Things have been noticeably tense in the past few weeks since Ben Affleck stepped down from directing the solo Batman movie that will be part of the DC Extended Universe. Matt Reeves, director of the last two rebooted Planet of the Apes movies including one set to release this year, has all but replaced him as director of the project, leaving a lot of people curious about just what Affleck is going to do now that he is no longer directing the movie.
Mark Hughes from Forbes had first speculated a possibility that Affleck might bolt the role entirely, and I like many other DCEU fans were very disappointed in his "clickbaity" take that seemed to really come from a place of profound heartbreak over an actor-director no longer directing. Regardless, the idea was floating out there for sure.
Then this happens on social media just a few weeks later:
The source of this "news" is John Campea from Collider, who said on a recent episode of Collider Movie Talk that Affleck wants out of the role of Batman entirely according to three separate sources of his, going even further to say that if WB doesn't let him out of his deal for the Batman solo movie that it will be the last time he plays the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Ok, there's a ton of ways to break this whole thing down but let's do this the rational way, shall we? First we'll talk about exactly what this "news" means. To begin with, it's not news. It's speculation. Campea can talk all the live long day about his sources and maybe they do exist and maybe they did tell him this, but the only reason he put it out there in this manner was to attract attention and drive up the traffic to his business. That's pretty much the model for news media these days, whether it's with movies or politics or anything else for that matter. The line from Denzel Washington keeps ringing in my head when this stuff comes out: "If you don't read the news, you're uninformed. If you do read the news, you're misinformed."
Now look, we really don't know how informed or misinformed this "news" from Campea and Collider is because there's nothing concrete to back it up yet. All that we know is what kind of reaction this provokes, and it's all over the map on social media. You got people freaking out that he's going to leave, people marking his leaving as the death of the DCEU, and a small group saying good riddance because they still mistakenly believe that his version of the character is the only version of Batman that has ever killed people.
The largest group right now, and this is very telling, are fans that think Campea is a rotten DCEU hater and nothing that he says should be believed. This is just one more negative story in a very long and ever-growing list of negative stories about the "failure" of the DCEU in general. I'll be honest, I haven't paid attention to Collider since one of them tried to explain the depth and complex storytelling of Captain America: Civil War, and I don't follow Campea or know enough about him to say that I think he's an abject DCEU hater himself. It does bug the hell out of me that these negative clickbait stories keep popping up about the franchise on a pretty regular basis.
And when you get right down to it, that's the real problem that this Affleck situation presents. I mean, let's assume for a moment that Campea's three unnamed and "off the record" sources told him the truth and that Affleck does in fact step down from being Batman altogether. What exactly does it mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, there's no hiding that it would be disappointing. Affleck's take on Bruce Wayne and his caped alter ego is one of the best if not the best on-screen adaptation of the character we have ever seen, in my opinion, but the reality is that DC has started a shared universe and it's not just all about Batman, even if people think it is. There's still the entire rest of the Justice League in the fold here and people seem to have forgotten that there are two DCEU movies featuring characters other than Batman coming out this year in Wonder Woman and Justice League.
So if Affleck decides to hang up the cape and cowl, what does that mean for Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher and Henry Cavill? It means that they're getting a new co-star, that's what. Despite all of the potshots and "DCEU is in serious trouble" articles flooding the Internet, nothing changes the fact that the franchise has earned $2.286 billion over its first three movies. Wonder Woman and Justice League, even by modest estimates with more expected rotten critics scores (not by me) will push that total past $3 billion and closer to $4 billion when it's all said and done. Anyone that doubts that should remember that Suicide Squad, arguably the worst reviewed of the DCEU movies, made $745.6 million without even releasing in China.
The point here is that WB and DC have made money with the DCEU and stand to make much more if they stay the course, so allowing one actor's decision to completely derail the entire plan is extremely unwise, even if that actor is playing the most popular character in the DCEU by far. So assuming that Affleck were to leave, likely after the solo Batman film, WB would recast the role and continue on course, especially if Wonder Woman and Justice League bank billions on their own, which is entirely possible.
To be clear, this isn't the scenario we WANT to see. At least not DCEU fans anyway. I have personally thoroughly enjoyed Affleck's take on my favorite superhero of all-time and look forward to more of it from him, hopefully beyond the solo Batman movie, but if he were to leave after that then he would have at least given us three full movies of his portrayal, which is what we got with Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Trilogy, and it can be tough to get a well-known, highly publicized actor like Affleck to stick around in one major role for a long time. Even Marvel's most popular hero on the big screen, Iron Man was a revitalization of Robert Downey's Jr. career in terms of big budget spectacles. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has made him more popular, which is all the more reason he would stick with it. Affleck doesn't need the DCEU to be that popular and never has.
But let's really get down to the honesty of this whole situation. As much as we DCEU fans want Affleck to stay for more of his smashing performance as the World's Greatest Detective, we all know the real reason that this "news" of him leaving concerns us. It's because we know what the narrative is going to be if he leaves, which is to say even uglier than it is now. Up to this point, even some of the most vile haters of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice have said that the lone bright spot in the movie was in fact Affleck's performance as Batman. Many DCEU fans have used that as a rallying point to defend the DCEU, even though they don't need to defend anything that they love at all. Affleck leaving the role would supply the haters and critics of the DCEU, like Collider, with even more ammunition to tear the franchise apart limb from limb in the public eye. Many of them already seem to be doing their best to publicly shame WB and DC for just the three movies they have done to this point, and it's been nothing short of an infuriating mess for the millions (that's not an exaggeration, check the audience numbers) of DCEU fans that just want to see their franchise get the respect that it rightly deserves.
The last thing we want right now is more juice for the haters to keep chirping, and it's not easy to tune them out either. They have websites, podcasts, YouTube videos and social media accounts on every platform to tell the world how much the DCEU sucks and should be rebooted immediately, and Affleck leaving it would just make that worse on an infinitely painful level. We all know this and it's frighteningly easy to see it come true. For all we know, the constant barrage of negative clickbait hysteria from the bloggers and critics could very well be playing a part in why Affleck would even think of leaving the DCEU, assuming that he even is considering it. This is the ultimate truth about the Ben Affleck situation, above all else.
So as we wait to see exactly what happens with the future of Batman's portrayal in the DCEU, I'm urging fans not to freak out about this. I know just as well as anyone that the last 11 months or so have been a nightmare dealing with haters and critics and Marvel fanboys that just want to wind us all up and watch us lose our minds......but Wonder Woman and Justice League WILL release this year. Momoa, Amber Heard and other members of the Aquaman cast ARE currently training for it. The DCEU, despite what many want to tell you DOES STILL EXIST and will continue to so long as there is a large fanbase to support it, and right now there is one. If we want that to continue, then we've got to be rational about these pieces of "news" that come along and understand that there are no guarantees with this business or anything in life for that matter, but if something disappointing does happen, it's anything but the end of the world.
Here's hoping Ben Affleck makes the right decision for himself as an actor and director above all else.