There has been a lot of news, rumors, and innuendo floating around about the next Batman movie lately. So let’s start by recapping what’s been said about the Matt Reeves film in the last month or so, and then see how all the pieces fit into a puzzle that would make The Riddler proud:
- On May 12, I published a rumor wherein I informed you that I’d been advised by insiders that Ben Affleck was officially done as Batman
- Days later, some twitter users who claim to have their own inside access refute what I’ve heard, claiming that while he was about to leave, some last second discussions had taken place that actually made him reconsider
- On the June 5th edition of The Revengers Podcast, I let it be known that I’d heard there’s “some legitimacy” to the idea Affleck had some new talks with DC about possibly signing a new deal, while leaving RTF’s “official stance” on this matter that Affleck is gone
- On June 11, Deadline mentions offhandedly Affleck is not likely to return, and that Matt Reeves will be “rebooting Batman for a new standalone franchise“
- On June 13, The Hollywood Reporter publishes a report that characterizes the Batman situation as follows:
“It’s said to focus on a young caped crusader, and while the studio would not comment, it’s unlikely that Ben Affleck, who has played Batman in three features, will again don the cowl.”
So what does it all mean? Do these rumors work together? If so, how? Is it all click-bait nonsense? Well, you’ll be the judge of that but- for now- let’s sort through everything.
First things first, regardless of whether or not Affleck stays, it’s clear that Deadline and THR- two of the three big Hollywood trades- have heard the same thing that I have: That he’s out. So their insiders, and my insiders, are all on the same page.
With that in mind, what do we make of all of this reboot talk? After all, I’ve been hearing and reporting since last November that the Reeves film would be part of the existing shared universe, and not some sort of hard reboot that’s disconnected from everything we’ve seen so far.
What Exactly IS A “Reboot”?
It should be noted that there’s one huge obstacle here when it comes to making sense of Deadline’s claim that The Batman will be a reboot, and that’s that there’s no iron clad definition for the term. And even when one tries to define it, you realize there are nuances that muddy the water, because there are different kinds of reboots! There are ones characterized as “Hard” or “Soft,” for example, and so it’s very hard to pin down what anyone means when they use the term unless they’re incredibly specific about their meaning.
At its core, a reboot is different than a remake, and very different than a sequel or prequel, because the implication is simply that the filmmakers are “Starting over again“; They’re not continuing the current storyline, or keeping established tropes, or trying to retell the story the exact way we’ve seen it before; They’re hitting the Reset Button and restarting this franchise from scratch.
A couple of famous examples of reboots, aka Hard Reboots, are Batman Begins, The Amazing Spider-Man, Man of Steel, and Casino Royale. These films all basically asked audiences to forget the previous movies based on their lead characters and to buy in on all-new takes on them.
Then there’s the idea of a Soft Reboot. A great example of that would be Thor: Ragnarok. It’s technically a direct sequel to the previous two Thor movies, but tonally, it’s a very different animal. It resets the table and gives us a very new take on the lead character, giving Chris Hemsworth a new personality, look, and tone to play with- all elements which carried over into Avengers: Infinity War and are indicative of who Thor is now.
I’ve seen industry folks refer to all kinds of things as “Reboots” before, which also conflates this issue. I’ve heard the term used to describe franchises that merely started up again, like the new Star Wars movies. I wouldn’t consider any of those films reboots. They’re all clearly set in the same continuity as the George Lucas films, and they all attempt to build on what came before them. And yet there are quotes from industry vets like Danny Elfman where he calls the new Star Wars films “reboots.”
So the extremely vague understanding of what the term even means makes it very hard to determine what Deadline meant on Monday, but there are thankfully a couple of huge clues. On one hand, it says “Reboot.” On the other hand, it says it’s only “likely” that Affleck is done. If Deadline were trying to say it’s a Hard Reboot, then there’s no way that Affleck would be back. Therefore, we must deduce that Deadline is referring to a Soft Reboot.
That’s why I didn’t cover Deadline’s throwaway remark here on Revenge of The Fans, because we’ve known for ages that the film would be a soft reboot; Something akin to when Val Kilmer took over for Michael Keaton in Batman Forever. I reported that back in November!
With today’s THR piece, though, I think it’s important to see things for what they are.
