The chatter started earlier this week, almost as soon as Affleck announced he won’t be directing the solo Batman movie. “Is he preparing to leave the project altogether?”
That made no sense to me. If he’s bailing altogether, why not just announce it now? Why drip feed the bad news?
But today, it hit me.
It’s entirely possible that Affleck has already decided that he’s done with the DCEU [DC Extended Universe], and he’s already told Warner Bros – and they’re keeping it under wraps to salvage what they can from Justice League, which will be released in November.
Think about it. If Affleck announced his departure now, months before the release of a massive blockbuster in which he stars as Batman, it would sink Justice League.
Affleck is the most credible name to be attached to the DCEU; the best part of the otherwise poorly received Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; and the light at the end of the tunnel for audiences and critics who don’t like Zack Snyder’s style but want to see a solo Ben Affleck Batman film.
If he told us today, or anytime in the next nine months, that he was walking away from the DCEU altogether, Justice League would be a lame duck. Dead on arrival.
In that case, you might ask, why say anything about leaving at all? Why announce now that he won’t be directing The Batman, but maintain the illusion that he’s starring in it?
Well, the announcement that he won’t be directing The Batman keeps the media off his back for a while, and provides an explanation for the film’s start date being pushed back (or even for the film temporarily falling off the release schedule).
And even though fans are disappointed the director of Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo won’t be directing a Batman film, the knowledge that he’s still starring in the film quiets those concerns.
But if Affleck was to drop out completely, it’d most likely necessitate a do-over for the DC cinematic universe, which would mean Justice League wouldn’t ‘count’ in the long run. At the very least, it’d be a clear sign that Affleck didn’t have faith in the quality of the film, which would be enough to hurt its box office prospects.
We’ve seen this before. While Green Lantern was still in theatres, but after it was clear to everyone else that the film was a failure, Warner Bros insisted that a Green Lantern sequel was still in development.
Fan4stic was under fire from the start, and its dismal opening weekend seemed to confirm there would be no sequel. But, at least while the film was still in theatres, Fox continued to talk up the prospect of a Fan5stic.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 was an obvious franchise killer, but Sony continued to insist there were still plans for a third film in the Garfield-verse for some time after the film’s release.
The Justice League situation is even trickier, because the film was so far along in development when Batman v Superman was released (it started filming barely two weeks after BvS’ opening weekend) that Affleck and the studio didn’t have any time to let the smoke clear and evaluate the wreckage of BvS before it committed to the team-up film.
If Affleck did want out of the DCEU, it’d be understandable.
Maybe he’s realised that he’s getting too old for this s**t, and his body isn’t up to the rigours of playing the Dark Knight.
Maybe he’s at a stage in his career where he only wants to work on projects he has creative control over, and he’s realised that Warner Bros isn’t going to give it to him on a DC property.
Maybe, after the failure of Live By Night, he’s realised that the time he’s required to invest in DC projects is detracting from the quality of his own films.
Maybe he’s simply worried that the critical stench of the DCEU is rubbing off on him, and he doesn’t want to jeopardise his reputation any further.
Or maybe he’s just mad they made him wear these glasses in Justice League.
I could be way off base here.
After all, despite the steady stream of directors to leave DCEU projects (including Michelle McLaren, Seth Grahame-Smith, Rick Famuyiwa and, of course, Affleck himself), we haven’t seen actors leave the stable.
The details of Affleck’s Batman contract have never been disclosed – maybe it’s simply much harder for him to walk away from appearing in the film than it is for him to vacate the director’s chair.
Personally, I want him to stay on board – as much as I love Michael Keaton and Christian Bale, Ben Affleck might be the best Batman we’ve seen on screen.
And, most importantly, Affleck says he’s on board. His statement seems sincere, and there’s no reason not to take him at his word.
Except… he just told Jimmy Kimmel a couple of weeks ago that he was definitely directing The Batman, and he seemed pretty convincing then, too.
Some of you will scoff at this, but Affleck is a good actor. If Warner Bros needs him to keep telling the world that he’s committed to the DCEU until Justice League leaves theatres, he can sell it.
Remember, his director on Gone Girl, David Fincher, said that Affleck is a great actor because he’s “so duplicitous”.
This time, Batman fans might be the ones being duped.