Ben Affleck Won’t Direct The Batman – What Does This Mean?

Ben Affleck has officially announced that he will be stepping down as director of the stand alone Batman film (currently titled The Batman).  Here’s his statement courtesy of Coming Soon.

“There are certain characters who hold a special place in the hearts of millions,” Affleck said in a statement. “Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give. It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require. Together with the studio, I have decided to find a partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film. I am still in this, and we are making it, but we are currently looking for a director. I remain extremely committed to this project, and look forward to bringing this to life for fans around the world.”

Warner Bros. Pictures added: “Warner Bros. fully supports Ben Affleck’s decision and remains committed to working with him to bring a standalone Batman picture to life.”

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What contributed to this decision and what does it mean moving forward?  All we have is his actual statement above and wild speculation to go on so any number of things could have brought him to this decision.  Likely the biggest factor is the massive work load and responsibility of writing, directing, producing and starring in what will undoubtedly be the biggest blockbuster film of that year (at least WB hopes).  That just doesn’t happen.  Joss Whedon wrote and directed Avengers and Age of Ultron and has now distanced himself from the Marvel brand saying the experience was mentally and physically exhausting.  Add to that the immense pressure from fans.  You can’t get much more high profile than a Batman movie and there was clear frustration from Affleck constantly getting asked about the Batman movie during his press tour for Live By Night.  Perhaps this move isn’t backing down from the project but legitimately looking for someone to help lighten the load.  He said he was looking for a partner so if he is to be taken at his word then he may still be the controlling creative force behind the movie after all.

There’s another possibility, however, that can’t be ignored.  What if this decision wasn’t based on workload and instead was due to Affleck becoming disinterested with the project for some reason?  Rumors have circled that Affleck is displeased with the Justice League film, due out later this year, and particularly how that film leaves the state of the DC cinematic universe.  Does that film and the need to be linked to it adversely affect the story Ben wanted to tell?

Worse yet, is his decision based on studio interference with the creative process?  Ben Affleck is a respected director having helmed critical successes like Gone Baby Gone, Argo and The Town, but each of those were smaller projects where he was allowed to take his time and craft the story however he wanted.  In a major blockbuster, and specifically within a shared movie universe, he doesn’t have the same creative freedom and has strict deadlines to adhere to.  Did studio interference telling him what story he should tell or how he should tell it, or a mandated deadline when he wasn’t 100% satisfied with the state of the script and pre-production contribute to him wanting to leave the project?  Again, this is entirely speculation and internet rumors so don’t read the above as fact, but depending on which of the above possibilities are true we could be seeing varying degrees of Affleck’s involvement in the making of The Batman.

While I will claim to be more of a Marvel guy, I grew up as a huge comic book fan in general.  I really want to see the the DCU succeed because there are so many great characters that deserve to have their moment to shine on film.  Unfortunately if DC/Warner Bros. don’t have success with their higher profile characters, they’re going to play it safe and not take risks with the lesser known properties (similar to how Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant Man and Doctor Strange have been developed by Marvel following their huge critical and commercial fortune).  Man of Steel and Batman v Superman had very mixed reviews and had very vocal detractors.  Ben Affleck’s involvement in the DCU is what got many fans excited about the future of the shared universe and gave them hope even if they didn’t love the first two movies, myself included.  I’m hoping this decision truly is him being overwhelmed and just looking for a partner in the endeavor instead of him growing unhappy with Warner Bros./DC and trying to remove himself from the franchise’s future.  Time will tell.

According to Deadline, the names believed to be on the shortlist to replace Affleck in the director’s chair include Matt reeves and Matt Ross.  Here’s the report (via /Film):

“According to Deadline, the two prominent names on Warner Bros’ The Batman director short list are Matt Reeves and Matt Ross.

Matt Reeves directing Let Me In

Matt Reeves is the director of The Pallbearer, Cloverfield, Let Me In and the two Planet of the Apes sequels, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes. He has a great eye for action and tone, with a knack for smartly grounding his blockbuster stories. War for the Planet of the Apes is currently deep in post-production and will hit theaters in July, so it’s unlikely Reeves would be available before then.

matt ross

Matt Ross is an actor (Face/Off, American Psycho) who has recently made waves as a director, having helmed the critically acclaimed 2016 film Captain Fantastic which debuted at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.”

Well I gave my two cents and went off on wild speculations from a short and simple statement.  What do you think?  Are you pleased that Affleck is stepping down from his directorial responsibilities on The Batman or do you think this is a bad sign for the film and the DCU?  Share your opinion in the discussion board below.

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