Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman

Despite the fact that we don’t actually know when it’s coming, Ben Affleck‘s The Batman has looked like one of the more promising films on Warner Bros.’ DC slate. Not only was Affleck one of the highlights of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but he’s also planning to direct the film himself. Affleck’s been saying all the right things about the project, too, talking up his collaboration with Geoff Johns and emphasizing that they’re taking the time to get it right.

But if American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis is to be believed, fans may want to temper their expectations. According to Ellis, Affleck’s The Batman script is a total mess. And even worse, he claims Warner Bros. doesn’t care to bother fixing it.

UPDATE: Ellis has since clarified his comments about The Batman. See what he had to say below.

Ellis’ thoughts on Affleck’s The Batman come as part of a larger story by The Ringer about the current state and future of the movie industry. Here’s Ellis on Batman:

I was having dinner with a couple of executives who know other executives who are working on the [forthcoming] Batman movie, The Batman. And they were just telling me that there are serious problems with the script. And that the executives I was having dinner with were complaining about people who work on the Batman movie. And they just said they went to the studio and they said, ‘Look, the script is … Here’s 30 things that are wrong with it that we can fix.’ And [the executives] said, ‘We don’t care. We don’t really care. The amount of money we’re going to make globally, I mean 70 percent of our audience is not going to be seeing this in English. And it doesn’t really matter, these things that you’re bringing up about the flaws of the script.’ So I do think global concerns play a big part in how movies, and what movies, are being made, obviously.

UPDATE: Ellis has posted on his Facebook page to clarify that he has no firsthand information about the state of The Batman:

During a long interview with The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey we talked about reasons why studio movies are so bad now and touched on the global needs of the marketplace. I told him something I had heard about the new Batman movie as an example of what might be the problem: I was talking with two executives who have NOTHING to do with the Batman movie and who KNEW people who were involved with the production. The two executives I was having dinner with were relating the problems they had heard about the script from people working on the Batman project — that’s all. I know no one involved with the Batman movie and I didn’t realize that my comments would make it into The Ringer piece or else I wouldn’t have cited that particular movie — I have no idea what the Batman script is like and I regret that it came off as if I was disparaging the project. Another reason to be careful giving interviews.

Before you accuse Ellis of harboring anti-DC bias, it’s worth pointing out that he has professed to being a fan of Batman v Superman. That’s not to say his account is necessarily accurate, but it strongly suggests this is not part of some villainous plot to destroy the DC franchise.

On some level, Ellis’ story sounds plausible enough. For starters, both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad suffer from script issues, as you can see in the final movie. They’re so messy, in so many ways, that it looks like the people involved either couldn’t be bothered or didn’t know how to fix all those problems. (Reports of all those Suicide Squad troubles suggest it might be a mix of both.) Despite all that, both movies went on to make lots of money anyway. And none of this is really unique to DC. Lots of films that American fans and critics dislike still do big business, often in overseas markets like China. Remember, Universal’s Warcraft made nearly 90% of its total outside the U.S.

But it is also worth taking his comments with some serious helpings of salt. We really only have Ellis’ word to go on, and he’s not a journalist claiming objective truth or anything like that. He’s an interview subject relating a secondhand anecdote. We don’t know if it’s exaggerated for effect, and we don’t know how much of what he’s saying is just his interpretation of the events versus what was really said and done. And although the fact that he’s talking specifically about The Batman is drawing a lot of attention — it certainly got us talking — as I said above, an indifference to screenwriting is sadly not unique to the DC movies or Warner Bros. as a studio.

Moreover, just because the script is a mess right now and these executives allegedly don’t want to fix it, doesn’t mean that’ll always be the cast. The Batman has yet to announce a release date, so there’s still time for Affleck and his team to fix it, at least in theory. For what it’s worth, TheWrap’s Umberto Gonzalez swears Ellis’ account is not true:

Arguably, Warner Bros. has brought all this suspicion upon themselves by releasing one high-profile disappointment after another. Frankly, after Man of SteelBatman v Superman, and Suicide Squad were all poorly received by fans, there’s no very good reason to believe Justice League and so on will fare any differently. (Wonder Woman, which was also dogged by rumors that it was “a mess,” put out a very good trailer this week that seems to have audiences feeling hopeful. We’ll see soon enough if that faith is misguided.) But it’s also worth keeping in mind that because Warner Bros. is such an easy target, pessimistic rumors are all too easy to believe.

For now, all we can do is hope that Ellis is wrong — or that if said script is a mess, and if said executives are telling Affleck not to bother improving it, he will decide not to take their advice. The Batman is eyeing a 2017 start for release in 2018 or 2019.

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