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Ben Affleck's canceled Batman movie: What happened?

Zack Snyder's Justice League
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Zack Snyder's Justice League is here, and it sees the return of the original cast, including Ben Affleck's Batman. The actor stepped down from the role before his solo film was made, and, at one time, it looked as if he had given up the cape and cowl for good. However, he's set to return in the upcoming The Flash solo movie – and Affleck also reprised the role for additional photography on the Snyder Cut. With these latest developments in the story of Batfleck, his future – and the fate of the canceled Batman movie – seems uncertain.

We've rounded up the story of the scrapped Batman movie, from Affleck's first appearance in the DCEU up to now, and explained what the film would have been about. Though it doesn't seem likely that we'll ever get to see this project, Joe Manganiello, who plays Deathstroke in the DCEU, and was going to be the main villain of the canceled Batman movie, has teased that he might not be done playing the character. With that in mind, never say never about seeing this story come to life in some way in the future, even if it doesn't look all that likely at the moment. 

For more Batfleck, though, you can check out the Snyder Cut on HBO Max (or another VOD service in your country).

Ben Affleck's Batman timeline overview

Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Ben Affleck was first cast as Batman way back in 2013, a few months after the first Snyder-verse movie, Man of Steel, was released. The casting news was met with backlash from fans.

The actor debuted as the Caped Crusader in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The movie received largely negative reviews from critics, but still managed to clear the $800 million mark at the global box office, and has become a Snyder fan favorite in the years since its release – as has Affleck's Batman. Not long after the movie premiered, a Batfleck solo movie was announced by the then-CEO and chairman of Warner Bros. Kevin Tsujihara.

Affleck then reprised his role for a small part in David Ayer's Suicide Squad, which also released in 2016. Like its predecessor, it wasn't a critical hit – but did perform well at the box office, and Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn became a standout, going on to star in Cathy Yan's Birds of Prey.

Originally, Affleck was set to co-write (with Geoff Johns), direct, and star in the solo movie – but he stepped away from the director's chair in 2017, and was replaced by Matt Reeves. Reeves then scrapped the script and started fresh, and rumors of a new Batman soon sprung up.

Affleck returned for 2017's Justice League. The story of that movie is fairly well known by now, but Snyder stepped away from the movie after a family tragedy, and Joss Whedon was brought in to oversee reshoots that substantially changed the film. Hence the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, and the Snyder Cut now streaming on HBO Max. The theatrical cut was not a success with fans or critics, and it massively underwhelmed at the box office, netting just short of $658 million to date. 

It wasn't until 2019, though, that it was finally revealed that Batfleck was no more. Robert Pattinson was announced to be his successor in May 2019, starring in Reeves' The Batman, which isn't in the same timeline as other DCEU projects.

Affleck seemed to have left the DCEU behind for good, but in August 2020 news broke that he'd be returning to the role for The Flash, which is set to explore the multiverse, as Michael Keaton's Batman is also involved. We also learned in 2020 that Affleck returned for additional photography on Zack Snyder's Justice League – shooting his first-ever scene opposite Jared Leto's Joker.

That brings us up to the present, where the future of Batfleck is still blurry. Officially, he's not coming back – but stranger things have certainly happened in the DCEU (like the release of the Snyder Cut, after all).

Why did Ben Affleck step down as Batman?

Zack Snyder Justice League

(Image credit: Warner Bros./DC)

Ben Affleck has revealed the reasoning behind him giving away from the cowl. "I showed somebody The Batman script," the actor told The New York Times. "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.'" The New York Times piece also said Affleck stepped down "after deciding that the troubled shoot for Justice League had sapped his interest".

What would Ben Affleck's Batman movie have been about?

Deathstroke in Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: Warner Bros./HBO Max/DC)

Thanks to Joe Manganiello, we know a lot about what the Batfleck solo movie would've featured. Manganiello was set to play Deathstroke in the movie, a role he also holds in Justice League and the Snyder Cut.

"It was a really dark story in which Deathstroke was like a shark or a horror movie villain that was dismantling Bruce’s life from the inside out,” Manganiello told Yahoo! Entertainment. "It was this systemic thing: he killed everyone close to Bruce and destroyed his life to try and make him suffer because he felt that Bruce was responsible for something that happened to him."

In fact, the original Justice League post-credits scene – restored in the Snyder Cut –set up the now canceled Batman movie.  

Mangniello also eventually explained why Deathstroke was after Batman. "In the Batman script, Deathstroke loses his son and blamed Batman for it," Manganiello told the MANvsGAME Twitch stream. "Which is why, in the restored end credits sequence that appears in Zack [Snyder]'s version, that was what we originally shot. It was Lex Luthor getting a hold of Deathstroke and letting him know, I know who killed your son and his name is Bruce, Bruce Wayne." 

Manganiello also revealed more about Deathstroke's characterization in the movie: "I really, really didn't want Deathstroke to have powers. I wanted him to be just a man who experienced a tragedy, and instead of becoming this altruistic utopian who believed that people could be better, and a better society, he was just this nihilistic killer, and there was a line in the sand between the tactics that he was willing to use and the ones that Bruce was willing to use."

Plus, Manganiello gave a clue to Deathstroke's past: "The idea that they were both trained in the League of Assassins, and that one went one way and one went the other. And I just really thought that that was gonna be a really cool dichotomy to see." This ties in with the League of Assassins Easter egg on Deathstroke's sword, revealed in a Snyder Cut exhibit. 

The film was also going to feature Arkham Asylum, with cinematographer Robert Richardson, who was attached to the movie, explaining on the Happy Sad Confused podcast: "He was going more into the insanity aspects, so I think you would've seen something a little darker than what we've seen in the past, and more into the individual, who's inside Batman... He was entering into a little more of the Arkham, he's going into where you keep everyone who's bad, and everyone has shifted."

He also included the caveat: "There was a script, but not a loved script. There was a lot of work that he was doing to it, he was trying to change it."

Could we see the movie someday after all? Manganiello doesn't think so, but he did say he hasn't said goodbye to Deathstroke yet: "It's also not over currently. There are little irons that are in the fire."

For now, the only place to see Batfleck and Deathstroke actually interacting is the Snyder Cut. If you're all caught up on Zack Snyder's Justice League, though, check out our deep dives into the movie, explaining everything you need to know: