Before returning as the Caped Crusader in Justice League this November, Ben Affleck has finally responded to criticisms against Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The 45-year old actor has had a tough time in the cape and cowl, beginning with a significant backlash to his initial casting as an older, gritty Bruce Wayne. While his portrayal of the Dark Knight in Dawn of Justice was generally applauded by critics, it polarized fans into those that could and couldn’t get on-board with a Batman that wantonly kills his enemies.
Ben Affleck discussed this aspect of his character – as well as Dawn of Justice’s divisive tone – in an interview with Empire, acknowledging much of the criticism as “fair”:
“I can understand people saying [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice] was too dark, or this was outside the tone of what I’m used to seeing with a Batman story, and I think that’s a fair criticism.”
Ben Affleck’s initial reaction to the negative press attention to Dawn of Justice was memorialized as a viral meme set to the tune of “The Sound of Silence”. At the time, it seemed as if Affleck was processing shock and disappointment, but now it appears he was merely mulling over what he already knew: Dawn of Justice is a flawed superhero spectacle.
Ever since that fateful BBC interview there’s been widespread speculation about Affleck’s continued involvement with the struggling DCEU. Following his decision to step down from directing duties on #TheBatman, it has been continuously rumored that Affleck wants to hang up his cape for good – despite the actor reportedly signing on to appear in every installment of Matt Reeve’s Batman trilogy.
A Strong And Stable DCEU?
Ben Affleck has repeatedly denied rumors that he’s leaving, and his interview with Empire appears to support that. Despite acknowledging the shade that’s been thrown at Dawn of Justice, he maintains an official Warner Bros. party line that there was always a master plan in place when it came to the overarching narrative of the DCEU:
“But this was all scripted and set up before that movie came out. The approach was changed anyway for the second one. It was natural progression.”
Affleck isn’t the first actor to frame the change in tone between Dawn of Justice and the upcoming Justice League movie this way. In an earlier interview with Empire, Ezra Miller supported the idea that franchise overseer Zack Snyder always intended for things to take a lighter turn after the events of Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice:
“The first time I ever sat in Zack’s office, he told me people were mad at him for making things too dark. Zack always intended for the Justice League to rise out of the darkness, and maybe even bring Batman with them. Maybe an inch.”
Ben Affleck reiterates this point, claiming that Snyder wanted to make a movie that was “more fun, that was a little bit light, that wasn’t so encumbered with heavy melodrama”. However, it’s hard to believe that this change in tone wasn't course correction in response to negative feedback.
The idea that this serendipitous change just happened to coincide with the very things that audiences took issue with during the first and second outings in the DCEU doesn’t particularly hold up to scrutiny. Yet, it does suggest that Warner Bros. has finally gotten its house in order, and the starring cast are all in it together.
Justice League: Unite The Cast
Gal Gadot also supported Affleck’s comments, claiming: “Justice League is not a dark or heavy movie. It doesn’t have the weight that Batman v Superman had”. That candid appraisal is perhaps even more appropriate, given that Wonder Woman is the only DCEU movie to date that’s considered an out-and-out success. In a recent featurette, the actor reflected on her character’s positive impact on Bruce Wayne, and how she helps him to become the Batman that fans deserve:
"Batman — she continuously brings a little bit more of him into the light to try and break him out of his own shell to be more of a team player and to also discover elements of humanity that he has willfully discarded."
In Justice League, audiences will see a Batman closer to how he’s usually portrayed. Whether you think it's course correction or all part of the narrative masterplan, the DCEU is epitomized by the evolution of Ben Affleck’s Batman from a murderous vigilante to a potentially redeemed leader of the Justice League.
Of course, whether this was the original intention or not doesn’t really matter. What's important is that the DCEU is beginning to look like a stable franchise that can satisfy fans. Gone are the days when production on Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman was being slated by insiders. Instead, there’s a singular, steady narrative coming out of the studio – and it's one Ben Affleck is most certainly a part of.
Interim director Joss Whedon is currently finishing up reshoots of Justice League ahead of its release on November 16th 2017.