Image courtesy of screenrant.com
By Mike Kehoe
Finally, there are no more questions and no more theories, because now the answers are starting to roll in. The longstanding rumor was confirmed last spring: The “Batfleck” experiment is officially over. After starring as the caped crusader in 2016’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League, Ben Affleck is Batman no more. After the critical reception to his performance, especially in Justice League, moviegoers across the globe were calling for a new actor to take up the mantle. However, Affleck still remained attached to star in Matt Reeves’ announced project, simply titled The Batman. In fact, Affleck was originally going to direct the film himself, before stepping down and relinquishing the reigns to Reeves. Now The Batman is officially scheduled for a 2021 release under Reeves’ control, as the former Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director got to handpick the next dark knight.
And now not only do we know who the next Batman is going to be, but we also have a bunch of other casting news that will be sure to excite audiences that are eager to see the world’s greatest detective on screen again. Who is the new Batman you may ask? Well none other than Robert Pattinson. Before people start screaming and ripping their hair out, take a second and think. Yes, a decade or so ago he did the awful Twilight movies. But that was a long time ago. To see some of his more mature work, I highly suggest watching Good Time. It is a strong and gritty movie with great heart and Pattinson steals the show in it. He really displays his range, something that will be very important in playing a role like Bruce Wayne.
Though Batman V Superman was panned almost universally for its convoluted plot and nonsensical character development, Affleck as Bruce Wayne was one of the best parts. Though the Boston-born actor didn’t live up to Christian Bale’s legacy as the man in the mask, Affleck turned in a believable performance as the hardened billionaire Bruce Wayne. The film’s “twist”, where Batman and Superman decide to team up because their mothers share the same first name, tanked any hope of praise the critics might have reserved for Affleck’s performance.
Justice League was a production mess due to the tragedy in director Zack Snyder’s family, with former Avengers director Joss Whedon eventually coming on to finish the movie. Superman actor Henry Cavill’s CGI mouth (to cover up the mustache he was sporting for Mission: Impossible – Fallout) was the focus of the critics’ ire, but Affleck’s lackluster performance as the caped crusader really bogged down the entire film. Even without the mask, when he was simply portraying Bruce Wayne, Affleck seemed like he simply wanted to be somewhere else. The ensemble cast was better, for the most part, but it’s clear that DC wanted a clean slate and a fresh start.
To fill some of these roles in the Batman universe, Reeves has been hitting homerun after homerun. Versatile actor Andy Serkis, best known for bring Golem to life in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, will take on the mentor role as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s trusted butler. Some of Batman’s famous rogues’ gallery have also been cast. Paul Dano will play the Riddler, Colin Farrell will suit up as the nefarious Penguin, and Zoe Kravitz will take on the role of Catwoman. Jeffrey Wright will take over for J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.
In the end, this is a positive move for DC. Ripping off a band aid can sting in the moment, but it is necessary to the process. No, Affleck’s reign as the Dark Knight was not a successful one and it would’ve been easy for the studio to stubbornly keep him on board, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. DC should be applauded for cutting the chord at the right time and finding the next Batman to take up the mantle in Reeves’ upcoming reboot. The key to playing the dark knight is making sure that the actor can believably portray BOTH Bruce Wayne as well as the Batman. Pattinson may not have the desired look of a Batman, but this story is going to be about a younger Bruce Wayne, not the darkened and determined hero we’ve become used to. This story will be about the early days of Batman, where he is still trying to figure out the whole vigilante thing.
All this casting news has certainly been exciting, but as we’ve seen with DC films in the past, it isn’t all about the casting (Justice League) or the trailers (Suicide Squad), it’s about putting together a solid, cohesive movie that audiences can enjoy. Reeves should focus on the Joker model: just focus on this movie and not an extended universe, just make the best standalone film that you can. Joker is nearing a whopping 1 billion dollars at the box office and is already the highest grossing R-rated film of all time. This doesn’t mean that Reeves should turn his story into a dark and gritty R-rated drama, it just means that not all DC movies are destined to fail and not all DC movies necessarily need to connect. What Disney has done with the Avengers is not only unprecedented, but also near impossible to duplicate. So, DC shouldn’t try. They should focus on making good movies that audiences will enjoy and not worry so much about just how the movies actually connect to each other. With a star-studded cast and production about to start, Batman fans everywhere are full of excitement.