By: Matthew J.R. Kohler
Amid the rumors of “creative differences” between certain directors and DC, regarding their shared universe, the one ray of hope that continues to shine is a Ben Affleck-directed solo Batman movie. But, how do we know this ray of light is nothing more than a mirage?
Going to hammer more tires, are we?
Batman v Superman had many problems. Although a lot of that can be placed on Zack Snyder, it’s not all his fault. Remember, the movie had a massive agenda–setting up umpteen different movies within two-and-a-half hours. Plus, it was trying to tell two classic stories at the same time (Dark Knight Returns and Death of Superman). Typically, studios are responsible for shoehorning in set-ups for future films (Marvel with Age of Ultron), and more characters than necessary (Sony with Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Warner Bros. with Batman & Robin). Since DC is clearly dead set on making a shared universe work, what’s to say they aren’t going to try the same tactics with their go-to cash cow’s solo film? That said, I ask this: how much can Affleck do to make the solo Batman movie a good one? Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo are all solid, well-regarded movies that he has directed. So, it seems like a no-brainer that Affleck’s Batflick will be good, right? Not necessarily; the DC movies are made by companies, not directors.
Written and Directed by $$$
Do you really think any director would insert into his or her own movies references to ones that won’t come out for 2+ years? I don’t think even Snyder would do that to himself. He proved that he can tell a focused, self-contained story with Man of Steel (albeit not a good one). As I mentioned, setups for franchises and needless inclusions of characters (Wonder Woman in BvS) have typically been attributed to studio tampering. What’s to say the solo Batman movie won’t be mucked up with a forced setup for a Batman and Wonder Woman team-up movie, or a team-up movie with Batgirl and a new Robin?
They’ll never learn.
The DC movies are investments more so than actual films. When any movie studio, not just DC, pumps five to ten years and billions of dollars into something, of course they want to play it by the numbers. Hell, look at how safe Marvel has been playing it with every film since Iron Man. What I’m saying is that, for how great of a director Affleck is, he will ultimately be a director-for-hire. He will not have free reign to make a legitimately good film. Even the veteran himself, Steven Spielberg, said over fifteen years ago that even he has to fight for creative freedom, not with other creatives, but with bankers (p. 52 of the book Steven Spielberg: Interviews). Film is a business now more than ever, because there’s money to be made in not just the U.S., but also action-movie-loving countries like China. In other words, companies feel the need to appeal to a much wider audience (translation: make movies less about people and real problems and more about the action).
Look, kids! It’s Ben Affleck fighting DC for his creative freedom!
When you look at the failure of a big-studio blockbuster like Batman v Superman, don’t be like everyone else by blaming the directors, actors, etc. Blame the studio. After viewing Batman v Superman, I blame DC for making the film feel like one long commercial. DC is failing by trying to do a condensed version of Marvel’s business plan, and I believe it’s naive to think they won’t continue this plan with the Batman solo film.
Between BvS, the ill-advised Suicide Squad (it’s like Avengers if they were bad guys–creativity strikes again!), and the undoubtedly rushed Justice League, I feel sorry for Affleck, because he has spent the last five years letting people know he is the real deal. Now, it seems that his legitimacy as an actor and director are being exploited by DC to lend credibility to their half-baked attempts at a cinematic universe. When it comes to doing the inevitable Batman solo film, what can’t be ignored is that Affleck faces the possibility of reliving Daredevil, even if he is also the director and writer this time around. This time, though, it will be different. No matter how bad the film is, it will inevitably turn a profit, and more films will follow, leading to a decade of suffering.