Now that the dust from Justice League has settled, we can start to look to the future of the DC Cinematic Universe. Perhaps the biggest question about the future is who will be Batman going forth. It has been the worst kept secret that Ben Affleck wants out of the cowl, with Affleck even telling USA Today:
The new Batman movie being developed by Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) is “something I’m contemplating,” says Affleck, who originally was tapped to direct. “You don’t do it forever, so I want to find a graceful and cool way to segue out of it.”
But what hadn’t been revealed is would he be Batman in a post Justice League world. I believe given the negative reception to Justice League (it’s poor box office performance, low critic scores and the fan backlash) it is all but guaranteed that that was the last time Ben Affleck would portray the Dark Knight. Though rather than focus on the past, let us look to the future and answer the question; should Warner Brothers replace Ben Affleck as Batman or replace the character of Bruce Wayne as Batman?
Ben Affleck has been my favourite Batman. I think he gets a deeper layer to Batman that has not been seen in any other performance. Something he does differently is the idea that Bruce Wayne died in the ally with his parents and the Batman was born. Ben Affleck treats Bruce Wayne as the alter ego, perhaps seen best in his scene at Luther’s party where he comments on Mercy Graves shoes. The comment comes off as out of character, because it is. He is trying to cover the fact he is doing something covert by looking somewhat incompetent. Even the way he deals with Batman’s physicality and brutality highlights that he understands that for someone to dress up as a bat to beat up criminals they must be “out of your mind”,to quote Aquaman. The development of the character of Batman has come a long way since the 60’s TV show. Whilst I don’t love every aspect of Affleck’s Batman, the fact that he kills, or as Zack Snyder puts it ‘commits Manslaughter’, there was so much good in this character that I was looking forward to seeing Ben Affleck direct, write and star in many more Batman movies. Unfortunately, what I want and what might happen are two very different things. So with Ben looking to segue out of the role, we come back to the question, do you replace the actor or the character?
In comic books it is not uncommon to find different characters taking up the mantle of heroes, though this isn’t something that is known to the general public. This is seen in particular with Robin, with multiple people being a sidekick to Batman after the previous Robin moved on. In fact while most people would know that Robin is Batman’s sidekick, they couldn’t name any of the characters that have been the Boy Wonder. With the character of Batman though, everyone knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman and Batman is Bruce Wayne. You could ask 100 people to name the alter ego of Batman and the majority would say Bruce Wayne, with many of them not even thinking another character has taken up the mantle of the Dark Knight in the comics. There has been some comments online from film and comic book pundits saying the easiest way forward for the character of Batman is to replace Bruce Wayne, have Ben Affleck walk away as Bruce and have another actor come and play Dick Grayson (the first Robin and Nightwing) who would become The Batman. Personally, I don’t like this idea; Batman is one of, if not the biggest comic book character with hard-core fans and general audiences knowing him from one of his many iterations in film, television, animation, comics and video games. But for the large majority of fans, they know Batman as Bruce Wayne, and even fewer fans actually know Dick Grayson was the first Robin and is currently Nightwing. This is seen in the atrocious final moments of The Dark Knight Rises, when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character John Blake was told to use his real name, Robin. Rather than say his real name was Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake or even say his real name is Damien (Damien Wayne, son of Bruce and Talia Al Ghul), which would have been a great nod to fans, they went with his real name is Robin. So no, having Dick Grayson become Batman wouldn’t work for general audience, and after the disappointing result of Justice League, that is who WB and DC need to win over.
‘But what about Flashpoint’ I hear the comic book readers yell, an alternate reality where Bruce dies and his father Thomas Wayne became the Batman. I’ll be the first to admit that seeing Jeffery Dean Morgan as Batman would be awesome but then you have to look at the larger ramifications of Flashpoint. Flashpoint isn’t as simple as resetting the universe, because as we saw on the CW The Flash, even when you escape Flashpoint some of the Universe may change but a lot will be the same. Having Thomas Wayne as Batman in Flashpoint makes sense, but when we return to the normal time line, it would be Bruce that is Batman again. Warner Brothers can’t think short term, or just focus on event movies, they won’t survive if they do.
So, if you don’t replace Bruce Wayne, and your current actor wants to segue out of the role what do you do? Well you replace the actor and bring in someone new to play Bruce Wayne and The Batman. I am not going to go through the list of actors who could play Batman, because one: that would be a long list and two: the speculation wouldn’t help. Replacing an actor is easier than is sounds, just look at Spider-Man, we have had 3 different versions of Peter Parker in the past 15 years, and the audience was able to embrace the change each time. We have seen the recasting of Professor X and Magneto from two actors born to play those roles in Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen to James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Again, the audience embraced it. These weren’t cinematic universes though, so what about the continuity? For this answer look no further than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the first Iron Man film, Terrance Howard was cast as James Rhodes aka War Machine but in Iron Man 2 he was replace by Don Cheadle and no one batted an eye. The biggest recasting was when Edward Norton pulled out of playing Bruce Banner, aka Hulk, in The Avengers. Norton was Banner in 2008s The Incredible Hulk and was replace in 2012s The Avengers by Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo even mentions his involvement in the events of The Incredible Hulk, saying last time he was in New York he sort of broke Harlem. Just a subtle nod that he is still the same character from the previous movie, despite being a different actor.
Now that you have replace Ben Affleck and you have found your new Bruce Wayne, (for arguments sake Jake Gyllenhaal, who is tipped to be Matt Reeve’s top choice) what do you do? The answer is simple: you do nothing different. You have Clark and Diana say, “we need Bruce.” They show up to Wayne Manor or the Batcave and see Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Jake Gyllennhaal as Bruce and say “Hi Bruce we need your help.” Or something along those lines, just with much better dialogue. This shows that the story will continue but with a different actor as Batman, while we still get Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and the other fan favourites.
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