Warner Bros.’s Batman PR problem

Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in a Batman v Superman poster

UPDATE (July 22): Ben Affleck said at the San Diego Comic Con today he’s still playing Batman, according to numerous reports.

Among the outlets reporting on Affleck’s remarks: COLLIDER.COM, the New York DAILY NEWS and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

It was the latter, in a story on Friday, that said Warner Bros. was ready to ease Affleck out of the role.

ORIGINAL POST (July 21): Just when Warner Bros.’s DC Extended Universe seems to get on track, it’s undergoing a public relations problem during the San Diego Comic Con.

You remember when the DCEU finally was getting good PR? It was just last month when Wonder Woman generated both ticket sales and positive reviews.

Just weeks later, the buzz is that Warner Bros. (aka “Mr. Warner,” this blog’s nickname for the studio) is getting ready to ease the current Batman, Ben Affleck, out of the role. At least’s that’s according to a story by Kim Masters in The Hollywood Reporter.

Affleck got top billing in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That movie introduced Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. It did good (but sub $1 billion worldwide) business while getting terrible reviews.

Still, Affleck’s Batman created a buzz. First, it was the actor would write, direct and star in a solo Batman movie titled The Batman. Then, well, he wasn’t going to direct after all.

A new director, Matt Reeves, was hired. Initially, the buzz was that Affleck’s script would be used. Then, this month, the news came out that Affleck’s script was being jettisoned and things would start over.

Now, Affleck himself may be out. Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter story:

(A) source with knowledge of the situation says that the studio is working on plans to usher out Affleck’s Batman — gracefully, addressing the change in some shape or form in one of the upcoming DC films. Exactly when and how that might happen has yet to be determined, but it would be wise to bet against Affleck starring in The Batman.

The thing is, the massive San Diego convention has become a forum for studios to promote upcoming films, and not just movies based on comic books.

Justice League is the next DCEU film and a followup to Batman v Superman. It’s supposed to address some of the faults (i.e. too gloomy) present in the 2016 film.

In Batman v Superman, Affleck, who turns 45 on Aug. 15, played an older Batman. It was very much influenced by the 1986 mini-series The Dark Knight Returns by writer-artist Frank Miller. In that story, Batman comes out of retirement.

We’ll see how all this turns out. Still, it’s doubtful Mr. Warner appreciates the “Affleck is out” buzz generated by The Hollywood Reporter story.

The DC Comics movie jinx may have been extended

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

In the space of about an hour, the internet flared up when Variety reported that Ben Affleck won’t direct a Batman solo film as well as starring in it.

The question is whether this marks another extension of the seeming jinx surround the DC Comics movie universe.

Variety quoted from a statement from the actor and studio Warner Bros. that said it was a joint decision for Affleck to concentrate on acting in the movie.

“It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require,” Affleck said in the statement. “Together with the studio, I have decided to find a partner in a director who will collaborate with me on this massive film.”

It didn’t take long for stories to emerge saying the situation was more complicated.

Affleck was star-writer-director of Live by Night, a period gangster drama that bombed. The Hollywood Reporter’s story on the subject had this passage.

One insider says that Live By Night’s poor performance caused Affleck to rethink his approach to his projects after the film bombed with just $18.9 million at the box office.

Two DC Comics-based movies (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) were Nos. 8 and 9 in the U.S. and Nos. 7 and 10 globally, according to Box Office Mojo. Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman was in both.

Yet, both movies got terrible reviews. And despite Batman v. Superman generating $873.3 million worldwide, it was considered a disappointment that it didn’t have $1 billion in box office. Meanwhile, rival Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War broke through the billion-dollar mark.

DC/Warners has been doing a mid-course correction, promoting Geoff Johns, a veteran comic book writer, into a key position for the films.

Johns has promised more optimism in the DC movies compared with Batman v. Superman, where Batman spent much of the film trying to kill Superman. Johns and Affleck co-wrote the script for the solo Batman effort, titled simply The Batman.

Warners is releasing two more DC-based movies this year with Wonder Woman and Justice League. There has been a lot of buzz about The Batman, including how it was being moved ahead of a planned Justice League sequel, according to Digital Spy and other outlets.

The studio has a lot riding on its DC Comics movies. As a result, the films are getting a lot of scrutiny. Other planned films have had delays, but Batman is the flagship.

Until The Batman signs a new director and begins filming, people are going to wonder if DC/Warners is ever going to match Marvel’s film success.