In 2017’s Justice League, there’s a post-credits scene where Deathstroke/Slade Wilson (Joe Manganiello) boards a yacht belonging to a newly-escaped-from-Arkham Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Lex remarks on how Superman (Henry Cavill) now has his own league of friends, and replies, “To put it plainly…shouldn’t we have a league of our own?” This was a nod to DC Comics’ Legion of Doom, which was led by Luthor and included such supervillains as Cheetah, Gorilla Grodd, Bizarro, and others. The indication was that had 2017’s Justice League been a hit, the sequel would have pitted the team of superheroes against Luthor’s team of supervillains.
The scene plays out differently in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Deathstroke still boards Luthor’s yacht, but instead of Luthor offering the formation of a league of supervillains, he instead reveals to Deathstroke that Batman’s true identity is Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). This may seem a little confusing until you know the history of what was supposed to happen.
Part of the reason Ben Affleck was tapped to play Batman was because he had revitalized his career as director, first with Gone Baby Gone followed by The Town and then Argo, the last of which won Warner Bros. an Oscar for Best Picture. This combination of an A-list actor who could also direct an Oscar-winning movie gave Warner Bros. the idea that Affleck should not only play the older, grizzled Caped Crusader in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but that Affleck should also get to direct a solo Batman movie once he was done with Justice League.
In August of 2016, Manganiello nabbed the role of Deathstroke, and in October 2016 while doing press for The Accountant, Affleck explained why he wanted Deathstroke as the antagonist in his Batman movie. “He’s a great villain because—I just had an instinctive feeling that he would match up with him well,” said Affleck. “You know, I’m a big admirer of that character as well, especially in the New 52 the way that they did Deathstroke, and I thought that it could work.”
However, the failure of Justice League ended up scrapping a lot of plans. DC Films went through a restructuring and in November 2017 Affleck was already looking for a way to get out of playing Batman. By the following summer, it was clear that focused had shifted to Matt Reeves’ The Batman with Affleck likely out as his older, grittier Dark Knight. By January 2019, Affleck was officially out as Batman along with any plans he had for a solo movie where he’d face off against Deathstroke.
For his part, Affleck also revealed in 2020 that part of the reason his Batman movie fell apart was from his own struggles with alcoholism. “I drank relatively normally for a long time. What happened was that I started drinking more and more when my marriage was falling apart. This was 2015, 2016. My drinking, of course, created more marital problems.” He added, “I showed somebody The Batman script. They said, ‘I think the script is good. I also think you’ll drink yourself to death if you go through what you just went through again.’” Affleck also revealed that the difficult shoot on Justice League had sapped any interest he had in returning as the character.
And yet it looks like Affleck isn’t totally done with the DCEU. In August 2020 we learned that he will return for the upcoming The Flash movie, which will explore the multiverse of DC movies by also bringing back Michael Keaton as Batman. While this should be a fun pairing and perhaps a way for Affleck to leave his time as Batman on a high note, it’s also probably the end of the line for the actor/director’s time with the character.
What Zack Snyder’s Justice League offers is a glimpse at what could have been for Warner Bros’ plan for Affleck’s Batman. Instead of being relegated to a supporting role in the long-delayed Flash movie, Batman would have gone head-to-head with a villain who had the advantage of knowing his true identity. That would have been an interesting match-up, and at the very least, a way for Affleck to put the focus solely on Batman rather than having him share the screen with other superheroes. It’s a fascinating, “What if…” that will never come to pass.
KEEP READING: The 9 Biggest Differences in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’
Given its lengthy runtime, the heralded ‘Snyder Cut’ never makes the case for its epic scope.
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