In the history of live-action adaptations of Batman, a total of nine actors have portrayed the Dark Knight (not including those who’ve only portrayed him as a child and those who’ve portrayed him in TV series and not in movies). Most of them have had at least two stints as the Caped Crusader, with some having more and some having just one stint. This article is going to be just one in our series on the Batman actors, where we are going analyse each actor’s tenure as the Dark Knight. Today, the topic is going to be – Ben Affleck.
Within the DCEU, Ben Affleck has appeared as Batman in a total of four movies, but only two of those can be considered actual appearances. Namely, he appeared in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017); he also had a cameo in Suicide Squad (2016), which we are not going to count as a full appearance, and will reprise his role in Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021), which is also not a proper appearance. He is also set to reprise his role in The Flash.
DC Comics, for those of you that are not familiar with the story behind the comics, is a major American comic book publisher founded back in 1934. Along with Marcel Comics, it is the most popular comic book publisher in the United States. DC Comics is a major player in the comic book business and is the “home” of many famous comic book characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and many others.
Now that we’ve given you a short introduction, let us discuss the topic of this article in more detail.
How many times did Ben Affleck play Batman?
Ben Affleck, if you look at the numbers out of context, is the record holder for most live-action Batman appearances. He had his full-on debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and reprised his role in Suicide Squad that same year. Still, the Suicide Squad appearance was just a cameo and we cannot really count it as a proper appearance.
His second appearance was in Justice League (2017), the “monster” of a movie that came as a result of Whedon butchering Snyder’s movie due to corporate demands. In 2021, however – thanks to the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement – he is going to reprise his role in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but since that’s just a reworking of the original movie with some additional scenes and reshoots, we can’t count it as a proper appearance.
He is also set to reappear in The Flash; this is intended to be his final appearance in the role.
When did Ben Affleck play Batman?
Now that we’ve established how many times Ben Affleck appeared as Batman, we can give you some more detail on these appearances (the ones that have come out, at least):
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
When Nolan’s trilogy was completed and Warner Bros. launched the DCEU, the search for a new Batman was one of the most important things that the studio needed to do. Zack Snyder, who was named the creative director of the DCEU, discussed the part with Josh Brolin and Christian Bale admitted that he would like to play the part once again, but only in a Nolanverse setting. Ultimately, Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman.
Affleck was initially reluctant to accept playing Batman, citing that he “felt [he] didn’t fit the traditional mold. But once Zack [Snyder] showed [him] the concept, and that it would be both different from the great movies that Chris[topher Nolan] and Christian [Bale] made, but still in keeping with tradition, [he] was excited.” Affleck previously stated in 2006 that Daredevil, where he played the titular superhero and got terrible reviews, had “inoculated [him] from ever playing another superhero”.
Snyder cast an older Batman to be a layered juxtaposition against a younger Superman; while “bear[ing] the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain[ing] the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne.” Nolan was involved with the casting of Affleck and he was the first actor Snyder approached for the part.
In the movie, Batman decides to confront Superman over the events describes in Man of Steel, but at one point they have to join forces to defeat a common enemy in the form of the Kryptonian monstrosity called Doomsday.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Since the movie was part of the DCEU and had a couple of Batman-related characters, Ben Affleck appeared in a cameo role in the movie. He was shown fighting against Jared Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, and later engaging Will Smith’s Deadshot.
Justice League (2017)
Justice League was a much anticipated sequel that would introduce a lot of DC’s superheroes to the DCEU. It was intended to by Snyder’s epic story, but ended up being a weird blend of Snyder’s ideas and Joss Whedon’s post-production interventions that crippled the film and made it barely watchable.
Ben Affleck, of course, reprised his role in Justice League, where he served as the one who united the group in order to fight the Parademons. Still, Whedon crippled his character with bad plot decisions and tasteless humor, which resulted in Batman – despite Affleck’s interpretation – being as blunt as the whole movie. Luckily for us, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is arriving in 2021 and we are finally going to see the Batman what we were supposed to see in the first place.
How were these movies received?
The DCEU had a very rough start and the negative comments, along with in-company shake-ups, resulted in relatively poor reception of some of the movies forming part of it. And while Ben Affleck was generally praised for each of his appearances, the movies did not always share those reactions.
NOTE: Since he only had a cameo appearance in Suicide Squad, we’re not going to analyse that movie in this section.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The initial cinematic cut of the movie was not received well, mostly due to the confusing plot and lack of focus. The extended edition (“Ultimate Cut”) was better received, since it cleared up a lot of the problems from the cinematic version.
Lindy West in The Guardian described the film as “153 minutes of a grown man whacking two dolls together”, asking “[h]as the definition of ‘movie’ changed from ‘motion picture story that a human wrote on purpose’ to ‘700 only tangentially related 12-second grey and red vignettes’?”
A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote: “The point of Batman v Superman isn’t fun, and it isn’t thinking, either. It’s obedience. The theology is invoked … to buttress a spectacle of power. And in that way the film serves as a metaphor for its own aspirations. The corporations that produce movies like this one, and the ambitious hacks who sign up to make them, have no evident motive beyond their own aggrandizement.”
Writing in The Telegraph, Robbie Collin called the film “humourless” and “the most incoherent blockbuster in years”. Michael Philips of Chicago Tribune wrote, “A near-total drag, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice plays like a loose, unofficial quarter-billion-dollar remake of The Odd Couple, in which Oscar and Felix are literally trying to kill each other.”
