Ben Affleck will be seen as Batman once again in this November’s JUSTICE LEAGUE, but it could also be the last time Affleck dons the cowl. For months there’s been speculation that Affleck would be departing the DCEU, with that speculation ramping up in January when Affleck announced he would no longer direct the standalone THE BATMAN. Warner Bros. subsequently tapped WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES helmer Matt Reeves to direct, but Reeves recently revealed that he’s starting from scratch and not using the script that Affleck and Geoff Johns developed, further putting Affleck’s involvement in doubt.
And now, a day before Affleck is set to appear at Comic-Con International to tout JUSTICE LEAGUE, THR reports that Warner Bros. is “working on plans to usher out Affleck’s Batman—gracefully, addressing the change in some shape or form in one of the upcoming DC films.” For WB’s part, at least publicly, the studio remains committed to Affleck as studio chief Toby Emmerich tells THR, “Ben is our Batman. We love him as Batman. We want to keep him in the cowl as long as we can.”
Nothing is official yet, and things could change, but THR seems confident in their reporting that there are plans in the works to figure out a way to get Affleck out of the DCEU after JUSTICE LEAGUE—or possibly in the context of JUSTICE LEAGUE. That film has been going through some extensive reshoots with Joss Whedon now at the helm, so the opportunity stands to write Affleck’s Bruce Wayne out of the DCEU as soon as this fall.
No reason is given for why Affleck would be departing the DCEU, but the actor revealed earlier this year that he sought treatment for alcohol addiction, and he seems focused on getting his personal life in order. Which is entirely admirable. If Affleck is faced with the choice of keeping up with the grueling pace of playing a lead superhero in an interconnected franchise, shooting cameos and supporting roles in future films to come, versus tending to his personal life, choosing the latter is absolutely the right decision.
While it’s unclear exactly how Affleck would be phased out, it doesn’t sound like Warner Bros. has any plans to ditch THE BATMAN. So that means Reeves’ film would potentially introduce a new actor as Batman, or a new Batman entirely. Casting changes on BATMAN movies aren’t out of the ordinary—the 90s saw three Batmen in total lead four separate films—but it is a new superhero landscape, and it’ll be interesting to see how Warner Bros. approaches this change.
So there are a few options here. There could be a different Batman who takes over the DCEU while Affleck’s Bruce Wayne continues to exist, just not on screen. Or we could see Affleck’s Bruce Wayne hand the Batman mantle down to an apprentice, maybe by introducing Dick Grayson to the DCEU. BATMAN V SUPERMAN established that there was a Robin in the DCEU and he was killed by Joker, but he wasn’t explicitly mentioned by name.
But again, none of this is official just yet, and Affleck still has press duties to fulfill for JUSTICE LEAGUE this weekend and again this fall on the press tour. It does sound like he may be on his way out though, which is a bit of a shame given that his performance in BATMAN V SUPERMAN certainly brought something new and fresh to the character. Though now there’s an opportunity for yet another take on the Dark Knight to come to the screen.
THE BATMAN doesn’t currently have a release date, and Reeves has only just started working on the film as he was finishing up APES. Warner Bros. is expected to announce the future DCEU slate tomorrow, but yesterday we learned that SHAZAM will be the next DCEU movie to go into production after AQUAMAN, with lensing beginning in January or February of next year. So while Affleck may be out, the DCEU is only just getting started.