When it was announced 5 years ago that DC were progressing their cinematic universe with Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was excited. I had loved watching Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel, and Christian Bale had been excellent as Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy. The thought of the two going head to head on the big screen filled the nerd in me with childish excitement. However, then it was revealed that Christian Bale had refused to return as Batman, which disappointed me, but not as much as when it was announced that Ben Affleck would be donning the cowl, creating what would be known as the ‘Batfleck’. At that point, I only really knew him as the poorer actor of the pair that him and Matt Damon made throughout the nineties, and let us not forget the absolutely appalling Daredevil film. All the pointers indicated that Ben Affleck was a bad choice, and yet when the first trailer arrived, showing Batfleck squaring up to Henry Cavill and asking the now immortal line: “Tell me, do you Bleed?”, before promising Superman that he will, my perception began to change. That and the metallic Batsuit which was unlike any other iteration of the iconic attire that had come in the films before. Plus, The batmobile looked better than ever. It was all lining up perfectly.
When the film was finally released, I remember sitting in the cinema and being simply amazed with the direction and depth of the film, and nothing stood out to me more than the Batfleck. It was completely different to anything else anybody had done before with the character. Therefore, when I read the reviews of the film, I was shocked to see the abundance of negative comments that were circling. The movie was criticised for its length, for the now infamous ‘Martha’ scene and how Batman had actually killed numerous people throughout the film. This irked me somewhat as it made me feel like people had missed the point of his story arc. Batman vs. Superman takes place during Batman’s later years, after he has become a hardened vigilante and has lost people close to him, such as the second Robin, Jason Todd, who has been killed by the Joker. The film opens with all the destruction in metropolis from the climax of Superman’s fight with General Zod at the end of Man of Steel, including the Wayne Enterprises building being destroyed. Of course, this leaves Bruce Wayne feeling powerless and guilty at being unable to protect the people in his employ, starting him off on a vendetta against Superman. He views Superman as a threat to him and everyone on the planet, which allows him to not feel so omnipotent in the face of a much more powerful hero. This is why he has no issue in killing people, or even leaving them branded with a bat signal, making him feel powerful as the Batman once again. These questionable and criminal actions throughout the film then lead to making the Martha scene so powerful.
In any version of the Batman character, the death of his parents is a big emotional trigger for him, and so hearing his mother’s name would bring forth an emotional vulnerability in him that wouldn’t normally be on show. It also allows him to see Superman not as an all-powerful alien who could kill anyone easily, but as a man trying to do the right thing; to see him as Clark Kent. So, when Superman dies at the end of the film, saving the world in the process, it leaves Batman with feelings of guilt that leads to him then formation of the Justice League, who would go on to take on Steppenwolf.
We will never see the conclusion of this Batman’s story arc now, with Zack Snyder not returning to make a second Justice League film, and with Ben Affleck having left the DCEU. Although I do doubt that it will be the last time Batman will be on the big screen, with Matt Reeves currently working on a script for a new Batman film, it just won’t be the Batfleck under the cowl. Considering how well I feel they did with the character in these films, particularly in Batman vs. Superman, I’m very disappointed we never got to see more of him, for example, going up against Jared Leto’s Joker or Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke (as was hinted at the end of Justice League). However, with Matt Reeves suggesting that his Batman film may feature more of the detective side of the Batman, rather than the action heavy sides we have already seen, this could offer us another new iteration of the character that’s unlike anything that’s come before. With Hollywood stars such as Armie Hammer or Jon Hamm being suggested as the next Batman, the iconic character will continue to appear on the big screen for years to come, even if we won’t see the Batfleck return again.
by Finn Basketfield