Ben Affleck Will Not Be Directing The Batman And I Blame Everyone
Do you remember when the Tri-Lambdas are forced to live in a decrepit house in the 1984 comedy classic Revenge of the Nerds? That’s what this whole situation feels like: a complete and utter mess. Unfortunately for Warner Brothers, the DCEU and Ben Affleck, it’s going to take more than a 1980’s montage to clean this all up. Variety has confirmed that Ben Affleck is no longer directing The Batman, but will still star and produce the film. What led to this? There’s literally a hundred different potential answers, and sadly, all of them may be true.
Who do I blame? Everybody.
As much as I admire him, we have to start with the man himself – Ben Affleck.
Ben Affleck is an extraordinarily talented filmmaker. The man has two Oscars on his shelf for writing and producing. He’s a Best Picture winner. For me, Ben Affleck was always the perfect choice to succeed Christopher Nolan as the next solo Batman director. When I look at this news, it’s very easy for me to say, “Good for Affleck. He’s doing what he feels is best for the movie.” If I’m being honest though, I don’t believe that’s the case. In my opinion, Ben Affleck bowed out because he just couldn’t take it anymore. While understandable, it’s also disappointing.
Let’s review Ben Affleck’s 2016, shall we? I’m not going all TMZ here, so let’s just his personal life aside. On the professional side, he took on the mantle of the Batman. Under normal circumstances, that’s a high pressure job for anyone. It’s Batman. Let’s add to the fact that he’s following Christian Bale. He’s in a sequel to a film that got mixed reviews, and that’s being kind. It’s the first live action team up between Batman and Superman, not to mention it’s responsible for starting an entire shared universe to propel other franchises. Holy mother of Moses.
So how did Batman v Superman turn out? Critics eviscerated the film. The fans hated it. It’s the butt of many jokes. And to top it all off, Affleck got a Razzie nomination for his performance. Fast forward to just a few weeks ago. Affleck’s next directorial effort, the 1920’s gangster flick Live by Night, is a critical and financial disaster. This past weekend the film was beaten by Doctor Strange at the box office. On the plus, The Accountant…did okay.
Here’s the real cherry on top though – while Affleck was promoting a film he knew was going to fail, he’s constantly being asked about The Batman: When are you directing The Batman? Are you going to make the 2018 release date? How’s the script? How does this affect other DC films, Ben? Batman. Batman. Batman. Affleck must have snapped. I’m sure he was being pressured by Warner Brothers to start production, and he wasn’t close to being ready. For everything that happened to Ben Affleck this year, I can’t blame the man, but I’d be lying if there wasn’t a tinge of disappointment there. I think back to Ben’s Oscar speech after Argo won Best Picture:
“You have to work harder than you think you possibly can. You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard. But you can’t hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is that you got to get up.”
I would have loved nothing more than for Ben Affleck to come back from all this to make the greatest Batman movie of all time. If he feels this is best for the film, then so be it. The fact that he’s still in it, but not directing it raises a red flag for me. As someone who puts a lot of care into his projects as he does, why wouldn’t he want to helm it himself?”
While I’ve laid some blame at the feet of Affleck, let’s get to the real meat. As a DC fan, it pains me to say this, but it’s true: Warner Brothers has absolutely no idea what they’re doing when it comes to DC films. I have no doubt the studio wanted to rush The Batman, especially after delaying The Flash, which has issues of its own. Ben wasn’t ready. While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were financial hits, there’s no denying the studio is in a bad place right now with these superhero movies.
Let’s go back to Batman v Superman, because we haven’t done that enough. Even if you hate that movie with the fury of a thousand Krypton suns, and want every Blu-Ray copy burnt to the ground, you can’t deny this: that movie had a clear vision. It was one vision. Zack Snyder’s vision. That’s how filmmaking should be. Sure, the director has a trusted set of advisors to give him notes and suggestions, but a movie is essentially one vision. When Warner Brothers saw the reaction to BvS, they completely overreacted. It shows in Suicide Squad. I still maintain that late in the game, David Ayer’s movie was dramatically changed to lighten the mood. The end result was a mish-mash of tones and ideas. In other words, a complete mess.
Warner Brothers right now is in the worst kind of mess with their approach to these films. They are trying to please everybody. They are still trying to appeal to people like me who want the dark tone, but also want to make the “have more fun” fans happy. They also want their directors to have their say as well. This is Bad Blockbuster Filmmaking 101. It’s textbook Uh-Oh. My fear right now is Wonder Woman and Justice League, movies I was optimistic about, will suffer the same fate. Is it possible Affleck jumped ship as director because the studio wanted more control over The Batman? That’s a scary thought. We aren’t talking about Zack Snyder or Rick Famuyiwa here. This is Ben Affleck.
To add more fuel to the fire, is it possible after the failure of Live by Night that Warner Brothers felt they had leverage over Affleck? If Live by Night was another Affleck directorial hit, he could have taken all the time he wanted to direct The Batman. Now that Affleck has supposedly lost power, Warner Brothers may have put pressure on him to get into production. Yikes. I can’t imagine it got that contentious, as Affleck is still agreeing to star in the project, and also seems to have a big hand in picking the director. This could all be because he’s under contract though, and Affleck could very well want to jump ship from this DC disaster after the contract is fulfilled.
I could go on all day about why this happened, but the bottom-line is this: Everybody is partially to blame. I want to be very clear that I am rooting like hell for Warner Brothers. As a DC fan, I want these movies to succeed. As a Ben Affleck fan, I want him to succeed. While I wanted to see Affleck direct this picture, I hope his statement that this is what’s best for the film is genuine, and not because he said “Screw it! I can’t deal with this crap anymore!” And as far as Warner Brothers goes: STOP TRYING TO PLEASE EVERYONE! Make the best movie you can, and trust that they will start hitting with audiences.
At the end of the day, one thing’s for sure: Wonder Woman better be a damn good movie.