Movies

Is Warner Bros. Poisoning The Well For Ben Affleck’s ‘Batman’ Film?

Ben Affleck’s solo Batman movie is still far enough out that any discussion about the movie is still firmly in speculation. At least it should be. This didn’t stop Bret Easton Ellis or reportedly several Warner Bros. executives from discussing the film and its script. Ellis talked with The Ringer as part of their great piece on how the film industry is standing against the triumphs of “peak TV,” dropping this nugget about Warner Bros. and the upcoming Batman film:

“I was having dinner with a couple of executives who know other executives who are working on the [forthcoming] Batman movie, The Batman,” Ellis tells me. “And they were just telling me that there are serious problems with the script. And that the executives I was having dinner with were complaining about people who work on the Batman movie. And they just said they went to the studio and they said, ‘Look, the script is … Here’s 30 things that are wrong with it that we can fix.’ And [the executives] said, ‘We don’t care. We don’t really care. The amount of money we’re going to make globally, I mean 70 percent of our audience is not going to be seeing this in English. And it doesn’t really matter, these things that you’re bringing up about the flaws of the script.’ So I do think global concerns play a big part in how movies, and what movies, are being made, obviously.”

Not exactly a vote of confidence towards a guy like Affleck, who has two Oscars under his belt that includes one for writing — unless you believe the Family Guy version of events. But the biggest eye-opener from that quote is that it appears to lend some credence to that open letter to Warner Bros. that was making the rounds during the summer. It’s the same letter that made similar claims about Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. We’ve seen two trailers for Wonder Woman at this point, followed by plenty of acclaim for each, but does that play into this claim by Ellis? Trailers are easy to cut together and make interesting, as we saw with Suicide Squad, but it doesn’t always translate to the finished product.

You have to ask if these claims are true or not. There’s no indication or reason to say Ellis isn’t telling the truth in The Ringer’s story, but you also don’t know concrete details unless you’ve been there. It’s true for any number of situations, be it the quality of a restaurant or the behind-the-scenes dealings of a political candidate. But, given what we know from past statements and situations, including the response to Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad, you have to lean towards believing the rumors, and that’s depressing.

The Batman isn’t going to hit theaters before 2018 and Warner would essentially be poisoning the well of one audience for the sake of another. It makes sense financially, mostly because a Batman film is sure to be a success. Even Batman And Robin made over $100 million and it put the franchise on hold for nearly a decade. But what signal is that sending to people who are genuinely interested in a new Batman film for those things you usually go to movies for like story and character?

For something like a superhero movie, it isn’t extremely difficult to make something palatable for fans and also a success at the box office. Marvel proves it time and again, even with films like Thor that seem destined for the dollar bin. The difference for Marvel is that the bar was set high with what was coming down the pipe with The Avengers. Affleck’s bar is being pushed to the bottom two years out, with the outlook on Justice League and Wonder Woman already coming in low following the debacle that was Suicide Squad.

All that said, the folks at DC Entertainment are not the same as folks at Warner Bros. Geoff Johns is helping to steer the ship into more optimistic waters now and he’s also helping Affleck write The Batman. There’s also plenty of time to change things and polish a script away from the eyes of executives, especially those who might not care too much about story in the first place. So yeah, Warner might be poisoning that well, but DC could be doing work to save it.

Or it’s all going to be garbage and we’re going to have to take it either way.

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