They’re a distant second in the race for best comic book cinematic universe and they’re losing ground with every step. Yet somehow, things just keep getting worse for DC Comics’ movie division. As their rival Marvel continues to pump out hit after hit, DC appears to be floundering. Now, it looks like the final nail in the coffin could be delivered.
The linchpin of the DC Extended Universe is Ben Affleck. Hot off the Oscar dominance of Argo, Affleck became the hottest Superhero Free Agent signee when he agreed to take over the reins of The Caped Crusader. Bat-ffleck was going to take on Superman, unite The Justice League, and then begin his own franchise-based spinoff. However, those dreams could be dead on arrival.
Collider Movie News is reporting that multiple sources close to the production of The Batman say Affleck is trying to get out of his DC contract and leave the cinematic universe. This comes shortly after he already surrendered the director position to Matt Reeves. No one from the DCEU has said anything about the rumors, but as long as Affleck or DC President Geoff Johns remain silent, things will seemingly continue to derail for DC.
Should Affleck leave the DCEU, the whole universe could collapse upon itself. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe which has built a heavy roster of characters to carry their franchises, the DCEU will succeed or fail based on their core trinity; Superman, Wonder Woman, and ‘leader of the pack’ Batman have to carry the brand’s torch (although Aquaman might have something to say about that come next year).
Affleck leaving could create a massive void, which won’t be fixed by recasting. If Wonder Woman’s solo outing fails to deliver (more on that in a second), The Batman was supposed to be the movie that saves the day. Without Affleck, DC might have to scrap all their current plans, and look to reboot everything… again!
The Wonder Woman issue should be causing DC and Warner Brothers Executive to sweat profusely. It wasn’t that long ago that a report came out calling the movie’s production discombobulated, claiming that Wonder Woman follows the same mistakes that plagued Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Should Wonder Woman be another DC movie that gets lambasted by critics, fans may finally begin to turn their back on the franchise. DC has to deliver on a quality movie, and not just a bunch of flashy trailers.
Plus, should Affleck decide to bail on the DCEU, they are going to need Wonder Woman to become the main player in the Universe. While Jason Momoa’s Aquaman has all the potential in the world, that movie has the hardest obstacle to overcome: the years of Aquaman being a running joke in the comic book community. Sure, defenders will come to the aid of The King of Atlantis, but it’s going to take a lot to sell fans on the idea of a hero who swims and talks to fish.
No Affleck means Gail Gadot becomes the face of the DCEU. That looks great on paper, but a dud of a Wonder Woman movie would kill her credibility as a Justice League leader on the silver screen.
Let’s not forget about the red-headed step-speedster, Flash. Phil Lord & Chris Miller, Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa all passed on directing the Ezra Miller-led movie (and currently there’s no one at the helm). The script has also gone through massive rewrites, with rumors saying the movie was too similar to the already successful CW show. Instead of bringing the already established Greg Berlanti Arrow-verse onto the big screen (which would have been the smart and safe move), the DCEU decided to just recast the roles, but tell the same stories. Two versions of Barry Allen will exist at the same time, and the TV one is already set to blow the cinema version out of the water.
So, what’s the deal with DC? Affleck seems to be on the outs. Directors are leaving their productions (possibly due to excessive oversight from executives), and actors like Jared Leto have called out the production companies. Even Suicide Squad director David Ayer said he had regrets with the production and seemed to inadvertently hint at higher ups pressuring him with unrealistic deadlines.
While a majority of the news out of the MCU is praise, and how well the Marvel machine runs (Edgar Wright disagrees with that sentiment), DC seems to generate only troubling news when it comes to its extended universe.
The real question is… can the DCEU be fixed? Will Geoff Johns and his braintrust loosen the reigns and let directors create solid movies? Or, will DC and Warner Brothers continue their path of expedited deadlines and have every story build to something bigger?
Despite horrendous critical reviews, Batman v Superman still made $870 million at the box office. Suicide Squad also hauled in $745 million and somehow racked up a few Oscar nominations. While critics and fans want better movies, the current product is still making tons of money. If Ben Affleck departs, it may not affect DC/WB’s bottom line. Who cares if the movies are good; if they’re still bringing in the dough, that’s all that could matters for the head honchos.
It all comes down to the fans. Will people stick with the DCEU when they just replace Ben Affleck with someone else? Continuity should matter, but if Marvel can swap the Hulk and War Machine without batting an eye, why can’t DC do the same with Affleck? Ben is the biggest name DC has to offer, but there is always a Dwayne Johnson Black Adam franchise on the horizon. If someone knows how to save flailing franchises… it’s The Rock.
However, if Affleck bails, the fallout could be disastrous for the DCEU. Continuity matters, and if Affleck leaves, this universe might implode before Dwayne, Green Lantern, or even Darkseid have a chance to show up. It would create a mess that not even The Avengers would be able to clean up.