Ben Affleck's career as the Batman of the DCEU may be over just as quickly as it began. A new report from THR says Warner Bros. is now exploring its options to get Affleck out of the role "gracefully," and perhaps even before The Batman, the solo film that at one point he was writing, directing, and starring in.
When Affleck stepped out of the directorial role for The Batman, he issued a statement saying he wanted to give his all to acting in the role, and couldn't do that and direct simultaneously. Likewise, his script with Geoff Johns, DC Films co-head and DC Entertainment CCO and president, would stick around -- at the time. Then Matt Reeves was hired to step in as director, and he re-iterated that "Ben is our Batman."
A few weeks passed, and Reeves said he was no longer using the Johns/Affleck script, opting for a "page one rewrite." He said he wanted his Batman film -- and possibly a full trilogy -- to be more noir and detective-driven than exploring the superhero side. While nothing official has hit yet, a new rumor at The Splash Report just earlier Friday said that Reeves is bringing in his Planet of the Apes collaborator Mark Bomback to write the new screenplay.
Now THR says their sources say WB is "working on plans to usher out Affleck's Batman," and that they plan to do it as an in-universe plot point in "some shape or form." That's a key note, and intriguing, that they'd want to acknowledge it at all and not simply recast the character.
So what does that mean? Well, it's a comic book movie, and it's a world where legacy is a primary component -- legacy is part of Geoff Johns' personal credo for the DCU, after all -- so there are possibilities. We could see a second-generation Batman step into the role, like Dick Grayson, Jean Paul Valley, or even some version of Damian Wayne or Terry McGinnis. We could also see some sort of manipulation of Batman -- we know that time travel is already present in the world of the DCEU thanks to The Flash's visit in Batman v Superman, and a character like Darkseid and tech like the Mother Boxes -- also both coming to the DCEU -- have been known to do some wonky things to time and reality.
With a trilogy in mind for Reeves, Affleck's 45-year-old frame may simply not be able to handle close to a decade of films in the brutal Batman style, and no director would actively want to do a trilogy with two different actors in the lead. The next-oldest Justice League member is Jason Momoa at 37, with the youngest being Ezra Miller at 24, for comparison.
The most likely step here is to simply recast and continue the universe, though, and somehow also be slightly de-aging the character. Whether that's an actual acknowledged plot point or there's simply a small nod is up in the air, and probably still a year or two off from being revealed at all, but with 12 or 13 movies currently in development in the DCEU, DC Films and WB are all-in already; it's too late to rewind entirely.
We'll see Affleck at San Diego Comic-Con Saturday during the WB panel, which will include Justice League and is rumored to include some new film/release date announcements, and while it's not likely any of this particular news will be addressed there, it's always a possibility.
Justice League is next up for the DCEU, hitting theaters November 17, 2017.