When Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman, I was thrilled. I wrote a piece on the enthusiasm for my personal website, the Dose. You see, I had long been a fan of the actor, through good times and bad. Sometimes supporting a thespian can be like being in an marriage … you just lower your head and ward off the naysayers.
This week, Affleck confirmed rumors that he was finished playing the Caped Crusader, telling Jimmy Kimmel that he was done. It’s a wise play for all parties, and I will tell you why. First, let’s talk about how it all came together. It wasn’t all bad, so let’s start at the beginning.
For what David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder wanted to do with Batman, getting back to Frank Miller’s detective version, Affleck was the right guy. An older, edgier Bat with an extra dose of vengeance was a fit for an actor who had been wiser choices in Hollywood since becoming a triple threat by adding director to his list of credits.
Affleck was indeed the best part of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, an overloaded mess of a film that commenced the downfall of the DCEU’s phase of films. Too much, too long, and just overcooked in so many ways, the film didn’t do what the producers at Warner Brothers had hoped-but Affleck was great. He took the Bat and made it his own.
After a cameo in Suicide Squad, Affleck made his third and final appearance in Justice League, which turned out to be another bloated mess; a cinematic food junkie cramming too much bland pasta down his throat at the buffet. Affleck acquitted himself well, but you could tell he was losing interest in the role. The best of actors isn’t a place where I’d place the Boston native, but he’s a talented one who couldn’t hide a disinterest in what he was doing.
Over the past few years, Affleck had been developing a solo Batman film that never seemed to take off. He was originally going to write, direct, and star-but then slowly, the plan fell apart. Joe Manganiello was set to play Deathstroke in the Affleck flick, made a cameo at the end of Justice League, but that has since gone nowhere. Last year, Affleck announced he was stepping away from writing and directing duties, with War For The Planet of the Apes director, Matt Reeves, stepping in.
Last week, rumors started to fly that Affleck was indeed out. After months of speculatio and Henry Cavill stepping away from Superman, the move was inevitable. Reeves had said for quite a while that he wanted to go in a different direction with his solo Bat tale, not taking the actor who tried to do the film himself and was handed to him by the studio.
It’s important to remember that Affleck playing Batman was never part of the plan. Batman wasn’t part of the original plan. When Man of Steel came out in 2013, that was supposed to be the beginning of the DCEU and many Superman films with Cavill. After the film underperformed at the box office and didn’t sit well with critics, Warner Brothers did what they always have when a comic book box office hit was needed: shine the Bat logo in the sky. After Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan turned the moody rich dude turned hero into a work of genius, another actor would be summoned to wear the cowl.
Getting Affleck to play the role was an emergency maneuver, an audible at the line of scrimmage after Man of Steel wasn’t a smash hit. Affleck fit the role and direction the studio decided to go, but he was never long for the role. Affleck as Bruce Wayne was like the fancy Mercedes that you rent for a little while, but never intend to buy.
Once Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League bombed so terribly with critics and couldn’t overcome their massive budgets in domestic box office, the studio cleaned house and started axing movie stars. Wonder Woman and Aquaman have been the only true blockbuster hits, if you look at budget, domestic gross, and worldwide tally. The team-up films haven’t been what many expected, and once the Batfleck solo film started going downhill, it was only a matter of time.
It’s a good move. Since he became a triple threat multi-Oscar owner, Affleck has tried his hand in more ambitious films, and can now do so again. It’s no mystery that since he’s taken on the Batman role, his career has hit a wall. Outside of 2016’s The Accountant, the actor hasn’t produced a ton of work, which is what happens when you’re obligated to participate in eight month shoots and promotional tours. Being Batman wasn’t a creative device for Affleck, so breaking free will only mean good things for him.
Get back to making Argo and The Town type films. Team up with Matt Damon on that Whitey Bulger flick. Take some chances. Affleck has charisma to burn, and many roles out there fit him to a tee. Get back together with Gavin O’Connor and make that Accountant sequel that has been rumored for almost two years.
Hanging up the Batman suit is good for Affleck and Warner Brothers. Let a new, younger actor get into the part, and see where that goes. Reeves is a talented filmmaker and should do well. If I had my choice, I wish they’d leave Batman alone after five actors, but money is money I guess. A young Bruce Wayne hasn’t been explored cinematically, so why not dive down the hole?
In referencing his struggles with coming up with a Batman story, Affleck admitted, “I couldn’t crack it.” I respect him for that. Other actors may have churned something out just to make money, stay comfortable, and soak up the fame a little longer. Once he had enough creatively with the role, Affleck took the high road and departed.
Well done. Now get hungry again, Ben.