Ben Affleck isn’t the problem with the next theatrical appearance of Batman, it’s Christian Bale. Director Christopher Nolan admits that the most recent incarnation of the Dark Knight is not suited for a world of metahumans. Both he and his villains were meant to be a realistic take on the character in which, given extremely improbable circumstances, could actually exist. These stories may be the in past, but hardly far enough in the past that general audiences will not expect the same. With rumors of large sums being thrown Bale’s way to reprise the role, talk of Joseph Gordon Levitt returning, and the actual casting of an older Bruce Wayne, I’m not even sure the studio doesn’t want the same. If DC doesn’t do something to diffuse the Avenger’s fueled expectation that regardless of the actor, Batman is Batman is Batman, dropping the character in a Superman movie is potentially a horrible idea.
A realistic Batman can’t beat Superman. He can’t challenge Superman. The Man of Steel is effectively going up against two humans in this next flick, Wayne and Luthor. Luthor can manipulate the system, endanger others, play mind games, change public opinion, and win moral victories (immoral victories?) over Supes just fine. While Wayne can do these things in theory, the thrust of a Zack Snyder film is the action and Batman is probably the primary physical threat. Affleck needs to portray a Batman much closer to Frank Miller’s or Grant Morrison’s version than Nolan’s. He needs to be more JLA and less streets of Gotham. We’ve never seen that on film. It’ll be a huge change.
Ideally, I’d like to see a new stand-alone Batman movie to prime audiences for the guy who can overcome any obstacle, even Superman, given enough planning. Pit him against one of his yet un-used meta-human opponents–Clayface, Man-bat, even Killer Croc–to show a human can take down monsters in this new universe and that the Nolanverse is no longer cannon. As it is now, it will look like Hawkeye went from struggling to take down mob bosses to going toe-to-toe with the Hulk.
If you think none of this will be a problem, you are probably a comic book reader. As comic fans we are so used to a steady stream of retcons, reboots, and reimaginings that they expect universal continuity to go into crisis about once a decade. This movie could send the DC film universe down that road and it’s only the second entry into said universe. Recasting Batman helps to show that this ain’t your Nolan’s Batman, but it might not be enough when the Dark Knight Trilogy is still strong in the public consciousness. DC needs to present enough background on Affleck’s character to show that there is no shared history with Bale’s character while avoiding a retread of an origin story and giving equal time to Superman. It’s an obstacle I’m not smart enough to navigate, making me equally parts excited and nervous for Superman vs. Batman…or whatever the hell they’re calling it.