To call the first phase of the DCEU — the Zack Snyder phase — a mess would be an understatement. Yes, even the likes of Batman V Superman and Justice League does have its passionate fanbase and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s also no denying that those films failed to hit the mark both critically and financially. The most disappointing thing about watching Batman v Superman and Justice League was witnessing how bloody great Ben Affleck was as the caped crusader. On both occasions, I left the cinema thinking, “dude deserves to be in a better film!”
Life for Ben Affleck as Batman in the DCEU wasn’t easy. We all saw how distraught he was during the Batman V Superman press junkets after the incredibly poor critical reviews, mediocre fanfare and disappointing box office receipts. This was when the ‘Sad Affleck’ meme was born. According to The New York Times, to make matters worse, Affleck’s personal life was also starting to crumble around the same time. His marriage with Jennifer Garner was falling apart and the Oscar-winning director started to drink a lot again.
And then came the production of Justice League. We all know the story by now. Director Zack Snyder’s original vision was severely reworked during production due to the lacklustre response to Batman v Superman. The folks at Warner Bros were extremely reactionary at this point and there was no proper leadership. Joss Whedon was hired by the studio (after Snyder departed the project due to take time off to heal and be with his family after the death of his daughter) to write and direct significant reshoots. It’s difficult to say if Whedon made the film better or worse, but it certainly didn’t turn out great by any stretch of the imagination. What should have been DC’s answer to The Avengers only raked in $US 657 million at the worldwide box office with a budget upwards of $US 300 million. The film received mediocre reviews as well. One can only imagine how difficult all of it must’ve been for the members of the cast who are all excellent in their roles.
Around the same time, Ben Affleck started to work on his own script for The Batman. He also intended to direct the film. Remember, Affleck isn’t just talented in front of the camera, he’s also great behind. In the late 90s, Affleck received a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting. In 2013, Argo, a film that Affleck directed won Best Picture at the Oscars. People were eager to see what a Batman film written and directed by Ben Affleck would look like. Ultimately, though, Affleck decided to not only depart The Batman as a writer-director but hang up his cowl altogether. In the New York Times piece, Affleck revealed the following:
I showed somebody ‘The Batman’ script. They said, ‘I think the script is good. I also think you’ll drink yourself to death if you go through what you just went through again.’
The NY Times article also says the cursed shoot for Justice League “sapped his interest” in returning as the character.
But as they say, life will find its way. The DCEU (and the DC movies in general) is at a much better place right now with their recent run of movies either doing well critically, financially and in most cases, both.
Ben Affleck himself is now sober, healthy and happy. He has a number of films coming out in 2020 including The Way Back, Deep Water and The Last Duel. He’s also developing numerous projects as a writer-director.