Studios don't generally like it when a big budget, tentpole film that they are putting a lot of money behind has some speed bumps. Generally, they like things to run as smoothly as possible so that positive word of mouth remains positive. The last thing they want is to craft this perfect little bow of film, only to have the bow unravel during production, or worse, before the release.
So it probably gave Warner Bros. and DC Films a fair amount of stomach pains when Ben Affleck, very publicly, stepped out of the director's chair on The Batman. The reason he gave was that he didn't feel he could do both jobs. This makes sense as playing a superhero in a movie one is directing, is probably much harder than playing the Tony Mendez character in Argo.
However, Hollywood, and more specifically, the media, can't just accept Affleck's reasoning. We feel that there must be something bigger afoot. Suddenly, it seemed like no matter what shape the script was in, The Batman had to be headed for the toilet. Thankfully, the hiring of Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) seems to have quelled this.
There are still questions circling The Batman. When will it shoot? When will it be released? Who else is going to be in The Batman? Will the movie even be called The Batman? What will the story be?
Now, these questions are still up in the air but it seems like they will eventually have answers. Right now, it seemed prudent to look to Ben Affleck to see what he could do to help "save" this film any more unwanted speculation. Having already lived through a high profile media shellacking (and the flops that come with it), it seemed prudent to present 7 things Ben Affleck can do to save The Batman. Nothing on this list is a guarantee, but it doesn't seem like these suggestions will hurt the film.
Ben Affleck is a surprisingly refreshing interview. I say that because while most actors at his level are keen on giving canned responses, Affleck often goes to the other way. He even has positions (see his comments after he made Argo on the Middle East situation) that could be deemed unpopular. We don't see this because actors like Ben Affleck often play it safe. At his best we get a thoughtful artist who isn't afraid to give his opinions regardless of the consequences. At it's worst we get the situation with JLo and movie like Gigli. At this moment, Ben Affleck, after withdrawing from directing The Batman, needs to return to a bit of a secluded state. This sort of had to happen. Affleck was on top of the world after Argo. A film he directed landed him the Best Picture Oscar. The world was really his. Then Affleck starred in Gone Girl for David Fincher, and only cemented his newly minted greatness. Of course, this is where the train had to go off the tracks. There was Batman v Superman, The Accountant, and the colossal flop that was Live By Night. What we don't need to see is more Ben Affleck. Not in tabloids, not on magazine covers, nowhere but the silver screen. He needs to let the mystique around himself build up. Basically, you wanna make sure The Batman is the best film it can be? Ben Affleck needs to become as mysterious as the character he is playing.
The major problem with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad was the uneven nature of the films. They didn't feel singular. No offense to David Ayer or Zack Snyder but there didn't seem to a vision behind those films. This goes back to their being a lack of story. If Ben Affleck is really going to make The Batman stand out, if it's going to be worthy of the Christopher Nolan films, the story needs to be coherent. Already, the fact that The Batman has five writers (including Affleck), makes the ability to do this quite difficult. Screenwriting in a singular setting, where a writer is constantly fielding notes, is extremely difficult as often the notes are about as specific as an episode of Dancing With the Stars. In a group setting, where everybody is grousing over ideas and various egos need to be stroked, getting anything that resembles a vision is downright impossible. Ben Affleck needs to be the example here. He needs to figure out what the story is (if he hasn't already), and focus on that with a laser type ferocity. Again, he needs to become like The Dark Knight. Only this slash and burn approach will produce a movie with any substance. This isn't always the case. However, they are making The Batman here not Paul Blart 6.
Go method when putting on the suit.
This section focuses on how Ben Affleck plans to play Batman in The Batman. Remember everything Affleck did when he played the Caped Crusader in Batman v. Superman? Basically, except for a few scenes as Bruce Wayne, Affleck needs to jettison that portrayal entirely. Affleck needs to hole up as this character for the entirety of the shoot. On the set, people should call him Bruce. He should never casually stroll around in the Batsuit for ANY reason. If this means he spends the shoot in some form of seclusion (however, he still needs to interact with the cast -- I'll get to that shortly), then that is precisely what Ben needs to do. I am not sure how Christian Bale played Batman on the set, but I am sure that it was in a way that the other actors felt a sense of distance from him. As a viewer, I never really felt that distance from Affleck. As solid of an actor as he is, his portrayal in Batman v. Superman felt like just that, a portrayal. We can't see Ben Affleck in this portrayal of Batman. We need to see The Dark Knight. We need to see the tormented character who wants to do the right thing, but is constantly torn between the dark and the light. Ben Affleck can't be seen as playing that. He needs to be seen AS that.
