As opening weekend grosses roll in for Captain America: Civil War, Warner Brothers executives might be staring longingly up to the stars, wondering what could have been. The resounding critical and fan applause for Marvel Studios’ newest blockbuster was supposed to be for WB’s own superhero mash-up a few months previous—Batman v Superman. Compounding the DC Cinematic Universe’s choppy waters, The Flash movie just lost its director Seth Grahame-Smith. Once that bomb dropped online, rumours swirled. Was Aquaman director James Wan leaving the DCCU too? Luckily for fans of Wan and a healthy DCCU, the director issued a pic online cementing him still to the project. Yet, one thing is clear. Doubt has crept into the DCCU—something that could derail the movie slate to come.
But fear not WB execs. With all this uncertainty, there is a dark knight swooping in to save the day. It’s DC’s most popular commodity—the Batman.
One thing fans and critics can agree on with Batman v Superman is the unilateral approval of Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader. When it was first announced that Affleck would don the cowl, the internet erupted—the majority fans shrieked in horror. Yet, as the first images of Bat-Fleck were released online, fans cooled their vitriol. Interest was heightened with the teaser trailer and blossomed into a love fest with each successive trailer. Everyone wanted more of the Batman. And once BvS came into theatres, the verdict was in—Affleck had defied the odds and actually worked incredibly well as a grizzled, world-weary Batman.
Emerging from that, Warner Brothers smartly chose to announce a stand-alone Batman movie starring, co-written and directed by Affleck. Batman has once again become Warner Brothers’ hottest commodity and will save the wounded DCCU. Having the public accept Affleck as Batman has become far more advantageous than the hotly anticipated standalone film. WB has begun crossing the Dark Knight over into as many DCCU properties as they can manage. Most notably, Batman has made his way into the Suicide Squad trailers. And focusing on the second trailer, the Batman is more than just sprinkled in—he has a significant impact on said trailer. Going further, the cast of Suicide Squad benefits from knowing Batman. Deadshot, Killer Croc, Katana, Harley Quinn, and, of course, the Clown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker, all had their origins with Batman in one way or another. Even without being a central figure in the film, Batman casts a wide shadow over his rogues gallery.
Any chance WB has of tying their DCCU movies to Batman in the future is a shrewd move. With a plethora of DC superheroes for audiences to consume in years to come, it’s Batman leading the way once more. People desperately want to see more of Affleck’s Batman. Whether Bat-Fleck has a major part in Suicide Squad or a smaller, flashback role, WB knows that Batman is a formidable draw and putting him out there as much as they can will only enhance box office results for the supervillain flick.
As for the upcoming Justice League Part One and Part Two, Affleck will not only be donning the cowl once more, but also be an Executive Producer on the films. It’s unclear what power Affleck will wield in such a role, but odds are he’ll be more hand-on than just watching from the wings. WB is going all-in with Affleck, and rightfully so. Batman V Superman broke WB executives’ hearts by being unable to cross 1 billion in worldwide grosses, underwhelming the DCCU potential heading into the future. How to counteract that insecurity? Simple, apply more Batman. And it’s a formula that has a proven track record.
Batman made his inroads into popular culture in the 1960’s television series, but it wasn’t until Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 that Warner Brothers understood the power of the Bat. Prior to that year, Christopher Reeves’ Superman was the only significant DC character flying across the silver screen. But with the dismal sequels, Superman III and Superman IV, Warner Brothers needed something different. And when you think different, you think Tim Burton. Burton’s Batman was not only a financial success; the film also brought the character into the collective psyche of a generation. Batman saved Warner Brothers from the fledgling Superman franchise. Yet it would take another promising director to rekindle interest in the Bat once more.
In 2005, Christopher Nolan removed fans’ memories from the underwhelming Batman and Robin and rebooted the franchise with Batman Begins. This Batman breathed life into the DC universe as well as an influx of money to Warner Brothers. Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy took superhero movies to new heights not only at the box office and with character-driven plot, but also kept interest on superheroes long enough for Marvel Studios to begin their amazing run beginning with Iron Man in 2008. Ever since Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, Marvel Studios has dominated superhero films. Batman v Superman was supposed to be the antidote. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to script, and WB has responded in the right way—double down on the Bat.
What will the future hold for the DCCU? That, no one can foresee. But it will have a better chance of succeeding with Bat-Fleck in the driver’s seat. Batman v Superman might not have soared to the heights as expected, but one thing it did do was solidify the need audiences have for Batman. And at least in the next few years, fans will be getting their much-deserved fill of the Caped Crusader.