Rumors have been circulating since mid-July that Ben Affleck won't be reprising his role as Bruce Wayne in director Matt Reeves' The Batman. With new comments from Reeves seemingly supporting the idea despite Affleck's continued insistence that he's Warner Bros.'s live-action Batman, our Dark Knight sense started tingling and we slipped into our capes and cowls to do some good old-fashioned detective work.
Following the clues - and connecting the dots between various statements made by the actors and filmmakers in question - we've come to the conclusion that there's a good chance the rumors are true: Ben Affleck might not be in The Batman after all. But we're going to digress from those initial reports right now and say there's also a good chance he'll still keep the role for the Justice League sequel, The Flash: Flashpoint, and beyond.
To explain how that's possible, we need to get deeper than the initial rumor which dates back to mid-July. Back then, it was reported that Justice League would be Affleck's last mission as the Caped Crusader, and that he'd be replaced for The Batman and other subsequent films.
Ben Affleck’s representatives were again quick to respond, replying publicly to Casey Affleck’s statement and saying the actor would keep playing Batman "as long as the studio would have him." Casey Affleck's representative then chimed in, explaining his comments were purely speculative. However, the evidence that Ben Affleck may not be in The Batman didn't stop mounting with Affleck's denial.
Matt Reeves, who took over directing duties on The Batman after Affleck stepped down, stated in July that his film would be “standalone, not connected to the extended universe.” Couple that with Reeves’ statement that the film would be entirely his vision, and earlier reports that he had moved on completely from Affleck and Geoff Johns’ script, and it’s beginning to look a lot like the rumors about Affleck not starring in the film may wind up coming true after all.
Consider the timing of Reeves’ comments – the podcast on which he made them was released just prior to Comic-Con International: San Diego, which is the same time the rumors that Affleck would not in fact be in The Batman really started to take off.
We’re not suggesting that Reeves' comments are where the rumors originated; not much attention was paid to them until this week. However, the one-two punch of those factors makes a case for the rumor and Reeves’ comments stemming from the same place. We’re also not saying Ben Affleck is lying about his involvement or that he’s been misled.
After all, there’s a way both Affleck not starring in The Batman and still being Batman in other films can be true.
Another key detail has emerged this week that may shed light on exactly how a different actor could take on the role of Batman – even while Affleck stays on for the Justice League/DCEU films as he says he plans to: DC Films is reportedly embracing a kind of Elseworlds mantra, in which “standalone” movies featuring different actors with little or no continuity connection to the other DC movies will coexist alongside fare like Justice League and Flashpoint that bring the characters together.
This means that, like the prospective Joker origin movie which reportedly won’t feature Jared Leto, Matt Reeves’ The Batman film (or possible trilogy) could feature someone else entirely as Batman in a Gotham that doesn’t exactly resemble the one we glimpsed in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice while Affleck still anchors Justice League as the “crossover” Batman.
There’s also the possibility that The Batman could represent a kind of prequel to Affleck’s older, more affected Dark Knight - perhaps a glimpse back at the origin of that defaced Robin costume hanging in Batman v Superman’s Batcave. With the Joker’s origin reportedly on tap – and Reeves espousing a “Golden Age”-style Batman story – these not-quite-Elseworlds movies may be a way for Warner Bros. to fill in some of the backstory that has only been hinted at in the DCEU so far (not to mention letting fans and filmmakers have their cake and eat it too when it comes to their preferred version of the characters).
Two Batmen co-existing at the same time - is it possible? Warner Bros. seemed to think so eight years ago. Remember, back in 2009 Warner Bros. cast Armie Hammer as Batman in the scrapped Justice League: Mortal while Christian Bale was still portraying the character in Christopher Nolan's solo Batman films.
That film never came to pass, but there have been several successful attempts at this with DC characters before - albeit split across the movie/tv divide with Superman Returns/Smallvile and Ezra Miller's movie Flash/the CW's The Flash coexisting. But there's an even older precedent - 1983's James Bond film Never Say Never Again in which Sean Connery reprised his role as 007 while Roger Moore's James Bond films were still going strong.
Right now, according to all sources including the actor himself, Ben Affleck is the DC Extended Universe’s Batman – and, until Warner Bros. definitively announce otherwise, still the presumptive star of The Batman. But there’s a strong case building that those rumors from July may just hold true, and while Affleck will be a Batman, he won’t necessarily be The Batman.