I’ve already seen some fellow reporters try to act like the THR piece “confirms” the Deadline tidbit, and- if you ask me- that’s quite a stretch.
For one thing, THR says nothing about it being a reboot. All it says is that it centers on “a young caped crusader.” When you consider the fact that the current Batman in the DCU is an older, grizzled crime fighter, all this description means is that it takes place before the events depicted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Remember, we’ve already been told by Zack Snyder’s films that this Batman has been operating in the shadows for many, many years; He already has an established rapport with Commissioner Gordon, a set of old rules he adhered to alongside Alfred, and a tormented history with a now-deceased Robin.
Therefore, all that the THR article really means is that The Batman will be a prequel story, and- say it with me- a soft reboot because of the change in setting.
With regard to what this all means for Ben Affleck’s fate as The Dark Knight, it’s time to put on your tinfoil hats and join me in…
The Speculation Zone
Okay, so we’ve established that there’s a consensus that Affleck’s gone, that the next Batman film will be a soft reboot that takes us back to the character’s early years, and that there had supposedly been some recent talks with the actor about returning for a few more appearances.
What if it’s all true?
Think about that for a moment.
Last year, while having a chat on my El Fanboy Podcast with Batman on Film‘s Bill Ramey, I floated an interesting way that DC can have its cake and eat it, too, and he loved it. And it’s a theory that, if adapted, would make it so that ALL OF THE ABOVE is true.
The outline of my idea was that you make a film that starts in the present day, showing older Bruce (Affleck) in a predicament. After setting the stage in the first few minutes, the core story for the film unfolds as if it were one long flashback to his younger days (New Actor). Perhaps an old foe has escaped from Arkham, and the only way he can figure out how to find them is to recall the first time they met twenty years ago?
(Heck, you could even do a variation of the A Death In The Family and eventual Red Hood storyline in this format, over the course of a few movies, couldn’t you?)
This way, you have Affleck in there for a couple of scenes to bookend the story, but you’re introducing audiences to a new younger Batman at the same time. This even fits with Reeves’ desire for a noir-detective story, because those kinds of movies typically involve some sort of narration. So you have Affleck narrate us through the core flashback setting for the story, flashing forward to the present day for a few key moments as he’s putting things together.
A structure like that encompasses all of these rumors in one. It would mean Affleck isn’t really playing Batman anymore, since his presence would be limited to a glorified cameo; You’d have a new actor take on the role of young Bruce/Bats in a story set in the past; The film would be a soft reboot that introduces a new take and timeline for the cinematic Batman; It’d be a prequel, so it wouldn’t contradict anything happening in the shared universe and leave the door wide open for future crossover movies.
It’s not perfect, of course, because what happens in another five or so years when they want to do something like a Justice League 2 or a Flashpoint or do the Red Hood payoff in a film set in the present? Would they get Affleck back to play “present day Batman” again for those movies? Would the new actor be accepted as the full-on replacement for Affleck, standing alongside Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill and pulling a Val Kilmer? That part, I don’t know. But there’s definitely a way to make all of this work.
Thanks for venturing with me into The Speculation Zone, but now it’s time to get…
Back To Reality
With all of these rumors, it’s important to distill everything down to the reported facts. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to throw out what I’ve said, and what those twitter users have said. Forget about us. Focus, instead, on what two respected industry trades have said:
Deadline: “Matt Reeves [is] rebooting Batman for a new standalone franchise, likely with a new actor to play the Caped Crusader after Ben Affleck’s stints in Batman V Superman and Justice League.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s said to focus on a young caped crusader, and while the studio would not comment, it’s unlikely that Ben Affleck, who has played Batman in three features, will again don the cowl.”
We’ve established that Deadline is more than likely referring to a soft reboot, and today’s report from THR takes things a step further by claiming it centers on a young Batman. These ideas absolutely work together. As for both trades tepidly categorizing Affleck’s future in the role as “Unlikely,” that implies he’s done but with the caveat that there’s some wiggle room there.
Those last three sentences are pretty much all we can glean from all of the rumors and noise around The Batman lately.
Hopefully this clarified things for you.
Be sure to let me know what you think of my speculation for how everything could fit together, and thanks for reading!