This article is about a project that has been canceled or has otherwise not been in production for a significant period of time.
The Batman is a cancelled film featuring the DC character of the same name, meant to be a follow up to Zack Snyder's Justice League. It would have been presumably the seventh installment of the DC Extended Universe (which was later filled by Shazam!) and featured Ben Affleck (who also would co-write and direct), Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons, and Joe Manganiello all reprising their roles. The film was to be directed and written by Affleck, and co-written and co-produced by Geoff Johns. Following the events of Zack Snyder's Justice League, the film would have centered on Batman confronting the fallen League of Assassins member Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, who after being informed of his secret identity courtesy of Lex Luthor, would've attempted to systematically dismantle every aspect of Bruce Wayne's personal life, including killing those closest to him. The Arkham Home for the Emotionally Troubled would've also been a focal point in the story, with Deathstroke staging a breakout in order to tire and weaken Batman out of revenge for his perceived involvement in the death of Wilson's son. The character Barbara Gordon/Batgirl was also intended to appear as a supporting character.
Due to various production delays and creative differences, not to mention various personal issues in Affleck's life that affected his ability or desire to work on the project, eventually he stepped down from the project entirely and was replaced as screenwriter and director by Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield and Let Me In fame. While production of the film resumed, various decisions were made to divorce the film from the DCEU to start fresh with a new continuity. Affleck's, Irons', and Simmons' roles as Batman, Alfred Pennyworth, and Commissioner Jim Gordon were recast to Robert Pattinson, Andy Serkis, and Jeffrey Wright respectively, with Deathstroke being replaced as main villain with Riddler and Penguin, played by Paul Dano and Colin Farrell.
- Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
- J.K. Simmons as James Gordon
- Joe Manganiello as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke
- N/A as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl
Ben Affleck's involvement as director, writer (2015-2017)
In July 2015, Ben Affleck, who had been cast as the character two years prior, was in negotiations to co-write, direct, co-produce and star in a standalone Batman film simply titled The Batman, which was to be set in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and focusing on his iteration of the character introduced in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). The film was intended to be set after the events of Dawn of Justice and Justice League (2017), telling an original narrative that centered on Wayne confronting Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, who would've attempted to dismantle his personal life and orchestrate a breakout at Arkham Home for the Emotionally Troubled in order to tire and weaken him as revenge for his involvement in the death of his son. The film would've featured Jeremy Irons and J.K. Simmons reprising their roles from Dawn of Justice & Justice League as Alfred Pennyworth and Commisioner Gordon, respectively, with the character Barbara Gordon / Batgirl also slated to appear. Cinematographer Robert Richardson was attached to this iteration of the film, and commented that the narrative would've delved more into the psychological aspects of the character and emphasized "insanity" as a permeating theme throughout the script, which Affleck co-wrote with prolific DC Comics writer and former CCO of DC Entertainment, Geoff Johns. He stated that audiences "would’ve seen something a little darker than what we’ve seen in the past and [would've gone] more into the individual, who’s inside Batman". Affleck's story for The Batman would've drawn principal inspiration from the comic book stories Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (1989) and "Knightfall" (1992-1994), in addition to loosely deriving from events in the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) developed by Rocksteady Studios. Dawn of Justice and Justice League helmer Zack Snyder thoroughly enjoyed Affleck's story, and included a post-credits scene in the latter film depicting Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), revealing Batman's secret identity as Bruce Wayne to Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello), to lead into the events of Affleck's iteration of The Batman. The scene was ultimately altered to instead allude to the formation of the Injustice League in the theatrical cut of the film (helmed by Joss Whedon due to Snyder's exit from the film's post-production), but was restored to its original form in the 2021 director's cut of the film, Zack Snyder's Justice League.
Affleck eventually stepped down as director in January 2017, feeling that after a period of rewrites that someone else should "have a shot at it", which took place in conjunction with Warner Bros. re-evaluation of their approach to the shared universe model of their films following the critical and audience reactions to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad (2016), leading to Affleck's film being "sidelined". Directors being shortlisted as Affleck's potential replacement included Matt Reeves, Matt Ross, Ridley Scott, Gavin O' Connor, George Miller, Denis Villeneuve and Fede Alvarez; Reeves quickly moved to the top of the shortlist, being a longtime fan of the character. Following quickly resolved disputes regarding salary, Reeves was officially hired to direct the film on February 23, 2017, beginning work on the script the following month.
