It’s difficult to celebrate the arrival of Justice League, DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ answer to Marvel’s Avengers, when the future of the franchise is uncertain.
Just before Justice League’s release, Ben Affleck told USA Today he’s contemplating playing the superhero in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, the first stand-alone Batman film in the new era of DC movies that Affleck was supposed to write and direct, but stepped back from earlier this year. Affleck said he doesn’t want to play Batman forever, and was looking for a point to “find a graceful and cool way to segué out of it.” Affleck’s remarks came just a few months after he told an audience of more than 10,000 people at San Diego Comic-Con that he wasn’t going anywhere.
“Batman is the coolest fucking part in any universe,” Affleck told an audience gathered in Hall H for Warner Bros. panel at San Diego Comic-Con. “[I] would be a fucking ape on the ground for Matt Reeves.”
Affleck added that he “always intended on doing a third [Batman movie] if Warners wants to make it.”
The wishy-washy attitude Affleck has toward the superhero he’s played in two movies isn’t just detrimental for the stand-alone Batman movie, which at this point doesn’t have any actor attached, but also for the Justice League universe at large. Batman isn’t a side hero who can disappear from time-to-time. He’s a core member of the group, the leading figure in the comics that everyone looks toward for answers. Without Batman, the Justice League doesn’t operate.
It’s also not as simple as finding another actor. Affleck was the Batman we were introduced to in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and seen again in Justice League. He’s an older, wiser version of the vigilante. Affleck plays a very specific Batman, making replacing him an even more difficult task. If the actor doesn’t want to return for another Batman movie, then Warner Bros. and DC are left with trying to figure out how to incorporate Batman into a film without actually having Batman on screen.
The only alternative would be to kill Batman off, but even that seems unlikely. Again, without Affleck on screen for another role, it would have to occur offscreen. An announcement, perhaps handed down from Wonder Woman, that Batman had died. There would be a funeral for Bruce Wayne and the public would mourn their favorite bat’s death. It could work, but killing Batman sends a powerful statement that Warner Bros. and DC might not want to carry.
If Affleck wants out and DC wants to carry on the Batman presence, the best option would be a transition from Batman to Nightwing. Bring in someone from the Batman universe that could keep the spirit of Gotham’s Dark Knight going, even if the caped crusader was nowhere to be found. Batman is too important and too integral to the Justice League to just pretend he doesn’t exist. Everyone knows that.
One thing seems clear, though; Affleck is done with Batman. If we’re being honest, he’s been done with Batman for a very long time. We have to assume that director Zack Snyder and the executive team at Warner Bros. have been planning for this and trying to make arrangements, but that final “I’m done playing Batman” statement is just beyond the horizon. The final swing of the pendulum is coming to the DC Universe.
Justice League will be released on Nov. 17.