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Ben Affleck Drops Out of Directing the Next Batman Movie. But Why?

February 8, 2017
5 min read

Several reasons.

First and foremost it is driven by Warner Brothers being nervous about handing the actor-director a franchise that has till now been a cash cow. His last film Live By Night (2016) was a seventy million dollar flop and they pay attention to things like that. It does not matter that it was not his fault — and it was not for the record — but the fact is the film was a massive failure, and for a man who previously directed the Best Picture of the year, Argo (2012) that can be terrible.

One must remember than Affleck was career dead before Hollywoodland (2006) in which his fine performance as the late George Reeves kick started his failed career. He had made flop after flop, was being ridiculed as an actor (unfairly) and was all but finished in the film business. His performance in Hollywoodland (2006) made clear he could act, and was more than willing to take a supporting role to prove as such.

Then they trusted him with directing a film, and his debut was sensational, Gone Baby Gone (2007) earning rave reviews. Baby brother Casey gave a profoundly brilliant performance in the lead role, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and a tight, taut ensemble gave the film an edge, and its brilliance. The actors credited their director with the tone, and for guiding them through the picture, which made many ten lists. Amy Ryan was nominated for an Oscar for her exceptional performance as a terrible mother.

The Town (2010) was even better, and Affleck directed himself in the film in one of his best performances. The film is a big sprawling epic about a group of bank robbers in South Boston, governed by a dangerous florist, portrayed with menace and hate by the great Pete Postlethwaite. Again he surrounded himself with gifted fine actors, Chris Cooper, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, John Hamm, even Blake Lively is terrific, and again they sang his praises, especially Renner who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. Fast moving but a solid character study, at the center of it all is Affleck who gives a fine performance perhaps his best, in a beautifully directed film.

With Argo (2012), Ben Affleck became the toast of Hollywood, winning raves for the film, earning the Directors Guild Award (DGA) for Best Director, and winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. Incredibly, and somewhat mysteriously, he was snubbed for an Oscar nomination, which only seemed to stir voters and help the film. It was clear he should have been nominated, and many believe that pushed the film to a Best Picture win. Whether it deserved to win or not, it did, and Affleck found himself the director of an Academy Award winning Best Picture.

Following that up with a big budget gangster epic did not seem to bother anyone, and I quite liked the film, though it is the least of his work as a director thus far. That said again he is surrounded by terrific actors who do excellent work, Elle Fanning is haunting, but Warner Brothers seemed to have a decided lack of confidence in the film. They held screenings back, it did not get a big campaign for the Oscars as one might think a film directed by a Best Picture winner would, and it felt as though they were keeping the film from us rather than bringing to us. Again it was not a great film, but a very good one, perhaps the weakness being Affleck the actor.

Now his work as Batman in Batman vs Superman (2016) was the best thing in the film, truly brilliant, lived in, weary even as the Dark Knight. This was a different Batman than we last saw in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), but one I believed. I stand by my belief that Christian Bale remains the finest Batman I have seen, but Affleck was terrific and again so in Suicide Squad (2016), however briefly.

The concern seems to be, from Affleck is that he does not believe he can make a better film than The Dark Knight (2008) and frankly I agree with him. To this day, eight years after the film, and despite a glut of super hero films, no one has come close. No one. So as a director, understanding the accomplishment of Christopher Nolan, having now been involved in two super hero films and seeing the inherent challenges, perhaps Affleck is, well worried…concerned, or doubts his ability. His films are character driven, not effects driven, and perhaps the pressure of portraying Batman AND directing it just too much.

He remembers all too well what it was to fall off the rails and have his career all but dead. The dude is human, give him a break.

Read More: ‘The Dark Knight’ is a Work of Genius. Here’s Why. 

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