If Ben Affleck isn’t going to return as Batman, then we at least deserve to see the batfam on the big screen.
It’s tough out here as a DCEU stan.
Just days after the Birds of Prey teaser got me hyped about the movie and made me glad all over again to be a DCEU stan, the news dropped that Ben Affleck was officially out as Batman (and, on an unrelated but equally upsetting note, James Gunn was in as the director of Suicide Squad 2) and now I feel like we’re living in the darkest timeline.
Such is the life of a DCEU stan.
I know what you’re saying — after literal years of back and forth speculation about whether or not Ben Affleck would return as Batman, with the needle moving closer and closer to not, it can’t really be that big of a surprise that he for sure isn’t donning the cape and cowl for Matt Reeves’ film.
And I know you’re saying that because it’s what I said to myself as I tried to process the news that my favorite Batman actor of all time, from my favorite Batman movie of all time (yes, ahead of The Dark Knight, even) would officially not be returning.
But even if I knew it was coming, it still sucks. A lot.
The thing is — there are a lot of actors that have been good at playing Batman, some who were good at playing Bruce Wayne, and very few who were great at playing both.
Ben Affleck was the best at it.
He played the rich, carefree, careless playboy just as well as he played the grim, intense superhero. In one scene, his Bruce Wayne really convinced you that he was nothing more than thoughtless socialite with a charming smile who never thought about anything but his own vapid desires, only to turn around and become the Batman who was at home in the shadows and thought ten steps ahead of anyone else around him.
What’s more, Ben Affleck had the build, the drive, the wry sense of humor — even the sharp fucking jawline — of the perfect live-action Batman.
And now he’s gone.
It’s a hard blow to take for any fan of the DCEU. And as excited as many are and continue to be for Matt Reeves upcoming 2021 release, there’s a lot of shock and sadness — along with a fair amount of bitterness — at this news.
Which I absolutely get. One of the appeals of an older and more cynical Batman was that it was something we hadn’t ever really seen on the big screen. As with many of Zack Snyder’s comic book stories, we were gifted with a unique perspective and a novel story.
With the news that we’ll be getting a younger version for Matt Reeves solo Batman film, there’s the feeling that we’re treading well-worn ground.
And, yes, I know that Batman Begins was technically the only true ‘young Batman’ movie, but all of the other Batman films likewise featured a younger Batman; they at least never gave us a grizzled vet staring down his 20 years of crime fighting with not a little amount of cynicism.
Still, I love the DCEU — no matter how much it constantly insists on hurting me — and I’ll continue to watch their movies and stan them no matter what.
So while we’ve lost out on our best, grizzled, veteran version of the iconic character, there’s no reason to lose out on the other big potential that came from having an older Batman:
The existence and introduction of the Bat-family.
Even the most casual fans of Batman could easily name at least one or two of Batman’s sidekicks, and the existence and presence of his many proteges, sidekicks and allies have long been part of his comic book legacy.
While members of the batfamily have shown up in television versions — both animated and live-action — of Batman, they’ve rarely been depicted on the big screen.
And they’ve certainly never been depicted in any way that we might describe as good, or even satisfactory.
In fact, it’s so strange to me that the films continue to insist on depicting Batman as a grumpy, grim loner. I mean, he’s both grumpy and grim, but I don’t think that we should really — with any real confidence– describe someone who has had four different Robins and three different Batgirls — not to mention a proverbial army of allies — fight at his side as a loner.
One of those Robins (Dick Grayson) is his ward, another one is his adopted son (Tim Drake), another is his biological son (Damian Wayne). He adopted the third Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), and his cousin, Kate Kane, often fights alongside him as Batwoman.
Yet beyond a very bad Batman and Robin movie in the 90’s, and the sly wink to the audience with Robin John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises, we’ve never really had any other attempts at incorporating the Batman family into the films.
But Matt Reeves’ Batman film could be the one to change that.
In fact, I’d argue that one of the most interesting things about Batman isn’t his rogues gallery, his gadgets, or even the fact that he’s the world’s greatest detective — though obviously all of these aspects of his character are very cool and iconic — but his team.
One of the best ways that Matt Reeves’ The Batman could differentiate itself from any Batman films that came before it would be to include the characters who have been integral to the Batman mythos, but who have been ignored for so long on the big screen.
Characters like Dick Grayson and Jason Todd have shaped so much of Batman and Bruce Wayne’s journey, and both have such large fanbases of their own, that dropping them into a The Batman movie would generate an insane amount of hype.
Likewise, with Birds of Prey coming in 2020, and with a Batgirl film currently being scripted, what better way to connect those films to The Batman then to include Cassandra Cain or Barbara Gordon?
In fact, that’d be a great subversion of expectations, since Hollywood is suddenly so fond of the concept — to have the newest Batman ‘solo’ film actually be a Batman family film.
It would also allow us to see a side of Batman that we’ve never really seen before — one who plays well (or at least plays okay) with others, someone who’s a leader, a mentor, and a team player.
I mean, it certainly wouldn’t erase the bitterness of Ben Affleck’s departure completely — nothing really could.
But having a Batman surrounded by his equally iconic and beloved bat-family would certainly be a start.