Very early into this new year, the internet was seemingly set ablaze by none other than Ben Affleck, the star and director of Live By Night, and the incumbent Dark Knight of Warner Bros. film universe based on the characters of DC Comics.
Affleck, an accomplished, Oscar-winning director who had seemingly been confirmed to both star in and direct the first post-Christopher Nolan solo Batman
film project, spoke to the UK's Guardian
about a previously unknown "backdoor" out of the director's chair. He told the outlet, "If it doesn’t come together in a way I think is really great, I’m not going to do it."
If nothing else, his going on the record in this way should say one, primary thing to the character's gatekeepers at Warner Bros.: get the hell out of Batman's way.
DC Films: Commercial Success, Critical Disappointment
Back in August, after the dust had settled from the release of Suicide Squad
, Comics on Film made the case for why we feel the future of DC's forthcoming films hasn't been written yet
. Though the dismal critical performances of Batman v Superman
and Suicide Squad
were disappointing for superhero fans at-large and DC fans in particular, the relatively large box office hauls for both films in the early going of their respective theatrical runs seemingly indicated that people were interested in going to the movies to see a comic book movie universe featuring the likes of Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Harley Quinn, and the Joker.
Still, though these films seem to generate a lot of initial interest, it tends to fade away pretty quickly. Both Suicide Squad and Dawn of Justice suffered large – though not crippling – second week drops at the box office, and the proverbial "legs" of both movies seemed to have been cut off pretty decisively by the negative critical reactions, and the resulting lackluster word-of -mouth that surrounded both releases.
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to make a chief assumption about this, which is that the initial interest is fed by the general love that fans have for the characters of DC Comics. If, though, these movies continue to commercially disappoint, then that love and goodwill for these characters can fade pretty quickly, which will make Warner Bros. run back to the Wizarding World for their blockbuster fuel with its tail between its legs if they just, simply, cannot demonstrate they know how to make good superhero movies anymore.
Enter a previously mentioned Oscar-winning director.
Batman May Once Again Be Key to WB Regaining Superheroic Critical Acclaim
When looking at the reality of DC's film slate, Ben Affleck is in a pretty unenviable position. While buzz on Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman remains largely positive, this November's Justice League film has a big question mark that will likely be hanging over it up through its release because of returning director Zack Snyder. Whether people think its deserved or not, there are a fair amount of fans and industry observers who simply aren't convinced that Snyder's third film with DC Comics characters will be "a charm."
With rumors persisting about Warner Bros. seeking to make room on the schedule for Affleck's Batman film, pressure is placed upon him to potentially "save" the DC Comics movie franchise's critical reception. Once again, WB seems determined to flex its superheroic muscle through the Dark Knight, just as they did while Christopher Nolan was in the director's chair.
On one hand, this makes sense. Affleck has more than proven himself as a capable director, and Batman has often been proven to be one of the studio's most bankable properties. On the other hand, superhero fans could also interpret this as a regression: if the studio doesn't succeed in garnering critical acclaim with Wonder Woman, then it may send the message that they simply don't know how to make a superhero film that branches even a little off the path of Batman.
Still, that also puts Affleck in a somewhat enviable position because his clout as a director and as the new star of one of their most major franchises may make them more amenable to following his directives, instead of the other way around. This, from our perspective anyway, could be the decisive factor in making a standout Batman film in the DC Extended Universe.
Let Affleck Be Affleck
We've come a long way from the summer 2013 casting announcement that first revealed Affleck would become the new Batman, and all of the unwarranted outrage it brought. While Batman v Superman certainly had issues, a significant amount of critics and fans actually went out of their way to praise Affleck as Batman. Couple that generally well-regarded take on the character with Affleck's proven directorial skill, and you likely have a movie that has the potential to be one of the genre's best.
Of course, Warner Bros. would have to get out of his – and their own – way.
While DC Films has been undergoing a pretty sizable reorganization since mid-2016, we probably won't really see what that will do for the films on the slate until next year's offerings and later, including Affleck's Batman project. Affleck needs to have the freedom to make a movie he can be happy with, and the studio should have the confidence in him to allow exactly that to happen.
They also need to keep him happy so that he'll continue wanting to play Batman. That should be a chief concern since an actor of Affleck's caliber – regardless of what a small sect of fans who just keep running Daredevil on repeat in their minds may think – will continue to enrich the Batman character on film for years to come.
It'd be awesome to see a Batman movie directed by Ben Affleck, and if WB wants to see it as well, then all they have to do is let it happen.