Batman won't just be gathering DC Comics's greatest superheroes in Justice League: Part One. Turns out, he'll be producing the movie, as well.
Ben Affleck has been named executive producer of Warner Bros./DC's forthcoming first Justice League movie (due November 2017), and will work alongside director Zack Snyder a move that shouldn't come as a surprise for numerous reasons.
The most obvious motives for this move involve the success Affleck has had for Warner Bros. in his roles as director and producer. The filmmaker has proved to the studio that he knows how to tell a story on the big screen (and it doesn't hurt that he has Oscars to support that belief).
Warner Bros. should consider itself lucky that it can wield Affleck in such a Swiss Army knife way, considering that at the moment, he's also embodies the most popular live-action DC superhero one who (alongside Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman) has generated considerable buzz when talk turns to solo superhero movie franchises.
Batman will likely long be WB/DC's most popular character, and though his on-screen presence certainly doesn't guarantee success (see Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin), Affleck did not disappoint in his role as a grizzled Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. He mixed suaveness and gravitas, backed by requisite physicality.
So why make the move to exec-producer? Especially considering that Afleck will be busy with other Justice League duties, and that it's been announced that he'll direct solo Batman films (a franchise that could be a much-needed ace up Warner Bros.'s sleeve).
Well, at least for now, the exec-producer title appears largely cosmetic. Putting Affleck's name up with Snyder's lets fans know that Snyder isn't the only one in charge of WB/DC's most important franchise.
Snyder's intense visual style has made him a polarizing figure among DC fans. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, given that it featured two of the industry's biggest superheroes, should have been a billion-dollar-plus hit for Warner Bros. The film came up a bit short, leaving Snyder open to more criticism; the box office didn't provide him much cover.
Snyder can be a masterful visual storyteller; the dialogue and plotting can be a different issue. The action that Snyder has crafted in Watchmen, Man of Steeland BvS are top-notch; he excels at bringing comic panels to life.
But the success of a comic-book movie, of course, is about so more than slow-motion scenes, flowing capes and flashes of heat vision. At some point, naturally, the words must pull you in.
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy had memorably great action scenes, but the dialogue and delivery stand out even more.
Ras al Ghul's telling Bruce Wayne why he must destroy Gotham City; the Joker's explaining to a collection of gangsters why they're scared of the Batman, and why he's the guy to take the bat down; Bane's telling Batman that darkness can't be his ally because he was born in the dark and didn't see the light until he was a man brilliant passages, all.
Now, however, DC's movies are missing those searing verbal moments. The words coming out of these characters who fans love so much have to latch on to our hearts and minds.
Remember when Batman saved a soon-to-be Prince Joffrey (from Game of Thrones) in Batman Begins, and the words he told to his childhood love Rachel to let her know who he was under the mask, without saying his name?
"It's not who I am underneath it's what I do that defines me," Batman said.
More than a decade later, those words still land as powerfully as much as any punch delivered by Batman.
Snyder will ensure that these DC movies look fantastic. But Warner Bros. perhaps has realized that its visual master needs real help. Bringing in Chris Terrio, an Affleck ally, as a new writer was a good start, but it proved not to be enough.
Affleck is going to have two worlds to save: the one the Justice League protects, and the DC cinematic universe as a whole.
Warner Bros. suits might be exhaling some in relief, knowing that their next two big movies, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman have the gifted directors David Ayer and Patty Jenkins at the helm thus averting the skepticism that Snyder now prompts.
Yet removing Snyder entirely isn't the answer; his skills are still valuable.
Affleck as a producer in a movie that he is heavily invested in as a star is a bold, smart move. Now WB/DC just needs to tell a great story for the first time since the end of the Nolan/Batman era. Affleck has shown the ability to strengthen not only his pecs, but also the plotting.