Matt Reeves' involvement and discarding of screenplay (2017-present)
Upon being hired, Matt Reeves read the latest draft of Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns' screenplay. While he would go on to compliment their vision for the film in January 2022 for its "action-driven" and "James Bond-ian" tone and stylization, he felt that elements of the character that resonated with him individually were not as present in their script as he would've preferred, and critiqued the screenplay for what he found to be an overreliance on the film's roots in the DCEU continuity, calling it "deeply connected, with other major characters from other movies and other comics popping up. I just knew that when I read it this particular script was not the way I’d want to do it". He would ultimately conclude that, "it wasn’t something that [I] quite related to".
Starting from scratch & Affleck's permanent departure (2019-present)
Reeves, originally intending to retain The Batman's planned connections to the wider DCEU, reworked the original screenplay to be set earlier in Bruce's vigilantism career, with plans to cast a younger actor to play Batman. Warner Bros. began searching for Affleck's replacement in July 2017, while Affleck himself would go into rehabilitation for alcohol abuse the following August, thus making it increasingly unlikely he would reprise the role for the film. Affleck would officially leave the film altogether in January 2019 as the studio set the original release date of June 25, 2021, with the actor attributing his departure to multiple factors, namely his divorce from Jennifer Garner, the tumultuous production of Justice League in 2017, his alcohol problems, and his degraded passion for the role in general.
Removal of DCEU connections and conversion into a new continuity
Reeves originally planned for The Batman to tell a standalone story set in the broader DCEU continuity that didn't service other characters or films, a sentiment he echoed both in March 2017 and August 2018. However, he eventually decided that its ties to the DCEU would end up detracting from Batman's character arc, and asked Affleck and the studio for the permission of being able to creatively shift the film outside the shared universe. Reeves explained that he wanted to be able to create a version of the character with "a personal aspect to it", feeling as though he should not be obligated to connect it to other aspects of the DCEU franchise. Warner Bros' further incorporation of the multiverse in its DC Comics-based films allowed Reeves to take the project outside the previous continuity and in a new direction; as such, the film and its characters are set in a seperate standalone universe known as "Earth-2". Warner Bros. intends for The Batman, opening in theaters on March 4, 2022, to launch a new standalone film trilogy for the character in addition to a Batman shared universe, which will be expanded by future theatrical films and television series currently in development for the streaming service HBO Max. Two series in particular respectively serve as a prequel to the film focusing on the Gotham City Police Department, and a story centered on the franchise's iteration of Oswald Cobblepot / Penguin portrayed by Colin Farrell.
- Ben Affleck, who initially was attached as director, stated that he stepped down from the job so he could focus more on writing, producing and starring.
- Ben Affleck confirmed on August 30th that Deathstroke was a main villain in his script. Joe Manganiello was signed to play Deathstoke at one point.
- Ben Affleck said that the movie was intended to tell an original narrative. However, it drew particularly from the comic book stories Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (1989) and "Knightfall" (1992-94). Additionally, the subplot involving the breakout at the Arkham Home for the Emotionally Troubled, would've loosely derived from events in the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) developed by Rocksteady.
- On Monday, August 29th, there was supposed leaked footage of Deathstroke walking towards the camera in a steamy surrounding. It was posted on Ben Affleck's Instagram profile and the DC Extended Universe's official Instagram profile.
- Ryan Potter made a 58 second choreographed fight sequence video of him campaigning for the role of Tim Drake.
- Following Affleck's voluntary departure from the project due to a divorce and stint of alcoholism, Matt Reeves was selected to replace him as co-screenwriter and director.
- Jared Leto was interested in reprising his role as the Joker, with talks of including in the film, but ultimately fell through. Additionally, Margot Robbie also mentioned she was open to appearing as Harley Quinn.
- Matt Reeves opted not to use the script Affleck and Johns had been preparing when he was set to direct, preferring to start fresh with his own story. He'd previously and briefly considered having the film be a prequel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice set in the 1990s focusing on Batman's earlier years, with Robert Pattinson as a younger version of Affleck's Bruce Wayne, but instead decided to reconstruct the film as a reboot.
- In 2019, the film was officially announced to be a separate project from the DC Extended Universe.
- In March of 2021, Joe Manganiello revealed Batgirl would've debuted in this film.
- While promoting the current iteration of The Batman in January 2022, current writer-director Matt Reeves revealed that prior to discarding the film's original DCEU-centric vision, he was offered the opportunity to direct the initial screenplay co-written by Affleck and Geoff Johns, describing it as "very action-driven" and complimenting the tone as "James Bond-ian". However, he was ultimately alienated by its narrative, feeling that elements of the character that resonated with him personally were absent, in addition to critiquing what he perceived as an overreliance on the film's connections to the wider DC Extended Universe continuity, indicating that it was "deeply connected, with other major characters from other movies and other comics popping up, and I personally think that would take away from Batman's own story".
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