Rumours have been floating around that Ben Affleck won’t remain as Batman after Justice League, which opens in theatres this November. It remains to be seen how accurate these rumours really are and if, indeed, Affleck will soon depart the role. The news might also seem ridiculous for many. How can Warner Bros. possibly change actors for arguably the biggest and most important role in the DC Cinematic Universe? Well, there are a few creative ways the studio and The Batman director Matt Reeves could remove Affleck/Bruce Wayne from the equation. And given just how much creative control Affleck has lost since Reeves’ arrival, it feels almost inevitable that a new Dark Knight will soon enter the frame.
The rumours that have been hitting the web recently come with a few explanations as to how Warner Bros. can logically replace Ben Affleck. There are ways to introduce a new Batman that make sense from a storytelling perspective. For one, Dick Grayson/Nightwing could step in and fill Bruce Wayne’s shoes. It’s been done before in the comics and even in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. Remember, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character was left the keys to the Batcave at the end of The Dark Knight Rises.
There was even a famous comic book storyline in 1993, called Knightfall, where Bruce Wayne became temporarily paralyzed and he appointed a vigilante named Azrael to be his Batman replacement. So, it’s been done before, and given just how much the DCEU borrows directly from the comics (this isn’t Nolan’s grounded trilogy by any stretch of the imagination), it could very well happen and make total sense.
It’s also important to think about what kind of filmmaker Matt Reeves is. Ben Affleck supposedly had a script ready and was set to direct the solo Batman film for a long time. Whatever transpired between the actor and Warner Bros. obviously forced the studio to bring in another director. Reeves is an auteur, similar to Nolan. He’s one of those rare breeds of filmmakers that is capable of working within a studio system without sacrificing his vision or relinquishing control over the project he’s making. He’s very hands-on.
Dawn and War of the Planet of the Apes are prime examples of this. Reeves came in the middle of this planned Apes trilogy and made the franchise his own while also keeping the core tone and feel from the first Apes film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If the director sees a different actor as a much better fit for the role of Batman, then he’ll most certainly try to replace Affleck. Also, given just how successful Wonder Woman has been, it seems Warner Bros. are willing to give up a little more control over to the directors. After all, it did work with Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.
So, replacing Ben Affleck makes sense, but how will the general audience react to this creative move, and how will it affect the DCEU moving forward? That’s where things get tricky.
Despite Wonder Woman, the DCEU still has plenty to prove, and it’s easy to perceive this Affleck news has being yet another sign that Warner Bros. doesn’t know what it’s doing with its universe. It will inevitably come off feeling like a complete mess one way or another. The only way to fix this is to make a fantastic Batman film without Affleck in the title role, which Reeves is more than capable of doing—but Warner Bros. would have to weather the storm caused by negative press.
If the rumours indeed turn out to be true, or even if they’re completely false, one thing is for sure: Warner Bros. is trying to salvage the DCEU in any way it can.