“Might” was seemingly as far as Jeremy Irons was willing to go when talking to EW about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in which he plays Bruce Wayne’s great enabling butler Alfred. With an IMDB page littered with the likes of The Pink Panther 2, Eragon, The Time Machine and Dungeons & Dragons, the 66-year-old thespian is no stranger to schlock, and thus fully aware that sometimes you just can’t be sure how a movie is going to turn out once you turn it over to the editors and special effects wizards. As such, he couldn’t quite bring himself to completely endorse Batman v Superman, “I don’t believe I’ll be embarrassed by this. In fact, I might even be proud of it.”
At a glance, it appears as if Irons is happily banging the drum for Batman v Superman, but by throwing in a qualifier like “might” he’s putting caution in front of his optimism. He can be proud of his individual work as Alfred, but whether or not the full movie will work as well as it needs to is another story. Just like Irons, we’re still not sure how this – a glorified Justice League prequel foregrounding Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman and introducing other JL members on the periphery in a humorless, Frank Miller-inspired cinematic universe -will turn out. Until we do, I personally find it difficult to really get invested in the news that Ben Affleck, as long-rumored, will direct and star in a solo Batman movie and co-write it with Geoff Johns, as originally reported by Deadline (via Variety). Earlier rumors pegged this for a 2018 release, and thought the plot would be set up by the Joker’s actions in Suicide Squad.
Some people whose opinion I trust really liked Man of Steel, loved the Batman v Superman teaser trailer, delight in the 90s throwback look of Suicide Squad, and have been on board with a solo Batman movie to be directed by Ben Affleck since that was first rumored to be in the cards back when his casting was announced. Others hated Man of Steel, thought the Batman v Superman teaser looked more like a bad fan video or video game cutscene, and couldn’t care less about Suicide Squad or a Batman movie because why give a crap if you assume Batman v Superman is going to suck and blow all of this up before it gets started.
If you push all of that to the side there are reasons to be optimistic about a Ben Affleck-directed Batman movie. Exhibits 1, 2 and 3 are Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, the three films he’s directed to this point. The quality of the films and his abilities as the man behind the camera has progressed each time, and although much of Argo is total bullshit in terms of historical accuracy the level of tension he built throughout the climax is edge-of-your-seat perfection.
Exhibits 4, 5, 6 are The Flash TV series, Batman: Earth One and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Geoff Johns will be making his feature debut with a Batman script, but the longtime DC big wig has already been an integral member of the triumvirate of producers/writers behind The Flash, the other two being Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti. Much of what the show does is a combination of the Silver Age Flash comics Berlanti read as a kid, and the more recent books written by Johns, going with the new origin story he cooked up for Barry Allen. The result is one of the best pure comic book TV shows I’ve ever seen.
Elsewhere, Johns wrote the two Batman: Earth One graphic novels, which, as THR summarized, “present a kinder, more human Bruce Wayne in addition to a younger one; a Bruce Wayne that’s not quite convinced that he can be the hero that the city needs, and one whose actions might be responsible in the creation of some of his iconic villains.” It might be interesting to see him now jump to the opposite end of Bruce Wayne’s life and help chart his weary comeback from retirement, much as the iconic The Dark Knight Returns did. That story is rather clearly the most direct inspiration for Batman v Superman, and it is kickstarting us into a Batman on the tail end of his life, his origin story long since in the past, many of his iconic villains captured and imprisoned or assumed dead.
But haven’t we already kind of seen that before with Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises? Much in the same way that Batman Begins is inspired by Year One, The Dark Knight Rises takes its cues from The Dark Knight Returns, though Christopher Nolan merged it with the ideas he’d had about a Howard Hughes biopic before Scorsese beat him to it with The Aviator. So, the general idea of a coming-out-of-retirment Batman in Batman v Superman is not really as new as everyone likes to pretend it is. We’ve just never seen them reboot Batman as an old man in a far more comic book-y world than Nolan’s grounded Gotham, or take such a literal approach to adapting The Dark Knight Returns. We’ll have had plenty of time with the older, very weathered Batman when his own movie arrives since it will be preceded by Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League Part 1.
Exhibit 7 is Zack Snyder. He is one of the most divisive elements of the new DC Cinematic Universe, and as of right now it doesn’t appear as if he’ll have anything to do with a Ben Affleck Batman movie. Whether or not that is a good thing depends on where you fall on the Snyder hate-him/love-him spectrum.
Really, though, talk to me again about a Ben Affleck Batman movie on March 26, 2016, the day after Batman v Superman comes out. Until then, I have no idea if a Ben Affleck Batman is something worth seeing again.