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Opinion | One More Time: Ben Affleck returns for a proper Batman sendoff

Affleck's Batman has been a polarizing topic for years, which helped weaken his work in the movies. But he may get a fitting swan song as the Bat.
Credit: Warner Brothers

ST. LOUIS — Ben Affleck deserved better.

When it was first announced that the writer-director-star was taking on the huge role of Batman in Zack Snyder's DC showdown of Batman versus Superman, I was ecstatic. The perfect role at the perfect time for the perfect actor. Affleck was white hot coming off the Oscar success of "Argo," and Snyder was bringing out the old, grumpy Bat to the big screen. A wonderful marriage of the right time, the right guy, and the right place.

And look, honestly, there were parts of the ensuing film, "Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," that Snyder and Affleck seemed like a good team-or that the director had a clue. But the end result, and embarrassing silliness due to the grim tone, made for an experience that grew worse with time. The film did well, but brought a black eye to Warner Brothers and DC Films' reputation.

"Justice League" didn't turn the tide. Once again, it made money, but not nearly enough money. In order to hide ugly, the dollar bills better resemble skyscrapers. Affleck didn't just look tired and out of sorts physically during it; the actor looked completely bored out of his mind. Here's a guy accepting an Oscar for Best Picture not too too long ago, now being covered in a fat superhero dude's suit, and asked to whip out justice. Sorry, but no thanks.

Affleck was set up to write, direct, and star in a solo Batman film, but the whole thing fell apart. First, he opted out of directing it, choosing only to write and star in a future director's vision, which turned out to be Matt Reeves. Affleck later admitted, during a press tour for this year's wonderful "The Way Back," to finding the story hard to crack. He quit because he couldn't figure out how to execute his vision. The role went to Robert Pattinson, who will star in Reeves' version.

But that's just ONE Batman timeline with the studio. Something else is coming, and it will involve Affleck's Batman. Andy Muschietti, who helmed the blockbuster "IT" horror series, has cast Affleck as one version of the Caped Crusader. Muschietti's film is "The Flash," starring Affleck's "Justice League" co-star, Ezra Miller, as Barry White's superhero. In the film, White's Flash will get kicked around a few different dimensions, which will include multi-verses including Affleck's Bat as well Michael Keaton's take on the dark knight. A bold idea being tightened in every facet possible, the film will release in 2022.

It's a good redemption song for Affleck, who always drew such polarizing noise for his take on Bruce Wayne's alter ego. A criticism that is built into the territory, but a brand of reaction that can still deliver negative hurricanes at human beings. Affleck's offscreen demons are an everyday array of madness, so the added pressure from a big budget film draped in superhero colors only made it worse. Affleck would find rehab again and a wall. In an interview earlier this year, Affleck admitted he had a script ready to go, but when he brought it to a friend for reading, they acknowledged the quality as well as the real life pain it would cause.

My relationship with Affleck's work has seen its fair share of light and dark. Back in 2017, I begged the actor to stop complaining about being asked for Batman clues. Lean into the noise, I urged the actor. Publicity is good publicity, so never bite the hand that constantly feeds you. But reality and perception run hand in hand, unfortunately, in the Hollywood game. Speaking of which, "Hollywoodland" remains one of Affleck's best roles.

Here's the thing. Affleck has been on a nice run for a good stretch now, equally taking part in ensembles and leading the pack in films like a few years back with "The Company Men," and 2016's "The Accountant." The latter was a surprise hit and had a sequel lined up as recent as last year. He's had rough films like any other actor, but has found his back to both the director's chair and the clear headliner of a big studio film. "The Way Back," from Gavin O'Connor, who directed him in "The Accountant," brought the actor the best reviews of his career for his acting. 2020 may have strangled movies in theaters, but that was the last great one to see a big release.

So Warner Brothers and DC are writing a fitting end to Affleck's time as Batman. While "Justice League" was a mess, his time on screen with Miller carried some charm and witty humor. The film lightened up when Affleck's Wayne marvels at White's ability to catch a blade out of midair due to slowing time way down. When asked how he had all this power and cool gadgets, Wayne just said, "I'm rich." Affleck's vain take on the dialogue was sharp. He was a better Wayne than Bat, so hopefully Muschietti keys in on that.

I'm just happy a wrong in the career of one of my favorite actors is finding some right. Affleck will bring a soulful touch to his finale as Batman. Mark it down. You read it here first... two different times.

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