At almost exactly this time last year, news broke that Ben Affleck was coming back to Batman, reprising his role as the Caped Crusader in James Wan’s Aquaman 2, aka Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Affleck said he was done playing Batman in DC’s live-action movies all the way back in 2019 — he even had a send-off ceremony for his run as the character. Previously he played Bruce Wayne in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, then reprised the role in Justice League and cameoed in the David Ayer edition of Suicide Squad.
But Jason Momoa took to Instagram in 2022 to reveal that Affleck would return as Batman in the Aquaman sequel, then scheduled for release in March 2023. Numerous scheduling changes for both Aquaman 2 and The Flash messed with that plan, and now The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that after several rounds of reshoots, Batman has been cut from Aquaman 2 entirely.
That change is a little less surprising for people who did see The Flash when it finally hit theaters in June, after being repeatedly bumped from its original July 2022 release date. The Flash soft-resets DC’s cinematic universe, first letting Michael Keaton return to the Batman role, then bringing in another guest star for a comic cameo. Releasing The Flash ahead of Aquaman 2 created a continuity problem: After Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) messes with the continuity of the universe, Ben Affleck is no longer Batman in his world. So how would he return to play the role in Aquaman 2?
According to the THR report, the Aquaman 2 Batman cameo originally featured Michael Keaton, who shot scenes for the role. When the release schedule changed and Aquaman 2 looked like it would be released first, Affleck was brought in to reshoot that cameo. With director James Gunn and producer Peter Safran taking over the DC cinematic universe, the decision was reportedly made to cut the cameo altogether to avoid confusion. “The latest cut of the film features neither version of the Dark Knight, according to sources, as new DC heads James Gunn and Peter Safran do not want to promise a movie universe that will not come to fruition, nor tie it down excessively to past failures,” THR reports.
There’s still time for that to change yet again — Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom currently isn’t scheduled for release until December 2023. But much of the point of putting Gunn and Safran in charge was a new focus on strong leadership and decision-making in a company that kept changing tactics around its movies, veering from a shared-universe vision for its superheroes to a series of unrelated one-offs. And Gunn has been particularly vocal and specific about his plans for the new DC Universe. So we may have seen the last of Batfleck after all — at least until Aquaman 2 hits home video, and the deleted scenes start leaking online.