returning to work this weekend, if everything works out, I’m going to try my best to cover everything as it happens, so keep an eye on this space from around 6/7pm tomorrow evening when the fun begins!