Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne

The news that Ben Affleck would no longer direct Warner Bros.’ solo Batman movie came as something of a surprise, particularly since we knew he’d already put considerable time and effort into it. As far back as 2015, there were reports that he was writing the script with Geoff Johns. And more recently, it turns out, Affleck had even brought in his Argo writer Chris Terrio for additional help. 

Terrio previously contributed to the scripts for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, and now Deadline has revealed that he turned in a draft of the Batman movie shortly before Affleck’s departure. The fact that Affleck asked for help is fine, but the fact that even Terrio apparently couldn’t fix the script seems worrying. If the combined forces of two Oscar-winning screenwriters and a comic book legend can’t scrape together a Batman screenplay that passes muster, who can?

Affleck’s official reason for stepping down as director was that he felt he could not “do both jobs to the level they require.” (Affleck is still planning to play Batman in the film, at least for now.) Which seems fair enough — directing and starring in a movie us a huge task for any filmmaker, even one as experienced as Affleck. But unofficially, it really seems the real issue came down to the screenplay.

Rumors of trouble began swirling last year when Bret Easton Ellis let slip that he’d heard that not only was the Batman script a mess, but that the Warner Bros. execs weren’t interested in bothering to fix it. He quickly walked back that statement, but that kind of indifference sounded all too believable coming from the same studio that had given us the sloppy Batman v Superman and the downright incoherent Suicide Squad.

In the run-up to Affleck’s departure, Warner Bros. kept saying his Batman film would be done sooner rather than later, while Affleck stubbornly insisted he wouldn’t make it until the script was where it needed to be. “I’m a real believer in not reverse-engineering projects to meet a window or a date, but rather when you get the right story, when the right idea, when the right thing, then you make the movie,” he said in December.

And he made it very clear that he had no interest in half-assing Batman. “I’m not going to write and direct anything that I don’t think is good enough to be made. I’m definitely going to make sure I have something that is special — there’s not enough money in the world to make a mediocre version of Batman worth it.” He reiterated his stance a few weeks later, cautioning that Batman was “not a set thing and there’s no script.” He added, “If it doesn’t come together in a way I think is really great, I’m not going to do it.”

It’s the kind of line filmmakers feed the fans all the time, to reassure them that a movie is going to be great. But in Affleck’s case, he clearly meant it, and good for him for sticking with it. He’s right that there’s no point in making a lazy, half-baked Batman movie. (Creatively, that is. Commercially, even a bad Batman movie is bound to make a fair amount of money.) However, the studio is wasting no time moving on to plan B — word is they’re already out to find a new director. Let’s just hope that lucky guy or gal manages to do what Affleck, Terrio, and Johns couldn’t, and get the script right.

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