How Batfleck can Save DC Extended Universe
March Blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hasn’t always been acclaimed in the eye of movie critics, albeit its $855M earnings worldwide. The critic consensus agreed that although it was multiple times better than its Man of Steel prequel, the 2.5 hours superhero showdown is not strong enough to firmly launch DC Extended Universe, a shared-universe DC superhero movies slated across upcoming 5 years.
Yet somehow, even the harshest critics agreed that one element was a standout: Ben Affleck’s portrayal of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman, the dark knight. A mild irony given 3 years ago when Affleck was casted, many deemed him as the weak link for the film, judging by his unsuccessful attempt as superhero in 2003 flop Daredevil. Now the table has turned as Warner Bros chief Kevin Tsujihara greenlit solo Batman movie project, starred and directed by Affleck himself.
The Oscar-winning director can help launch the extended universe into full-speed and compete face-to-face with Marvel Cinematic Universe. If that’s not enough challenge for Affleck, he might attempt to rival the success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. Here’s few ideas on how it can be done:
1. Ben Affleck has to have full creative control. Warner Bros needs to minimise outside interference to not repeat the same mistake it did with 2011 Green Lantern movie. Fortunately this is the case, as recent episode of Heroic Insider revealed that WB has relinquished complete creative control to Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns. With this authority, Affleck can fully exercise his directional skill like what he did with 2013 Oscar Best Picture Argo.
2. A Robin story needs to be developed. The Dark Knight trilogy, however cinematically exquisite it was, still hasn’t do justice to Robin character, which was merely represented by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake. As an integral part of Batman stories and long-time fan favourite, One of Robin story needs to be told in the upcoming Batman movie. One obvious candidate is the story of Jason Todd, the second Robin whose costume we saw in Batman v Superman, seemingly killed by the Joker. A good execution of Robin will serve the audience of one of the most unusual mentor-protégée relationship given the asocial nature of the Batman.
3. Batman first, Bruce Wayne second. Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy was focused on Bruce Wayne’s struggle as a person and treated Batman as a symbol, an idea. The Affleck-directed reboot needs to complete the other side of the coin by focusing on Batman’s skills as martial arts champions and the world’s greatest detective. This way, both fans and mainstream audience will get the notion that the new Batman movie is entirely different than Nolan’s, with both universe attempt to take on the character from different, yet completing perspective.
4. Jared Leto needs to kill it as Joker. Admittedly, previous takes on Batman are only as good as its archenemy, the Joker. Jack Nicholson faithful adaptation to comic book’s Joker in 1989 Tim Burton’s Batman helped introduce the character to mainstream audiences for decades to come. Mark Hamill’s laugh in numerous Joker appearances in animated movies made him the definitive Joker for comic book fans. And of course, Heath Ledger’s beyond-Oscar performance in 2008 The Dark Knight mesmerised the entire world and left a big hole that’s too challenging to fill. If Jared Leto succeeded on giving yet another approach on Joker’s insanity, along with building unique relationship with Ben Affleck’s Batman, they might be able to step out of Ledger’s shadow once and for all.
As one of the most recognisable comic book character, history has proved that every Batman-featured movie will be far from box office disappointment. The only task left is to make the movie critically acclaimed as well. And since the critics will likely to use Nolan’s trilogy as one of the parameters, Ben Affleck needs to embrace different side of Batman by adhering to 75-years source materials and step out of reality-based ground it previously welcomed.