December 11-12, 2021
Written by Kieron Byatt
Remember when Ben Affleck was announced as Batman and the internet went into chaos? Then remember when despite Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice being panned by critics, even the hardest cynical reviewer had to concede that Batfleck was easily the best part of the movie? Well, keep all that in mind as you hear mounting reports again that Ben Affleck may be bowing out as Bats in the near future.
While the news is disappointing, it’s not surprising. At every juncture, Affleck’s turn as the Dark Knight has been mired by missteps.
At first, fans salivated at the idea of the Oscar winner writing and directing his first solo film in the cape and cowl. Then the BvS reviews rolled in, and Affleck announced he would no longer direct. We shrugged and understood. Then Matt Reeves was brought on as director… with reports of bringing a new script with him.
Now, long after Justice League, the rumours are flying in once more that Batfleck’s time will soon end with the bizarre announcement that Reeves’s The Batman may be a reboot/standalone with a different actor as the lead.
While many are confident Affleck is doing good work, it’s difficult for even the most die-hard supporter to keep holding tight to hope. So alas, it seems, again, we may be getting a new Bruce Wayne. Here’s are 10 suitable contenders, including options for keeping the character on the current trajectory or another hard reset.
Yes, he’s already Professor Xavier. But Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin and the list goes on have already shown that moviegoers, executives and the talent themselves can accept an actor hopping between franchises. With McAvoy, we’d get a proven thespian with comic book experience to deliver a slick and nuanced Bruce. And his recent turn in Split, as well as his role in Wanted, proves he definitely has the physicality to play Bats.
There are a few Australians on this list, entirely incidental we assure you. The first hometown hero suggestion is an under the radar option who is also no stranger to big budget films. Joel Edgerton was recently seen in David Ayer’s Bright, so there are ties to the DCEU already. While Edgerton may seem like a rough fit, he has the experience and directorial instinct to deliver a gritty but vulnerable Bruce and he also has proven fighting experience thanks to Warrior.
We know, we know! He’s already played Bane and is currently shooting Venom, but picture it… Just, picture it… Makes sense, right? Alas, it is incredibly unlikely but just in case nobody has mentioned his name yet, we thought it best to point out the elephant in the room. His work in Legend already shows that like Bruce Wayne, the dude can wear a suit.
Second local boy on the list. While he’s not an A-lister, he’s no stranger to comic book movies, thanks to his turn in the underappreciated 300: Rise Of An Empire. Nor is he unfamiliar with gruelling and expensive action set-pieces, courtesy of Strike Back. We will concede that he perhaps doesn’t have the star power, but perhaps WB could play that in their favour.
You may have to squint to recall where you know his face. Most recently, Toby Stephens helped breathe new life alongside his ensemble cast in Lost In Space. If your memory reaches back to Die Another Day, you’ll recognise him as the villain Gustav Graves. Throw a beard on him and you have Captain Flint from Black Sails.
Better known for his turn beneath a black mane and beard as Thoren Oaklshield in The Hobbit, Richard Armitage also scored a glazed overturn in the MCU as the Hydra double-agent who assassinated Cap’s creator and mentor Dr. Erskine. Armitage has all the chops and looks to certainly be a major leading player, but unfortunately is still a B or C list name to many. So this could be his overdue shot at household name status.
Last Aussie and yes, he is a Hemsworth and he’s that Hemsworth, the eldest and underrated Hemsworth. True, he has technically played Thor, alongside Matt Damon’s unique turn as Loki in one of last year’s most ingenious cameos. Westworld fans will recognise him as Stubbs, and that role is a spitting image of a bulking but wise Bruce who has been in the cowl for a few years already.
Okay, being naughty again, since Eastwood has already appeared in the DCEU, as Rick Flag’s right-hand man, GQ. Now, we are still upset that he didn’t turn out to be Dick Grayson undercover keeping tabs on Amanda Waller. WB missed a ripe opportunity there. But, given GQ’s anticlimactic fate, here’s the chance to make it up. Eastwood has made giant steps in a few short years. From a small part in his dad’s Gran Torino, all the way to the latest member of the Fast And Furious family and as John Boyega’s co-star in Pacific Rim 2. If WB wants to scrap the old Bruce, Eastwood is a rookie on the come up who could really, please excuse us, step up to bat…
These next two are undoubtedly the top picks. First up, it’s not another Aussie, but he is an Aussie by extension. Yes, we claim his Thor: Ragnarok co-star, Cate Blanchett too. Star of one of recent cinema’s best comic book movies, Dredd, which criminally underperformed commercially but is already regarded highly in cult status, Urban has the chin and grimace to pull off an incredible performance beneath a mask. But don’t forget how well the man rocks a suit. He is, we concede, no spring chicken, but this is the number one choice for the aged and grumpy Batman that Affleck has already set the tone for.
While we are a fan of the aged and experienced Batman, we think if we are getting another one, let’s not dial the clock back completely but let’s also take the character in a somewhat new direction with an experienced Batman but one who is yet to be really challenged mentally. Instead of rehashing recent villains, let’s sift through the rogues gallery (Riddler, Hugo Strange, Calendar Man, Hush, Black Mask, Court of Owls) and pick an intellectual challenge for Bruce where he needs to double down on his detective skills. And let’s make the conflict a mystery, where the mainstream audience is shown why he is the greatest detective, rather than being told. Luke Evans fits both the physical presence of Batman but also the intellectual prowess of the character, as demonstrated in his turn as the villain in Fast And Furious 6. He’s also had a stab at headlining his own flick with Dracula: Untold, why not throw him a bone and let him level up. Or if he doesn’t get Batman, at least give him James Bond after Daniel Craig leaves…
Imagine for a second if instead of another tired retread of Bruce Wayne, Warner Brothers took a different direction and gave us a Batman Beyond movie with Michael Keaton as an aged Bruce and Jack Nicholson back as Joker? And who doesn’t love Glenn from The Walking Dead? He would also make a solid Nightwing, but this is an off-beat but courageous option to deliver us the old and the new at the same time – can you imagine the cyber-punk world of Batman: Beyond say if Dennis Villenue got his hands on it…