Note: For an abridged version of this post, check out my YouTube video.
About a month ago, Ben Affleck stepped down from directing The Batman, which does not yet have a release date. Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) was circling the role for a few weeks and it is now confirmed that he will direct, using a script from Chris Terrio. There were reports that Geoff Johns and Affleck wrote the script but there has been no mention of that in recent reports concerning Reeves. However, Affleck and the studio apparently approved Terrio’s script. The new script is likely a composite of Johns, Affleck and Terrio’s work.
Ben Affleck made it no secret that he detested all the questions he received about The Batman while promoting other films, such as Live By Night. There was a lot of speculation that he would leave the directing role, and his role as Batman due to the pressure to please a horde of nitpicking comic book fans. For now, Affleck is still signed on to produce and act, and I hope it stays that way. Some reviews of Live By Night say that the film suffered from Affleck trying to do too much as an actor, writer and director. I can’t help but notice his original decision to step down coincided with the flood of negative reviews for Live By Night. Hopefully stepping down from directing The Batman as a move that is meant to alleviate some stress, but also ensure a better film.
The Batman is still my most anticipated DC solo film, and I hope it delivers the quality film that DC fans have been waiting for. Hopefully some of the other projects deliver that prior to The Batman as well. Man of Steel was decent, and BatmanvSuperman had the potential to be amazing. Instead, we get a terrible portrayal of Lex Luthor and a rushed version of Doomsday. Suicide Squad gave us some things to love, like Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and a lot to hate as well. I’m looking at you Enchantress, Incubus, most of the third act etc. Each film had great moments, and even stretches of excellence, that couldn’t elevate the entire film.
One of my favourite scenes from BatmanvSuperman
As I’ve said many times before, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has issues, but the tone of their films is not one of them. Reeves last few films demonstrate that he knows how to handle a dark tone. People can complain about the need for more “fun” in the DC Universe, thanks Dwayne Johnson, but I think we can all agree that darkness fits a batman film. Aside from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Reeves also masterfully wrote and directed Let Me In (2010). The film is based on a revered book, but we have all seen great source material turned into subpar films. While Apes was also amazing, I think Let Me In is a better example of Reeve’s creative skill since it addresses a big issue I have had with some DC films and films as a whole.
When a great director creates a poor film people are quick to argue that the director was hampered by a poor script. From what I understand, the director can override the writer. The director shouldn’t be a drone mindlessly translating a script to film. he is supposed to utilize his own discretion to oversee what he films. Zack Snyder has numerous “story by” credits on IMDB, which is the same credit given to Christopher Nolan for Man of Steel. From what I have researched, “story by” is just a credit given to someone who came up with the basic plot of the film:
Superman’s fight with Zod makes people distrust and fear him, including Batman. Batman then forms a plan to take him out, but Lex Luthor has his own plans as well.
This basic plot could be conveyed in some form other than the screenplay, such as a “treatment” or short story.
In comparison, the screenplay credit goes to the person who actually crafts the dialogue and fleshes out the characters. Snyder’s only two “screenplay” credits are for Sucker Punch (2011) and 300: Rise of an Empire (2014). I tried watching Sucker Punch, I couldn’t finish it and I have consistently heard that Rise of an Empire is dramatically inferior to the original film. I don’t like to base my opinions solely on the opinions of others, since I would have avoided BatmanvSuperman like the plague if I did. If you believe that I am mistaken about Rise of an Empire, let me know. My point, is that a director who is also a strong writer should be able to expertly exercise his own discretion with the material he is given in order to create a great film.
While the director can override the writer, the studio can override the director. This has already happened with Bvs and Suicide Squad. The uncut version of BvS helps to flesh out Clark and Bruce more, while also clearing up some elements of the plot that didn’t make as much sense in the theatrical film. Meanwhile, the abusive Joker and Harley relationship was removed from Suicide Squad because the studio was worried it made things too dark (among other changes). The films aren’t perfect without these changes, but they are definitely better.
I am hoping that Reeves was able to negotiate for creative control over this project, so that the real filmmakers can craft something for the big screen that DC fans can be truly proud of. There are several other projects I am excited for in the meantime, especially Aquaman and I hope that The Batman doesn’t end up being one of the last hopes for a consistent and well crafted DCEU film.