On his podcast Hollywood Babble-On, film director Kevin Smith, a long-time friend and collaborator of Affleck, praised Affleck’s performance but panned the film, commenting that it “didn’t really have a heart” and was “humorless”, arguing that “there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding of what those characters are about. It’s almost like Zack Snyder didn’t read a bunch of comics, he read one comic once, and it was Dark Knight Returns, and his favorite part was the last part where Batman and Superman fight.” On a second viewing, however, Smith via his Instagram lightened his stance.
Taking a softer tone, David Betancourt of The Washington Post and Scott Mendelson of Forbes praised the film’s visual spectacle and performances from Affleck and Gadot, though Mendelson also called the film “an utter mess of thinly sketched characters, haphazard plotting, surprisingly jumbled action”. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film “better than Man of Steel but below the high bar set by Nolan’s Dark Knight,” adding that “Dawn of Justice is still a colossus, the stuff that DC Comics dreams are made of for that kid in all of us who yearns to see Batman and Superman suit up and go in for the kill.”
Jake Coyle of Associated Press wrote, “it hurtles not with the kinetic momentum of Mad Max: Fury Road nor the comparatively spry skip of a Marvel movie, but with an operatic grandeur it sometimes earns and often doesn’t.” Mark Hughes of Forbes called it “the follow-up to The Dark Knight that many viewers and fans wanted or hoped for”, adding that it’s “visually stunning, with powerful emotional storytelling and awe-inspiring action spectacle.” Andrew Barker of Variety said “as a pure visual spectacle… Batman V Superman ably blows the hinges off the multiplex doors.”
Nicolas Barber of the BBC called the film “a four-star epic” praising Affleck’s performance as Batman and the visual grandeur of Fong’s cinematography. Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian gave an ambivalent review; he especially criticized the “very bad writing”, but conceded “there are a lot of moments… that work” and praised Affleck and Gadot’s performances, calling Gadot as Wonder Woman the best thing in the film.
Justice League (2017)
Justice League was received a bit better than Batman v Superman, but this “Frankenstein’s monster” of a movie was to incoherent and lacking focus that is still considered to be a bad movies by many.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising the cast, especially Gadot, and saying “It’s a putting-the-band-together origins movie, executed with great fun and energy.” Owen Gleiberman of Variety gave the film a positive review and wrote, “Justice League … has been conceived, in each and every frame, to correct the sins of Batman v Superman. It’s not just a sequel—it’s an act of franchise penance. The movie … is never messy or bombastic. It’s light and clean and simple (at times almost too simple), with razory repartee and combat duels that make a point of not going on for too long.”
Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, praising the cast but criticizing the action sequences and writing, saying: “The scenes of the League members together, bickering and bonding, spike the film with humor and genuine feeling, creating a rooting interest in the audience. Without it, the film would crumble.” Conversely, Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter, while praising Gadot and Miller, called the film visually ugly and boring, saying, “Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he’d rather be almost anywhere else but here.”
Sara Stewart of the New York Post gave the film 1.5 out of 4 stars: “Justice League is a pointless flail of expensive (yet somehow cheap-looking) CGI that no amount of tacked-on quips, or even Gadot’s luminescent star power, can rescue. Like Cyborg (Ray Fisher), one of its ostensible heroes, Justice League is patched together from disparate elements. Original director Zack Snyder left partway through due to a death in the family, leaving Joss Whedon to finish up. The result? All the plodding, gray, generic action of a Snyder film with stabs of Whedonian humor that almost never feel organic. There’s no sense of purpose here, not even a sense of place.”
Writing for The Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg also returned with a negative review: “… if Justice League is a symbol of just how entrenched superhero movies have become in the Hollywood ecosystem, it’s also a potent illustration that success hasn’t necessarily artistically elevated the genre. It’s not just that, beat by beat, Justice League feels nearly identical to so many of the superhero movies that have come before, or that it features some of the ugliest, most pointless special effects I’ve seen at the movies in a long time. It’s that the darn thing feels depressingly haphazard and thoughtless, and that it’s guaranteed to make a ton of money anyway. Superhero fans are a ridiculously powerful market; they deserve better than this.”
James Berardinelli gave it 2 out of 4 stars: “When Marvel mapped out the trajectory for their Cinematic Universe, they were sometimes criticized for overthinking and overplanning. Nearly every major hero – Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor – had his own movie. Many of the secondary characters (including the villain) boasted significant screen time in one or more of the first five films. Only once all these things had been accomplished were the characters brought together for The Avengers. The formula worked. The Avengers was popcorn bliss, a superhero nirvana. DC, however, came late to the party. Riding the critical and popular success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and smarting from the disappointing performance of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, they dithered and dallied and didn’t begin planning out the post-Dark Knight campaign until the MCU movie count was past the half-dozen mark and rising. The late start resulted in a rushed and ununified approach. Justice League arrives with three major characters who haven’t previously been introduced. As a result, this film has a lot of heavy background lifting to do – too much, in fact, for it to be able to tell a worthwhile story. 70% of the movie is set-up for future tales. The rest is an overlong smack-down between our heroes and possibly the worst villain ever to appear in a comic book picture.”
How was Ben Affleck received as Batman?
Despite the relatively poor reception of the DCEU, Ben Affleck’s Batman was received quite well, alongside Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. It seems now that none of the characters was a problem with the DCEU, but rather the plot and the style. Ben Affleck gave a lot into his role of an older, darker Batman and the fans liked it; this also explains his disappointment upon learning that the movies were badly received (we all know the famous meme). All in all, Ben Affleck’s Batman was received quite well and we are looking forward to seeing Snyder’s true vision in the upcoming movie, as well as Affleck’s – as we believe – emotional farewell in The Flash.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!