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Batman loses a director, and we’re all worse off

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Affleck’s Batman was a rare spot of hope in Warner Bros.’ lineup

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Ben Affleck will no longer be directing his own Batman film.

“There are certain characters who hold a special place in the hearts of millions,” Affleck stated. “Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give. It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require. Together with the studio, I have decided to find a partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film. I am still in this, and we are making it, but we are currently looking for a director. I remain extremely committed to this project, and look forward to bringing this to life for fans around the world.”

And with that, Warner Bros. lost one of the few bright spots on its DC Comics schedule.

Why this is such a bummer

Affleck is an accomplished director with a history of writing and directing great movies, but perhaps more importantly is how Affleck is able to balance the grim subjects of movies like Gone Baby Gone and The Town without being bogged down by angst.

That’s in direct contrast to Snyder’s bargain bin Hot Topic sensibilities, and hinted that Affleck would be able to handle the material in a way that wouldn’t lead to the rumored clashes over tone that plagued Suicide Squad.

There isn’t much pre-release buzz, good or bad, about the upcoming Wonder Woman film, but The Flash is having its own issues with finding a director.

“I pitched a version of the film in line with my voice, humor, and heart,” Rick Famuyiwa said. “While it’s disappointing that we couldn’t come together creatively on the project, I remain grateful for the opportunity. I will continue to look for opportunities to tell stories that speak to a fresh generational, topical, and multicultural point of view.”

Marvel has had its own share of director turnover when it comes to superhero films — it’s not that surprising that so many directors would have issues with the level of control studios demand with tentpole films that fit into existing universes — but tone continues to be a word that haunts Warner Bros.

“It was interesting, that movie, because it was judged not necessarily on execution so much as on its tone,” Affleck said about Batman v Superman. “People seemed to want to have a lighter tone to the movie, and I thought that was interesting because it's subjective. Tone is not a qualitative thing. It's subjective, right? Some tones resonate with me that might not with you.”

I’m not going to agree that the movie was judged on its tone, Batman v Superman had much deeper problems, but Affleck did seem to be well suited to deliver the sort of tone that Warner Bros. is looking for without drowning in it. His Batman and Bruce Wayne were stoic men who looked like they were roughly hewn out of blocks of granite, and his relationship with Alfred was one of the few bright points of the movie, especially in the extended cut.

It’s not a shocking move

Affleck, in general, hasn’t been having a great run lately. He seemed pained during the promotional tours of Batman v Superman, and has also been frustrated at the level of interest in his own Batman film.

“It's one of those things that's really frustrating because with Live by Night, it took me a year and a half to write it and get it ready, and I worked really hard, and nobody gave a shit,” Affleck told Jimmy Kimmel. “Nobody was like, ‘Where’s Live By Night?!’ But with Batman I keep on getting, ‘Where’s the fucking Batman?!’ And I’m like, ‘Whoa, I’m working! Give me a second.’”

Live by Night was written and directed by Affleck and has made a little under $19 million against a reported $65 million budget, as of this writing. He was right that nobody gave a shit, but flopping that hard commercially after taking a critical beating in a film that cleaned up at the box office has to be rattling.

So Affleck wearing so many hats on the standalone Batman project probably made everyone involved uncomfortable, but losing his butt in the director’s chair is a loss for the character and Warner Bros. This was a chance to bring a bit more subtlety to a character Affleck seemed to understand, and the dissolution of this aspect of the project is a blow to Batman fans.