- Ben Affleck's portrayal of Batman in The Flash has received negative feedback from Snyder fans and his strongest followers.
- The Flash was a box office disaster for the DC Universe, tarnishing the new direction under co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran.
- Ben Affleck's first appearance as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice received praise for his intense and physical performance.
It goes without saying that Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman has been a subject of both acclaim and controversy. Affleck’s brooding, seasoned take on the Caped Crusader has always been a matter of debate amongst DC fans. However, it’s his recent appearance in The Flash that has many Snyder fans and his strongest followers upset, with many describing Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman in The Flash as his lowest point in the franchise.
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2023 was another rough year for Warner’s DC Extended Universe (DCEU), now branded the DC Universe (DCU) under co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran. The Flash, featuring beleaguered star Ezra Miller in the leading role, was a disaster for the studio, failing at the box office and with fans of DC.
The previous leadership at DC greenlit The Flash, which was separate from Gunn and Safran’s new direction. However, the film’s poor box office and public and media negativity swirling around its troubled star, Ezra Miller, could not help but taint the new DCU in some measure.
With several delays, the film had a challenging run-up to its release and was plagued by scandals involving Miller’s personal life. Various stories emerged in which Ezra was charged with felony burglary, assault and allegations of grooming and harassment, a public relations nightmare for Warner Bros.
Within this maelstrom of bad press, Ben Affleck surprised everyone by returning to his Batman role for a cameo in The Flash.
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Ben Affleck and Zack Snyder’s Dark Knight
Ben Affleck’s first appearance as the Dark Knight was in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The famous actor was one of many controversial casting choices by director Zack Snyder. Affleck received a lot of backlash from DC fans, with many still firmly attached to Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s celebrated Dark Knight Trilogy.
Much of the criticism the actor faced was due to Snyder and DC’s stylistic choices for Man of Steel and subsequent Snyderverse comic book films. Snyders’s dark realism was gritty and focused on exploring superheroes’ god-like role in popular culture.
Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) had themes and narrative elements that challenged audience expectations. The films refused to follow Marvel’s more conventional and light-hearted tone. It meant that DC’s comic book movies didn’t garner as much success at the box office, and neither did it please critics.
Batman v Superman’s release gave film critics and viewers their first taste of Affleck’s tenure. The star was praised in the role and convinced many naysayers to change their attitude toward him. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice depicts a battle-hardened Batman haunted by Robin’s death and disillusioned by Superman’s existence.
Affleck’s performance was praised for its intensity and physicality. He captured the character’s raw anger and desperation, distinguishing him from the more stoic and restrained Batman in previous films. This battle-hardened Batman was different from the idealistic heroes of previous films. He was jaded, brutal, and haunted by the weight of his past failures. Zack Snyder took much of his inspiration for the character from Batman’s comic book roots as found in Frank Miller’s seminal 1986 graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns.
Miller’s comic features a grizzled older Batman, disillusioned by years of crime fighting but who eventually comes out of retirement to strike terror into criminals once again but with much more vengeance and brutality than before. Affleck was also set apart from previous actors in the role by his hulking physical presence wearing Batman’s suit.
Snyder used Miller’s Batman to also inspire Batman’s suit in the movie. Affleck was as impressive as Bruce Wayne but especially as Batman, and when he wore the gritty, muscular suit, many felt this was the best Batsuit ever shown on film.
As Batman, Affleck’s fighting style featured close to hand-to-hand combat that was brilliantly choreographed, unparalleled action sequences for the character, especially the scene in Batman v Superman where Batman fights his way through Lex Luthor’s henchmen in a warehouse to save Superman’s mother, Martha.
The powerful combination of Batman’s striking physical appearance, brilliant fighting sequences and Ben Affleck’s nuanced and personal portrayal of Bruce Wayne made this version of Batman one of the best iterations of the character.
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Ben Affleck’s Batman in The Flash
Despite the DCEU’s poor form at the box office and the negative critical reviews, Ben Affleck successfully embodied Batman and Bruce Wayne. No one could detract from Affleck’s stellar performance or his perfect casting. That is until the actor decided to appear in Andy Muschietti’s The Flash.