Go back to the basics.
Why did Gone Baby Gone work? Why was The Town such a powerful movie? Why did Argo win best picture? Because Ben Affleck wasn't working against himself. He had solid material that he had adapted. There was no onus on him to make something great from scratch. Affleck has always had a visual sensibility. You can see that in his acting choices. He needs to take that sensibility, merge it with the (hopeful) singular vision of The Batman screenplay, and through that he'll be able to return to solid movie making territory. There's a lot of expectation around The Batman. Right now, everybody (but none more than Ben) needs to stop talking to the press and other outlets about this film. They need to let it die. Then, they need to make the movie. Hopefully, with a short schedule. The problem with superhero films is that they allow people all sorts of excess. Affleck needs restrictions. He needs the budget restricted, the script restricted, so he can channel all of that angst about the restrictions into the character of Batman. This back to basics approach is what will ultimately win out when The Batman comes to the screen. It won't be camera tricks or cool filters. It will be the bare minimum that makes this film stand out.
Keep up with the new cast.
Bring the cast into this journey. I know I mentioned that Ben Affleck should go method, but that mindset should permeate The Batman set. If Joe Managaniello is really going to be Deathstroke, he too should embody that character. On screen and off. The same goes for all the other actors. Essentially, what I am suggesting is that the entire cast (well as much as it makes sense), should go method for this film. That might seem crazy but the high profile nature that surrounds this film should be enough to get everybody from the co-stars on up to be on board. I am not suggesting that they have to only talk about Batman stuff, but by spending the proper amount of time together they can create a real sense of this world off screen that will appear onscreen. Too many times, these superhero films feel like show pieces for one or two specific actors. That is how they are constructed. Wouldn't it be great if The Batman broke that mold? If this film almost felt documentary in tone? As if director Matt Reeves had merely followed all of these people around that happened to be wearing Batman outfits. That might seem insane and radical, but it also could expand the superhero genre and put Warner Bros. and DC Films ahead of the pack.
Let Matt Reeves be the director.
Ben, you've already said you're not gonna do it, don't renege. Now, before you tell me how Matt Reeves has got this and there's no way he'd merely be a figurehead on the set, let me just say that I agree with you. At the same time, Ben Affleck needs to take an almost subservient approach in this role. I already mentioned that he needs to go method. Well, when the final call of cut is heard, that really needs to be the end of Ben's involvement. I am not sure if he's taking a producing credit on this film but if he is he shouldn't. Also, sometimes situations are created so that certain people can save a film. We know that Matt Reeves is going to have his hands full with War for the Planet of the Apes. It wouldn't be so crazy to imagine him having to pull out for one reason or another. Then DC and Warner Bros. are without a director, they've already locked in a release date and all these other ancillary deals, and suddenly Ben Affleck has to take over the job he's jettisoned. This can't happen. Affleck should have a clause in his contract that doesn't let him direct the movie. It's not because he's not capable, it's because his portrayal of The Batman is what will ultimately save this whole thing.
Stay in the editing room.
Once the Batsuit is off for the last time, it would probably be a good idea for this film if Affleck went into the editing room a little bit. On films such as The Town, Argo and even Gone Baby Gone, as a director Affleck has messed around with non-linear storytelling. When the recent DC films have tried this, they seem to have suffered for it. Affleck seems like he could bring a grounded aspect to that part of this film's story. I am not saying that he should be sitting in front of Final Cut Pro color correcting this thing, but he should have a voice. In fact, it should be him and the editor and nobody else. With Ben's sensibility he could probably deliver a dark tale that is still coherent enough to get a massive audience. Ultimately, what is going to save this film is people's willingness to see it. Following the steps laid out above would be a solid step in that direction.