The rumor mill is heating up with reports that Ben Affleck wants out of his role as Batman. If Affleck does bow out that would be a serious blow to the long term credibility of the shared DC Cinematic Universe.
Affleck’s confidence seems to have been shaken by the dismal box office performance of his latest directorial/scripted/headlined project Live By Night.
That’s routinely been listed as the reason Affleck and Warners Bros. agreed that he wouldn’t direct the standalone Batman film. But losing him from the role would be disastrous for the embattled DC movie brand still seeking an Avengers-level film that connects with both critics and moviegoers.
It also doesn’t help WB that Affleck has been widely praised for his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman. For whatever issues critics have had with the recent films, Affleck has been spared any hate. And losing him would definitely be a step in the wrong direction for the DC franchise.
This isn’t an Edward Norton or Terrence Howard case. Sure it was a minor nuisance for Marvel Studios to replace the original Bruce Banner/Hulk and James Rhodes/War Machine, but swapping out Batman? That’s more like recasting Iron Man’s Robert Downey Jr. after The Avengers.
It’s another reason why Marvel Studios’ approach was so smart. Instead of seeking out and casting A-level blockbuster stars, they stacked the franchise with up and coming stars (Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans), a reclamation project (Downey Jr.) and respected if not blockbuster, headlining talent (Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo). Only Scarlett Johansson was clearly a bonafide star when The Avengers kicked off. Marvel got talent it could build a mega-franchise around and whose other projects wouldn’t outshine its films.
Warner Bros. got it right in casting Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg and Jason Momoa as Aquaman. That’s the ideal blend of known stars who can become synonymous with those iconic heroes. Only Affleck was the exception. Unfortunately, it’s for the most important role in a DC movie universe.
From all indications, Affleck’s Batman is going to be the featured character in the upcoming Justice League. Convincing Affleck to stay on in the role might be the most important job for WB Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.
But if there’s no convincing Affleck, the best way to save face might be to look to the past. Christian Bale might have gone too heavy on the growling, but for many fans, he’s still their Batman. Luring Bale into this DC universe might be Warners’ best option to maintain its tenuous momentum.
Bale might have moved on from the franchise at this point, but he would be the only choice that would instill some optimism that the DC Universe isn’t in a major tailspin that not even Superman flying around the planet a couple of times can fix.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.