Affleck’s Batman Was The Perfect Dark Knight Successor (Sorry, Pattinson!)

Robert Pattinson may have started his Batman run with a more universally praised movie, but it was Ben Affleck’s Batman who truly was the perfect successor to Christian Bale. While Batman reboots have been part of the industry ever since Tim Burton and Michael Keaton left the franchise, taking the Batman series in a new direction after Christopher Nolan concluded his beloved Dark Knight trilogy was an unprecedented challenge. Still, less than 10 years after The Dark Knight Rises, DC had launched two new live-action Batman iterations, and it was Affleck’s that combined everything a post-Dark Knight trilogy Batman should have.

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Following Batman & Robin’s disastrous reception, what was once one of Warner Bros.'s biggest franchises faced a moment of uncertainty. Years were going by without a Batman movie, and while it was clear that the Batman franchise had to be rebooted, no scripts or pitches managed to convince the studio that was time to bring the caped crusader back to the big screen. It was only when Memento director Christopher Nolan pitched a realistic Batman origin story that would take the Dark Knight back to its comic book roots that Warner Bros. finally greenlight a new Batman movie, with Batman Begins.

Related: The DCEU Utterly Failed Christopher Nolan’s Man of Steel Plans

Christian Bale’s Batman was not necessarily comic-accurate, but as the face of the two most successful Batman movies of all time, Bale naturally became the reference when it comes to the Dark Knight. That said, both Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale had made clear that The Dark Knight Rises would be their final Batman movie, as Nolan was interested in telling a finite story rather than kickstarting a long-running franchise. Less than two years after The Dark Knight Rises, Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel. Four years after the end of the Dark Knight trilogy, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice premiered featuring a Batman that could have not been more different from Christian Bale's – which was exactly what DC needed after such a successful trilogy. Affleck’s Batman was a natural progression from Bale’s, as it brought many sides of the character that hadn’t been explored on the big screen – from costumes to lore. Robert Pattinson’s Batman, on the other hand, shared way too many similarities with Bale’s, which almost felt like a regression rather than a progression.

Christopher Nolan & Christian Bale Redefined Batman’s Movie Mythos

Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises

Batman Begins was a moderate success, but its sequels, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, both crossed the billion-dollar mark at the box office. Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy reshaped the superhero movie genre and redefined how audiences perceived Batman as a character. From Batman (1989) to Batman & Robin, the Batman movies depicted the caped crusader as an action hero with no backstory other than the death of his parents. Batman’s costumes, the gadgets, and the Batmobile were already part of pop culture, but there was not really any meaning behind those other than being the “cool Batman toys.” Batman as a character was always more realistic than other superheroes like Superman, but the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher Batman movies succeeded by being highly stylized rather than realistic takes on the Dark Knight.

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy changed all of those perceptions by telling a Batman origin story with Batman Begins – one that even complemented Batman’s comic book backstory. Nolan grounded Batman in reality and gave an in-universe reason for everything around Batman, from the Batsuit to the Batmobile. Obviously, all of those changes only worked because Christopher Nolan’s three Batman films were well-received by both audiences and critics all over the world. Christian Bale became the first actor to play Batman in more than two movies, and by the time The Dark Knight Rises premiered, many already considered Bale to be the definite Batman movie version.

Why Affleck’s Batman Didn’t Need A Solo Movie Before Batman v Superman

Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman pic

While DC was criticized for jumping right into a Batman and Superman crossover after Man of Steel instead of doing a Batman solo film first, there was really no need for yet another Batman origin story now that Nolan had done Batman Begins. Batman, his origins, and the world around him had already been established by the Dark Knight trilogy – and on a global level considering how successful all three films were. Thanks to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, audiences all over the world already knew the basics of who Batman was as a character, even those who were not comic book readers.

Related: Why Batman Fans Love Matt Reeves’ Gotham (But Are Split On Nolan’s)

Another Batman solo film so close to The Dark Knight Rises would feel redundant, and it would risk being unfairly compared to Nolan’s Batman movies. Rebooting Batman in a Superman crossover movie was a good idea, as it was something completely different from what had been done with Batman in the last three decades. Batman Begins had to build something from scratch given that almost ten years had passed since the last Batman movie, which was not the case for Batman v Superman.

Ben Affleck’s Batman Was A Natural Progression From Christian Bale’s

Batman - Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, and Justice League Tank

Christian Bale’s Batman, just like much of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, is a realistic take on the character. Bale’s fighting style was very limited compared to comic book Batman, which made sense in the world Nolan was creating. There were absolutely no fantastical elements in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy – no magic, no aliens, or anything that could shift the films into a more sci-fi approach. For example, instead of falling into a vat of acid, The Dark Knight’s Joker simply wore makeup. Bale’s Batman also never shared the screen with any other superheroes, and there was no mention of a broader DC universe.

While that realistic take worked perfectly for the story Nolan wanted to tell, it disregarded a significant part of Batman’s mythos. Batman is more realistic than other superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, but the caped crusader has still been part of a fantastical world since the character’s inception. Ben Affleck’s Batman was a natural progression from what Nolan and Bale had done. Zack Snyder placed Batman in a world of aliens, demigods, and metahumans. Still, Affleck’s Batman never felt like he did not belong in that world. From the Batsuit, a grey vest rather than Kevlar armor, to gadgets like a spear of Kryptonite, Ben Affleck’s Batman perfectly incorporated the more fantastical side of the character.

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne and Christian Bale as Batman

Ben Affleck’s Batman was exactly what DC needed after Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy – a drastically different Batman take ditched the realism and went for the comic bookish approach. That is not to say either of those approaches is better, only that Batman as a character benefits from those different visions. Zack Snyder's Batman came to be at a time when the MCU and the Avengers movies had changed the industry, which called for a bigger Batman mythos and a richer universe rather than just another realistic take.

Related: What If Tim Burton Had Made Batman 3: All DC Changes & Nolan Impact

Matt Reeves’ The Batman, despite all of its qualities as a movie, feels more of the same compared to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It is important to consider The Batman was better received than Batman v Superman, and it seems like the Matt Reeves film will be the start of a long-running franchise. The fact that the prospect of Ben Affleck returning to the DCEU has been met with a lot of enthusiasm shows that Affleck's Batman has also made its mark on pop culture.

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2022-09-30T19:22:18.000Z

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