2016 was contentious year by all accounts. Debates raged on that highest venue of reasoned discourse, social media. Perhaps second only to the American political circus in vitriol, hostility and rancor, was the argument surrounding the DC Extended Universe films, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.
These films had ardent defenders and forceful critics. However, the one thing almost everyone agreed on was that Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman was fresh and compelling. Despite the mixed reaction to his latest film, Live by Night, Affleck’s directorial and writing pedigree have had DCEU fans and critics alike enthusiastic for his take on the world’s greatest detective in a standalone Batman film. So when, in a recent interview, Affleck seemed to be hedging the prospects of him directing the film, fans assumed the worst. Is Warner Bros. trying to compromise his vision? Are they forcing him to pack in too many villains and cameos for every Justice League member? Will final cut of the film be given to a trailer house? The internet panicked and many wondered if this was a strategic play for Affleck to flex his power in public to Warner Bros. execs.
Well, regardless of the impetus for his initial comments and how drastically they were blown out of proportion or taken out of context to begin with, fans can now rest easy. While on Jimmy Kimmel Live! promoting Live by Night, when asked if he would indeed be directing the next Batman movie, Affleck responded:
I’m going to direct the next Batman, we’re working on it. It’s one of those things that’s really frustrating because like, with Live by Night it took me a year and a half to write it and get it ready, and I worked really hard. It’s just nobody gave a s**t! No one was like, ‘Where’s Live by Night?’ But with Batman I keep on getting, ‘Where’s the f***ing Batman?!’ And I’m like, ‘Whoa, I’m working, give me a second!
Affleck is no stranger to the fickleness of fanboys as his first foray into superhero tights came in 2003’s Daredevil, a film that was much maligned in its time and has not improved with age. Still, it is easy to see his frustration at the insane pressure and expectations being levied on him to not only deliver a great Batman film, but to also be the savior of the DCEU. One hopes that he finds some humor and ironic satisfaction in the fact that while his casting as Batman was initially met with riotous outrage, he ended up being the most beloved element of BvS and his Batman film is now the thing fans are most excited for going forward.
Given time and the creative freedom his past accomplishments should afford, it is quite possible Affleck could become the quintessential on-screen Batman and deliver something truly special in his standalone film. Let’s hope that WB understands that Affleck is the director they need and that his uncompromised vision of a Batman film is what the fans deserve.