In the lead up to the release of Justice League last month there has been much speculation at to whether Ben Affleck would be remaining much longer in his role of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, in Warner Brothers’ DC Comics Extended Universe superhero film franchise. Affleck himself seemed to waffle back and forth on his commitment to the franchise while director Matt Reeves has indicated that his currently in-development Batman film would recast the role.
Variety threw a little more gas on the fire last evening. Buried in the second to the last paragraph in a story about a possible restructuring at Warner Brothers that could change the occupants of the executive offices of those in charge, it was reported that while –
Ben Affleck is expected to appear as Batman in a standalone Flash movie, it is highly unlikely he will don the cape and cowl in Matt Reeves’ planned standalone Batman movie. The director is said to want to cast the role with fresh talent, according to sources.
The Flash-centric film will star Ezra Miller as the speedster superhero. Gal Gadot and Ray Fisher are also scheduled to appear in the film as Flash’s other Justice League colleagues Wonder Woman and Cyborg. In fact, the amount of Justice League heroes carrying over into the film leads me to suspect that Flashpoint may be a substitute for Justice League 2, a sequel that at one time was on Warners’ announced plans for the franchise but has since quietly disappeared. Flashpoint has gone through a number of changes in creatives who have not gotten the project to a point where the studio was willing to give it a greenlight. No official date for the film has been set, but it is expected to hit in 2020.
Of course, the combination of these two things is fuel to the fire that Flashpoint could be a major reset for the DCEU. In the comic book storyline, the Flash races back in time to prevent his mother’s murder. However, the time travel trope “The Butterfly Effect” kinks in, initiating a number of unintended changes when he returns back to the present. Those changes could be used as in-story justifications for altering the overall tone of the franchise or for any new cast replacements, such as a new actor stepping into the role of Batman.
Personally, I don’t think taking the resources, both monetary and storytelling, to give an explanation as to why your franchise is making changes is the best idea for a movie. Just make the changes. I know that there are some DCEU fans that will cringe as I say this, but take a look at how Marvel handled the departure of Terence Howard from his supporting role of Rhodey in the Iron Man films. When we met his replacement, Don Cheadle, in the role in Iron Man 2, his first words address the situation in the scene he is in, as well as meta-textually the change of actors – “Look, it’s me, I’m here. Deal with it. Let’s move on.” While big, universe altering stories are great ways for comic book companies to institute changes across their entire line of books – And DC is the king of such events with things like the granddaddy of them all Crisis On Infinite Earths through to Flashpoint and most recently Rebirth – you don’t necessarily need that for films. The Bond franchise has varied its tone and lead actor numerous times over its five decades and only did one hard and fast reboot – 2006’s Casino Royale.
And that is perhaps what Warners and DC should do. Just move on. If they want a lighter, less grim tone to their films, than just have that film be lighter and less grim. If you need an explanation as to why, you already have one. Once he returned from the dead in Justice League, Superman is the much more hopeful and cheerful character that he is supposed to be. The beginning of the film points out that the world had sunk into fraught times in Superman’s absence, so the franchise is already pointing in that direction. No further explanations are needed. Just go with.