Comics on Film: Starting Fresh on DCEU's 'The Batman' Is a Good Idea

Comics on Film: Starting Fresh on DCEU's 'The Batman' Is a Good Idea

Jul 17, 2017

While outwardly it appears like the DC Extended Universe's solo Batman project seems to be a kind of organizational mess, increasingly it appears as though it's simply falling into the trap of being a potentially billion dollar-grossing film, which the studio wants to actively ensure success for.

When speaking with MTV on a podcast recently, director Matt Reeves has confirmed that his ever-evolving solo Batman film starring Ben Affleck — and taking place in the same universe as Wonder Woman and Justice League — will be scrapping its previously developed script allegedly created by Affleck and DC Comics' Geoff Johns in favor of something entirely new, rebuilt from the ground up. This, of course, predictably led to certain segments of the Internet screaming about the total disarray that the project is allegedly in, when this is likely a positive development, showing that Reeves is very much present and engaged in the making of his new project.

While it's true that the DCEU has been undergoing some evolution over the last several months, only part of it seems to be coming from studio disorganization. Yes, the critical reaction to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice last March likely caused some at Warner Bros. in Burbank to "freak out" a bit, especially since the studio had displayed such confidence going into it, and that scrambling may have affected the final cut of last summer's Suicide Squad.

However, two prominent DCEU members have had to contend with highly disruptive issues in their personal lives that no one should take issue with, while Wonder Woman sent the message to moviegoers everywhere that the DC Universe definitely shows great promise for being a location for unforgettable superhero experiences.

Still, let's break this down a little further.

 

The Affleck Timeline

When Ben Affleck was first cast as Batman back in August of 2013, speculation immediately arose concerning whether or not he would succeed Christopher Nolan as the director of a dedicated, solo Batman film series. More solid news surrounding the project didn't emerge until nearly two years later, when in July of 2015 rumors began to surface about Affleck teaming with superstar DC Comics writer Geoff Johns to create a screenplay for a new, solo Batman film.

Various iterations of the rumor and its story content continued to crop up through the beginning of 2016, until Johns spoke about a possible plot point during the run-up to the release of Dawn of Justice. The inclusion of a defiled Robin costume was hinted at by the writer, who said that the identity of the Robin to whom that suit belonged was left intentionally ambiguous.

The following month, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirmed that Affleck had been signed to both write and direct the upcoming solo Batman film. The following month, incumbent Alfred Pennyworth actor Jeremy Irons hinted at being "connected" to Affleck's solo project, while Suicide Squad's Joker, Jared Leto, had expressed hopes that he would face off with his arch nemesis in the new film. In August 2016, Affleck teased the inclusion of prominent DC Comics villain Deathstroke with a look at some test footage featuring the character, and it soon after was divulged that actor Joe Manganiello (True BloodMagic Mike) would be playing Deathstroke in the solo Batman film (which Comics on Film discussed at the time).

In October 2016, Affleck went on record saying that while The Batman was the working title at that time, the film could very well end up with a different title by the time it would be released. Later that same month, both Jeremy Irons and Joe Manganiello confirmed that they had been signed for the film, with principal photography set to commence in spring 2017.

At the end of 2016, a Warner Bros. executive said that the preliminary release date would be sometime in 2018. While Affleck went into 2017 thinking he would direct the film, he officially stepped down from his directorial role in late January, but stated he would stay on as both the star and as a producer. By March, we started to get a more complete look at the totality of issues that led to Affleck's departure from the director's chair, including his completion of a voluntary round of rehabilitation from alcohol abuse.

Affleck also detailed that he felt both directing and starring in the film would spread him too thin, and at the end of February, it was officially announced that Reeves would be the new director. Production is now not scheduled to begin until sometime next year.

 

Why it Makes Sense to Start Over

After the roller coaster of events that have taken place, not the least of which is the introduction of a new director leading the charge for what the vision of the new film will be, starting over at the script level makes a significant amount of sense. While no one can dispute the solid creative vision that Affleck has exhibited over the last several years, he and Reeves likely go about making their movies in very different ways. Sure, it was exciting for Batman fans of all stripes to hear that Affleck and Geoff Johns had collaborated on a script for a new cinematic Batman story, but the sequence of events as they played out on this project likely necessitates a new foundation upon which Reeves can build a film he wants to spend the next couple years of his life working on.

Creatively, there's a lot we don't know about Batman's corner of the DCEU. Justice League will probably go reasonably far in answering some lingering questions about Batman himself and who he's surrounded himself with in Gotham beyond Alfred and Commissioner Gordon, but there are still a lot of questions. How many crime-fighting partners has he had over the years? Who exactly was the Robin who was killed? How did the Joker escape Batman's more... murderous wrath he exhibited before his fateful clash with Superman? How much do forthcoming Batgirl and Nightwing projects play into Batman's own history? Beyond the Joker, who else has Batman clashed with over his two-decade career as the Dark Knight? Will we see some of the "friends" he told Lex Luthor he still had in Arkham Asylum?

As critically spotty as it's been, there are an immense amount of interesting questions that the DCEU's Batman still has in his orbit. Because of that, and the plethora of external factors that have been surrounding this project specifically, starting over from the ground up makes perfect sense, and shows that Reeves, Affleck and Warner Bros. all want the most from Batman whenever his first solo film since 2012 finally makes it to theaters. In our estimation, that's reason enough to hope for the best from an actor and director that clearly have solid track records in their own rights.


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts GeekPulse Radio and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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