Sorry, Richard Dreyfuss. In a development sure to delight at least Kevin Smith, the next Batman will be none other than Ben Affleck. Affleck will play the caped crusader in Zack Snyder’s sequel to his Superman reboot, Man of Steel. The untitled film, which will feature the two iconic superheroes together, is set to come out July 17, 2015.
For Batfans, the casting news may be a bit puzzling, but I don’t think it should be all that disconcerting. While Affleck has proven himself a stronger director than actor, the success of a Batman movie, especially outside of an origin film, doesn’t actually have all that much to do with the man in the Batsuit. After all, the actor tends to spend most of the movie behind a mask, and—since most of the pesky character development is already out of the way—the focus tends to turn to other elements, like the mood and the writing and, especially, the villains.
What is required is that the actor match the tone of the films, and Affleck should fit in perfectly in Snyder’s bulkier universe. If the role is anything like Henry Cavill’s in Man of Steel, then he will mostly be required to clench his square jaw and brood, and, as Affleck amply demonstrated in Argo, he can brood with the best of them. (If he has to occasionally deliver a smile and a glimmer of charm, he can handle that, too.)
For fans of Affleck, on the other hand, it’s surprising to see him take the keys to the Batmobile at this point in his career. Most actors have used a role like this one to launch themselves into superstardom—Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, and Bale weren't as established as they then became—but, fresh off a leading role in a movie that also won him Best Picture, Affleck is already there. In fact, he already did a superhero movie (2003’s Daredevil), and it wasn’t much of a success. Some Affleck fans might rather see him continue as a director, since that’s where he seems to most excel.
In the meantime, we still don’t know what Warner Bros. has planned for the character. With a Justice League movie rumored to be on the horizon, perhaps Affleck is just trying to get within shooting range to latch his grappling hook onto the director’s chair.