July 20, 2013, the announcement of the second film in Zack Snyder’s DCEU. A dream realized for fans everywhere, The Dark Knight would finally face off against the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman. We would finally get to see these two titans share the big screen together. Thus, started the speculation of who would take up the mantle of the Bat, especially so soon after the conclusion of Christian Bale’s legendary performance in Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Many fans wanted Bale to reprise his role, but visionary director Zack Snyder saw something that many of us didn’t at first, and chose to cast Ben Affleck as The Caped Crusader and had a multi-layered arc planned for the character.
Initially met with heavy divisiveness, fans cited Affleck’s performance as Daredevil, started writing off his unseen performance as Batman. Many, including myself were skeptical at first, but were willing to give Ben a fair chance at the character and trusted Snyder’s decision. That decision turned out to give us the greatest Batman to ever appear on the silver screen.
March 25, 2016, the release of Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice. This was the most comic accurate Batman ever to appear in live action. From the utilization of the gadgets to the various vehicles, his suit, and the ferocity in his fighting, this was Batman ripped out of the comics and games. But this was the first time we got to see a Batman at this point in his life on the big screen, broken and cynical. This was a Batman far into his life as crime fighter, starting to near the end of his rope. Through the death of Dick Grayson and years of being battered and bruised, this was a Batman who had lost all hope in the world. His outlook made him even more brutal and even had him abandon his no kill rule, he was an unstoppable force. Until he saw Superman.
A being with all the unchecked power in the world, Superman was the final tipping point for this Batman’s psyche. This was the first time Bruce truly felt powerless and in his rage and cynicism decided that it was up to him to kill Superman before Superman could kill them. In their clash, Bruce successfully bested Superman and was on the brink of murder before Lois saved them both. Bruce realized that had he killed Superman, he would have been no different than Joe Chill and would never have come back from the darkness. This realization was the start of hope being rebuilt. By saving Martha, he started to lift himself out of the darkness, in a way he saved his own mom, and so, he saved himself. Affleck’s performance of this character blew myself and countless others away, as you could truly feel the pain and anger from this grizzly, veteran Batman. The end of the film signified the beginning of the end for Bruce’s journey. Seeing Superman’s selfless sacrifice showed him what it truly meant to be a hero and rekindled his once lost hope. Bruce had one mission left and that was to bring the league together and to prevent the apocalypse he was shown in his vision.
August 5, 2016, the release of Suicide Squad, the beginning of the end for the DCEU as we knew it. After the poor critical reception of Batman v Superman, WB decided to take a heavily reactionary approach to their films and the first victim was David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Ripped to shreds at the cutting board and complete shift from the original tone and vision, the theatrical cut of Suicide Squad was a messy film. But its saving grace was the minor inclusion of Batman. This was a Batman post Superman’s sacrifice, with a more hopeful outlook on the world and less ruthless. The most telling sign was his apprehension of Deadshot. Batman could’ve easily just broken Deadshot’s arms or beat him senseless without mercy as he would’ve in Batman v Superman, but in the presence of Lawton’s daughter decided to give him the opportunity to give up quietly. This scene was the perfect example of what a Batman solo film would be like with Ben under the cowl and had us craving for more.
August 29, 2016, Ben Affleck posted a video of Deathstroke online. Less than a month after the release of Suicide Squad, we got to see cam footage of Deathstroke’s debut in the DCEU. The excitement was through the roof. With the Batman solo film slated to release in 2018 we could not wait to see Batman and Deathstroke go head to head. Unfortunately, after the even poorer critical reception to Suicide Squad, WB decided to ramp up their reactionary ways. After Snyder stepped down following his unimaginable family tragedy, WB assumed complete control over Justice League and the future of the DCEU and decided to make heavy changes. In January 30, 2017, Ben Affleck announced that he would be stepping down as director of the Batman solo film, citing that it would be too difficult in terms of the time and effort to play as Batman and direct so he left the helm. One month later Matt Reeves took the job and also decided to go with his own script instead of Ben’s. This was the start of end for Ben Affleck’s role as Batman.
November 17, 2017. Through immense butchering and a confusing 2-hour mandate, the theatrical cut of Justice League as released, under the helm of Joss Whedon, it failed not only critically but financially, thus putting the final nail in the coffin for the original DCEU, Snyder’s DCEU. Through the reshot scenes and Whedon’s as well as others’ direction, Batman was unfortunately made to be one of the most pathetic characters in the film, a shell of the hero he was in BvS and SS. He was consistently under confident, and afraid to be the leader that he was, that Snyder meant for him to be. Bruce single handedly took down Superman, who we see later beat the entire league and then Steppenwolf in basically one punch, yet was scared of Steppenwolf himself.
You could tell that this role was taking its toll on Affleck, both mentally and physically. What was originally meant to be a concise 5 film saga with a few solo films in between, it was abandoned after Snyder’s departure and so there was no clear trajectory for the DCEU. When Affleck signed up to play Batman he knew it would only be for a few films not a 10+ year stint like Chris Evans or Robert Downey Jr. The Deathstroke post credit scene in Justice League, which was most likely originally in the film itself, was meant to set up the Batman film, slated to come out a year later in 2018. It was reshot to set up the Legion of Doom instead of Lex putting out a contract on Batman’s head and possibly giving up Bruce’s identity to Deathstroke. Deathstroke was most likely the villain of Ben’s script for the Batman film, but with that idea abandoned under Matt Reeves, the divide between this character and Ben grew even bigger.
When Ben was first brought on as Batman, Zack told him the arc his Batman would go through from beginning to end and the type of Batman he was signing on to play. Unlike previous Batmen who started at the beginning, Ben was to be a Batman who was reaching his end. A broken character from the beginning, our first look at Bruce in this world would be in Batman v Superman, and we would meet him at his absolute lowest point. Batman’s arc was to be one of redemption. In Suicide Squad we saw him more hopeful, believing in sound and swift justice with less brutality. Followed by Justice League where Batman would assume his role as leader and bring the league together, and the Batman solo film where Bruce would come back into his own. Finally Justice League 2, which would be his final film and the end of his arc. Justice League 2 would have had Bruce making the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the world, reminiscent of Superman’s selfless sacrifice that rekindled his once lost hope and brought him back from the abyss. If this arc had come to fruition, it could’ve been the greatest journey we see Batman go through in the history of live action so far, and Ben’s performance would have taken this character to a level we had not seen before.
January 30, 2019, After the mess of Justice League and months of speculation, the reality that we all had a feeling about inside was made official. It was announced that Ben Affleck would not longer play Batman and would be replaced in Matt Reeves’ film. Ben Affleck portrayed Batman in such a perfect way that his predecessors had not. They were either heavily grounded in realism or based in comic campiness. Ben took this character and played him with the perfect balance between real and comic. He truly allowed us to feel the pain in his character but also played him with a level of confidence and fervor that it gave this character a familiar touch. This was the Batman we read in comics and played as in the games. It is unfortunate the final time we got to see him was the theatrical release of Justice League, but should Zack Snyder’s cut of the film see the light of day, we could get one final look at the amazing arc that could’ve been by a man who will unfortunately no longer wear the cowl. We were lucky to see his performance unfiltered in Batman v Superman, and he will go down in history as one of the greatest to ever take up the mantle of the Batman.