Here's Why Replacing Batfleck Was DCU's Biggest Mistake

Image credit: Legion-Media

So was Ben Affleck that good as Batman?

Of course, the question is open to debate because even in the graphic novels, Batman's character has evolved over time.

One thing is beyond doubt, though: Zack Snyder was the only director brave enough to completely overhaul the character, making him far more believable than in all the previous incarnations. We do not include Adam West's version as only die-hard meme and gif fans will remember that 1960s interpretation.

After that, it was the same story rehashed over and over again: Bruce Wayne's parents die, the boy falls into a cave, becomes a superhero, dons the costume, and fights crime. Tim Burton made that origin story, then Christopher Nolan retold it with few deviations. The very thought of Zack Snyder going at it a third time made people yawn. Even the MCU and Sony chose not to go over Spiderman's origin story again. In the latest version of Spiderman, his uncle's death is mentioned in passing, on the assumption that everybody already knows it anyway. That kind of approach wouldn't work with Batman, though.

One look at Man of Steel, which launched the new DC universe, is enough to know instantly that Snyder wants to demolish the familiar characters and rebuild them from scratch.

As Superman screams in rage as he snaps the neck of the last of his race, we can't help being reminded of Homelander. In the original graphic novels, Superman is not a murderer, so many people did not like Snyder's take on the character one bit.

But Snyder then went and created a new and improved Batman: human, fallible, and relatable. He pulled off what Christopher Nolan had so boldly attempted in the Dark Night Rises. His Batman is tired, battered by life and Bane. Snyder seemingly picked up where Nolan left off. Affleck's Batman feels like an older version of Christian Bale. He's older; he's aged the way ordinary people age, not the way superheroes defy age. He has lost a loved one, a fact that alludes to the classic 1988 graphic novel Batman: A Death in the Family, in which Joker beats the second Robin to death with a crowbar.

There is more drama in the one look Batman takes at his dead sidekick's costume in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice than in half of all the previous stories about the Dark Knight.

This is not a world of superheroes where the dead just keep coming back to life. This is the ordinary human reality where people that die stay dead. It's the kind of reality we find in the Earth One series, where Batman often gets caught in his own traps and falls from the roof. And in a world like this, a polished billionaire Bruce Wayne played by Michael Keaton or George Clooney, just would not cut it. We need someone scared, angry and tired. While Superman is flying over the city and laying waste to it, Bruce Wayne is desperately trying to save a girl and is scared that he himself might get trapped under the debris.

And Affleck is perfect as this human Batman. He's a bit of a tired has-been himself, and that's just what the doctor ordered for this role. You take one look at him, and you know he's seen things and gone places, and his costume's already getting a tad too tight for him. It's a bit self-deprecating, but that's life for you.

Affleck is the first actor to play Batman, whose physique is close to how the character is described in the graphic novels. He can't rely on his hands, feet, or gadgets like Nolan's Batman. This one has to rely on his wit, experience and superior tactics.

Not many actors in the past could have looked so imposing and dangerous in that huge slow costume. Affleck's Batman is slow and methodical, turning every fight into a surgical procedure. Christian Bale is too lithe and graceful to be so imposing and ferocious simultaneously. Affleck's contorted face in a fight could even scare Superman. Clooney would be no match.

Note also how in Justice League, Batman doesn't do a lot of fighting himself.

He's the tactician giving orders. Looking at Affleck, you can tell this Batman isn't about brute force anymore. He's all about brains. He's the only person on the team who's getting tired and old. Flash is his opposite, and so we get this interplay between an old disillusioned hero and a novice (we've already seen this kind of interplay twice in Spiderman, once in a Marvel movie and once in Sony's animated Spiderverse film).

Ben Affleck's Batman raised hopes that the DC universe would finally stop going in circles, rehashing the same tired story repeatedly. Over the 80 years, the character has existed, hundreds of interesting stories have been published as graphic novels, but in the movies, audiences keep being treated to the same old origin narrative.

The DC Cinematic Universe took off at breakneck speed, introducing too many characters in the early films, but they're now going back to origin stories that everybody knows already. This might work in the short term, but Batman as a character will be confined to the same old time loop, forever fighting the same Joker over and over again in his own nightmarish version of Groundhog Day.