The Flash was an adaptation of DC’s 2011 Flashpoint series of crossover comics. The film’s director, Andy Muschietti, known for his successful adaptations of It and It: Chapter II based on Stephen King’s novel, was tasked with bringing the complex storyline to fruition for the big screen. Muschietti was keenly aware of Affleck’s great performances as Batman and Bruce Wayne. Anthony Breznican from Vanity Fair quotes Muschietti:
“His Batman has a dichotomy that is very strong, which is his masculinity—because of the way he looks, and the imposing figure that he has, and his jawline —but he’s also very vulnerable,” Muschietti said in an interview. “He knows how to deliver from the inside out, that vulnerability. He just needs a story that allows him to bring that contrast, that balance.”
“He’s a very substantial part of the emotional impact of the movie. The interaction and relationship between Barry and Affleck’s Wayne will bring an emotional level that we haven’t seen before,” the director added. “It’s Barry’s movie, it’s Barry’s story, but their characters are more related than we think. They both lost their mothers to murder, and that’s one of the emotional vessels of the movie. That’s where the Affleck Batman kicks in.”
“I’m glad to be collaborating with someone who has been on both sides of the camera, too,” Muschietti said. “He understands.”
Many were surprised that Affleck returned to the role. The actor was vocal in the press about the negative experience he had filming Justice League after Zack Snyder left the film’s production to deal with the loss of his daughter to suicide.
Affleck was separated from Jennifer Garner, his wife at the time, and the actor was battling alcohol addiction. Surprisingly, Affleck decided to return to the role, possibly encouraged by the positive process he underwent when Zack Snyder asked the actor to return for reshoots on Justice League.
Ben’s resurgent zeal was in stark contrast to a couple of years prior when the actor spoke negatively of his experience playing the character during Josh Whedon’s takeover of Justice League, which resulted in much of Zack Snyder’s footage being reshot. Affleck’s positive attitude surprised even Barbara Muschietti, a producer on The Flash and Andy’s sister.
She told Vanity Fair she had worried this might make him reluctant to return at all when offered the role. Barbara said:
“There have been some all sorts of stories and things he said himself about having a very hard time playing Batman, and it had been difficult for him,” she said. “I think it was more about a difficult time in his life. When we approached him, he’s now in a very different time in his life. He was very open to it, which was a bit of a surprise to us. It was a question mark.”
“We are all human and go through great times in our lives and terrible times in our lives,” she added. “Right now he’s in a place where he can actually enjoy being Batman.” Plus, he doesn’t have to carry the entire movie. “It’s a pivotal role, but at the same time it’s a fun part,” she said.
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Ben Affleck’s DC Batman Legacy Destroyed?
Affleck’s return seemed like the best thing that could have happened for Ben and Batman. After Whedon’s disastrous Justice League, Affleck seemed ready to ditch the role. Snyder redeemed the character in his director’s cut of the film, which helped rehabilitate Ben’s attitude and eased the actor into accepting further Batman roles.
A lacklustre Batman negated this positivity in The Flash. The opening action scene featuring Batman was good. Still, the character’s new Batsuit was questionable and came under plenty of criticism from the fandom, who felt that the tactical design was unflattering. Many were upset at the goofy scene afterwards when Batman meets Wonder Woman and has the lasso of truth wrapped around him, revealing that his ego is too big to ever say thank you.
Affleck’s five-minute cameo in the film has a fairly good encounter between Bruce and Barry later in the film, but it was not enough to remove the image of Batman wearing the plastic-looking tactical suit and the wrongful characterisation of Batman as an ungrateful egomaniac.
The biggest drawback of Ben Affleck’s Batman, however, is the film itself. Batman’s appearance in the disastrous Flash film tainted the character, and his off-kilter portrayal and the badly designed Batsuit undid a lot of good that Zack Snyder’s films did for the character. Ben gave a standout performance in BvS and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, only for it all to be undone in an unsatisfying cameo in a disappointing Flash film.
It’s a pity that Ben won’t make his solo Batman film. Fans desperately need a palate cleanser after Batman’s appearance in The Flash, and another killer Batman film starring Ben Affleck is desperately needed to restore Affleck’s legacy as the Caped Crusader.
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- The DCEU had a rough year. The much anticipated Flash film bombed at the box office.
- Ben Affleck’s Batman makes a cameo in The Flash but is not the best version of the character.
- After Ben’s good performances and portrayals as Batman in previous films, did the questionable appearance of Batman in The Flash taint Ben’s legacy in the role?
Did Ben Affleck’s appearance in The Flash taint his legacy as Batman?