Ben Affleck has been about as evasive as a billionaire ninja detective about whether he’s going to keep being Batman. The Batman solo movie seemingly can’t get off the ground, reportedly going back to the writing stage. But a better question is, perhaps, whether we need yet another Batman movie at all.
Affleck has been, so far, important to two DCEU movies. Batman V. Superman, obviously, but he was also one of the driving forces behind Suicide Squad; he sent most of the Squad to jail in the first place, and at the end, he’s the one who saves Amanda Waller’s career after she calls in a chit. The DCEU in general has taken the intriguing tack that Batman has been around for a long, long time, long enough that an unexplained disaster has burned down Wayne Manor, rendered most of Gotham’s waterfront a ghost town, left Batman without a Robin, and driven Batman himself so far underground he’s almost forgotten. He’s basically the elder statesman, the guy with the money and the connections to support a new generation of heroes.
So why not simply stick with that? Shared universe movies tend to work best when they can stand apart, with only light connections to the whole, and Suicide Squad showed that Batman can be the effective glue that holds them together. And there are practical reasons to keep Affleck as a supporting player in the DCEU, as well, not the least of which is that Christopher Nolan is a hell of an act to follow. We’re only about five years away from The Dark Knight Rises more or less putting a cap on the entire franchise. The Dark Knight Rises may not be the best Batman movie, depending on who you ask, but it’s tough not to see it as the final word on a grim, noble vigilante, at least for a few more years.
There’s also the problem of Affleck himself. His reinvention as an Oscar-nominated director and actor anchoring tough-guy movies like The Accountant made his signing on for a Batman movie an odd choice in the first place, and it’s only been made odder as both have progressed. Wonder Woman has fairly clearly pointed the way forward for the DCEU, and it doesn’t have a lot of room for Affleck’s grumpy Batman. Wondy may not outgross Batman V. Superman, but $800 million worldwide seems all but inevitable, and in the US, it’ll likely be the top-grossing movie of the summer and quite possibly the year. In America, only Beauty and The Beast has done better.
Similarly, it’s clear that Beauty and the Beast is the exception, not the rule. Audiences are sick of the same properties over and over again. Not even Spider-Man is entirely immune to audience fatigue. Why would Batman fare any better? Affleck, meanwhile, is directing and starring in an Agatha Christie movie and Warner Bros. seems to think Affleck can turn The Accountant into a franchise. In other words, he’s being pushed away from Batman by his own career.
In short, maybe it’s time for Batman to step, if only a little bit, back in the shadows. Especially with Batgirl and Nightwing on the way, it seems he’s better off as a mentor than a leading man. Now, if The Accountant turns out to be a Batman villain, then we’ve got something!