Ben Affleck may have abandoned the character in advance of his biggest opportunity.

Remember when Ben Affleck was announced to take on the role of Batman? What a mess that was. A whirlwind of vile comments and tweets descended upon the Hollywood actor as he faced his biggest role to date, which he dealt with incredibly well. It was never going to be a smooth casting decision, let’s face it.

The cinematic landscape for future DC endeavours was forever changed with Christopher Nolan’s monumental The Dark Knight in 2008. Heath Ledger’s praise will be sung until the last voice gives out and Christian Bale’s Batman will perhaps always be considered the best. If anything, Affleck was brave to take on the role. It really felt like he gave it his all; we just didn’t see it.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was a strong contender for the biggest cinematic disaster of 2016. It should have been the blockbuster success of the year and instead, it was a bloated, tiresome mess. Critics didn’t take kindly to it and puzzlingly there were lots of audiences making excuses for it despite clearly not having enjoyed it – because it’s Batman. This is because most wanted to like it so much; for the most part, the audience was putting in all the effort. It was a slog to sit through, with the only glimmers of hope gliding onto the screen with Affleck’s Batman.

Although not without his detractors, Affleck was the highlight of the film. It’s a shame he was marginalised by the wider narrative because he would have shone with more screen time. There was hope that he’d get more of a chance in 2017’s Justice League, but this sadly wasn’t the case. The only hope for Affleck to prove popular was riding on a stand-alone effort, of which he will no longer be involved with.

The actor has officially relinquished his duties as Batman, which really feels like a huge mistake. During an interview, he briefly explains why:

Hearing him say that he “couldn’t crack it” is a little baffling because it totally felt like he did just that with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. All he needed was a director to prioritise his performance and let him take it into some dark territory; who better to facilitate that than Matt Reeves? He’s recently done a fantastic job on War for the Planet of the Apes, which offers the gloomy, sincere tone which would have complimented Affleck’s Batman perfectly. He was finally about to take centre-stage and offer his definitive take on the character, but now we’ll just be left to speculate.

Now, the role will be fulfilled by someone else and – after Affleck’s brief turn – expectations won’t be particularly high. The replacement will likely be heralded in comparison which just feels unfair, as we never got to see Affleck in the lead. Batman is always the lead. Whoever comes next won’t be crippled by looming expectations set forth by Christian Bale but instead, they’ll be free of the limitations imposed on Affleck for two films. Matt Reeves’ Batman film will shoot and the next in line for the role will be free to showcase their performance in a stand-alone film, which should have been the case for the former star. Sadly, it wasn’t – what a shame.

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