Why Ending Ben Affleck's Batman Run Was A Big Missed Opportunity

It feels like a lifetime has passed since Ben Affleck was tapped to portray Batman in the DC Comics Extended Universe. Granted, nine years really is a long time, and it certainly feels like a near-decade's worth of drama has transpired between that fateful casting and Affleck's latest outing as the Dark Knight. As everyone surely knows, Batfleck has a long history with the DCEU. He might be the Batman with the most appearances on film, but he also never got the chance to portray the Caped Crusader in a non-ensemble vehicle, though not for lack of trying. The actor was poised to star in (and direct!) his very own solo Batman flick as far back as 2015. But his proximity to the Snyder Cut drama — as well as his own personal struggles — eventually prompted him to retire the role prematurely, paving the way for a new Batman in the form of Robert Pattinson.

Though Affleck wasn't many fans' first choice to portray the Batman (in fact, he still earns some ire to this very day), the news of his departure was pretty disappointing for those who'd since warmed up to his take on crimefighter. Sure, his grizzled, world-weary vigilante didn't always strike the right tone, but that's more an issue with writing and direction than it is with his performance. In the right hands, Affleck could have been perfectly decent in the cape and cowl on his own. More than that, his solo movie could have ushered in a Batman era that some fans have been anticipating for years.

'Batman v Superman' set the stage

In the cinematic world of DC, playing the hero has always been a bit of a young man's game. But longtime Batman fans know that things get considerably more interesting for the Dark Knight as he gets deeper into his career as a crimefighter. Not only is the conflict so much juicier when Batman and his adversaries have more history, but the young heroes that eventually join his crusade enjoy equally compelling storylines. 

In the comics, Bruce Wayne has fostered, mentored and trained a number of young heroes, from one of the many iterations of Robin to Batgirl and even Huntress. Most have become the subjects of their own storylines since, but each of their stories begin with some connection to Batman.

Unfortunately, the films have largely failed to introduce those relationships in a significant way. Short of George Clooney's fledgling Bat Family in "Batman & Robin," or the half-hearted Robin tease in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises," Batman's team hasn't had much of an opportunity to shine on the big screen. But all that seemed poised to change with Affleck's take on the character.

When we first meet the actor's iteration of Bruce Wayne in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," it's clear he's lived quite a life. Not only has he already taken a young ward under his wing, but he's already lost him at the hands of the Joker. We know this because Bruce keeps the suit of his fallen Robin on display in the Batcave, complete with the Joker's morbid message still painted across the chest. An incredibly depressing visual, but this is Batman we're talking about.

What Affleck's solo film could have been

Affleck's Bruce Wayne is clearly still reeling from the loss of his mentee in "Batman v Superman," but he also recognizes that he can't keep working alone for much longer. Like other Batmen before him, he is fully aware of how in over his head he is. He needs the help of other heroes to save not only Gotham, but the world. His solution is, of course, to form the Justice League with other heroes like Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and The Flash (Ezra Miller), but the door was still wide open for another character to take on Robin's mantle in the future, and "The Batman" would have been the perfect time to do it.

Many Bat-fans hoped the film would introduce Tim Drake, the third Robin to join the Bat Family, especially after actor Ryan Potter publicly campaigned for the role in 2016 (his viral audition would later score him a role in the "Titans" series). There were high hopes for "The Batman" in general. Everyone knew Affleck was a solid filmmaker with a passion for his craft. His solo film represented a chance to show those naysayers what he really had to offer as Batman, far from the doom and gloom of Snyder's "Justice League" saga.

Even for the fans who weren't completely sold on Batfleck, the actor's presence in the DCEU still presented a clear opportunity. It'd taken a long time to introduce the members of the Bat Family in a real organic way, and conditions were finally perfect for it.

'I started to realize it's not worth it'

Ultimately, Affleck's Batman film wouldn't make it past pre-production. After completing scenes for his appearance in "The Flash," the actor announced that he'd be stepping away from the DCEU entirely. Affleck cited his fatigue with IP-driven films as one of the main influences for his decision, but his role as Batman had also been mired by struggles in his personal life, as well as the behind-the-scenes tumult on the set of "Justice League."

"I looked at it and thought, 'I'm not going to be happy doing this,'" Affleck said of walking away from the solo Batman production. "The person who does this should love it. You're supposed to always want these things, and I probably would have loved doing it at 32 or something. But it was the point where I started to realize it's not worth it."

Such a choice likely wasn't easy for Affleck to make, and it was definitely a bummer for a lot of fans. But it's still a relief that he was able to prioritize his own mental health in the long run. There have since been more opportunities for the Bat Family to appear in the DCEU, particularly in "Birds of Prey," which brought Cassandra Cain, a future Batgirl, and Helena Bertinelli (aka Huntress) into the fold. Let's not forget the upcoming "Batgirl" solo film. Both have proven that these particular heroes don't always need Batman to make an impression, though it still would be nice to see one big happy Bat Family in the future. When this could feasibly happen again is anyone's guess, but given the success of "The Batman," we might not have to wait very long to find out.