Despite the praise he received for his appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck’s participation in a solo Batman film (and any DC projects beyond that) is far from certain. Last December, he stated that his appearance in The Batman was “not a set thing”. More recently, he stepped out of the director’s chair for the Batman. Also, it seems that the script he co-wrote for the movie is a non-starter and it’s back to the drawing board for the screenplay. And let’s not forget the image of “Sad Affleck” that became a meme after Batman v Superman got savaged by the critics, getting 28% on Rotten Tomatoes.
There has been a great deal of speculation that Ben Affleck has lost interest in a long-term relationship with DC. While he does have a four-film contract—consisting of Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Justice League Parts 1 & 2—rumor has it that he is having second thoughts about starring in The Batman. The failure of his last film, Live By Night, along with the critical mauling his two DC projects got, may be making Affleck gun-shy, and he might be wanting to take a step back to reconsider his next projects, distancing himself from the turmoil-filled DCEU.
So what would DC and Warner Bros. do if their Bat flies the coup? How would they respond to this setback? Here are four possibilites…
1. One obvious way would be to recast and find a new Dark Knight. After all, this was done in a previous Batman franchise, when Michael Keaton left the film series to be replaced by Val Kilmer, who would then be replaced by George Clooney. It seems like a probable move to make if Affleck bails out.
2. Another, more daring possibility, would be to kill off Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and have a new character take up the mantle of the Bat. For instance, we could see Dick Greyson introduced in the second Justice League film to set him up as a replacement for his old mentor. DC could then have Bruce die at the end of Justice League Part 2, and proceed with The Batman, featuring Dick Greyson under the cowl.
3. Make The Batman a prequel, featuring a much younger version of Bruce Wayne. This would make the casting of a new actor logical and sensible. Getting a new actor half Affleck’s age would allow for a whole new approach to the character and eliminate the need for Affleck. The drawback of this is that they wouldn’t be able to use him in any further Justice League movies.
4. The final, and least likely option, would be to continue the DCEU without Batman. Write the character out of the DCEU after Justice League and concentrate on other heroes. This is very doubtful, because Batman has always been DC’s ace-in-the-hole and most surefire character. When all else fails, use Batman. Even in the critically mauled Batman v Superman, the caped crusader of Gotham was still singled out as the one positive aspect of the film. Batman is too popular and too important to DC for them to sideline Bruce, but it would still be an interesting experiment to see how the DCEU would proceed without the Batman.
We don’t know at this point how long Ben Affleck will actually stay with the DCEU but if he does leave, it will be interesting to see what sort of course-correction DC and Warner Bros takes.