Ben Affleck first took on the role of Batman in the divisive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). After Man of Steel, it was the first major film that confirmed DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. was building its own shared cinematic universe. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been dominating the entertainment industry, fans of the superhero genre had hoped this would lead to a similar level of success. However, the DCEU proved to be a bigger challenge, largely due to the lack of a single vision and executive meddling that led to the disappointing Justice League (2017).
But what does Affleck’s return to the Bruce Wayne role in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom mean for the DCEU? Does this mean the Snyderverse will continue? Check out the details we know so far.
Momoa’s Instagram bombshell
In an Instagram post, Aquaman star Jason Momoa shared the big reveal that Ben Affleck was on the set with him and shooting scenes. The actor called it Bruce and Arthur [Curry] reuniting:
Ben Affleck had become frustrated with the circumstances on the creative and business side of being Batman. Despite this, the star had been trying to make it work, including continuing in the role by starring and directing a solo Batman film.
This would have been the project immediately after Justice League, pitting Bruce Wayne against a revenge-seeking Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke (played by Joe Manganiello). This film even reached the concept art stage, which showed an updated costume for both Batman and Deathstroke, before it was canned in favor of The Batman directed by Matt Reeves and with Robert Pattinson in the role of the Dark Knight.
As late as January 2022, Ben Affleck had stated he was done with the role. At one point, Affleck even stated that Matt Damon helped him in making the hard decision to move on.
Ben Affleck says Matt Damon influenced his decision to quit Batman: “I wasn't happy. I didn't like being there. I didn't think it was interesting. And then some really awful things happened. But, that's when I was like I'm not going to do that anymore.”
— Film Updates (@FilmUpdates) January 11, 2022
But at a later point, it was revealed Ben Affleck would be playing a larger role in The Flash. Michael Keaton was intended to return and become the Bruce Wayne/Batman in a rebooted DCEU after the events of The Flash movie. Affleck’s version had been rumored to either disappear or sacrifice himself by this film’s resolution. However, The Flash project has suffered multiple delays itself, in part due to the controversies facing its star Ezra Miller.
Now that Ben Affleck has been confirmed to be returning to the DCEU in the Aquaman sequel, does this mean he will be staying? And what about the Snyderverse? Fans of the Zack Snyder series of films that the DCEU had been intended to be built on saw the return of Affleck was a sign that the now merged WarnerMedia and Discovery had reached a decision to move forward with the Snyderverse.
Not what fans think
Some industry channels have attempted to disprove this as a sign of the return of the Snyderverse. Noted Hollywood insider Grace Randolph, has even gone so far as stating that Ben Affleck's return in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is not as big as it is being painted as.
Just got word from source Ben Affleck is indeed only being added to replace Keaton because of the change of release dates,
as many have correctly guessed.
— Grace Randolph (@GraceRandolph) July 29, 2022
You Snyder fans are all getting played,
I'm trying to help you retain some dignity
but that's cool.
The SnyderVerse is never coming back
in large part because so many of you are so toxic.
You made your own bed.
— Grace Randolph (@GraceRandolph) July 29, 2022
Plus, according to some reports, this was a last-minute change due to the aforementioned delays of The Flash. In these news reports, it is alleged that the scenes being shot were intended for Michael Keaton to be the Bruce Wayne who appears in the Aquaman sequel. This would have connected it to the events of The Flash, where the DCEU had been rebooted with a new status quo.
But now, the DCEU film slate schedule has had major changes. Black Adam, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and Shazam! Fury of the Gods will now be shown before The Flash. And The Flash film itself has been pushed further back until mid-2023. Reshoots for key scenes that connect these projects have been speculated. With Ben Affleck returning to the role for Aquaman 2, this may be the confirmation of said reshoots.
It should be noted that this reveal comes after the rather lackluster response to the DC panel at the San Diego Comic-Con. Fans had even gone as far as booing Black Adam's Dwayne Johnson for what seems to be a lack of commitment that Henry Cavill would be reprising his Superman role in the DCEU. Ben Affleck returning to play Bruce Wayne would have certainly increased the visibility and positive reaction at SDCC in favor of the DCEU.
But now that Ben Affleck is indeed back and seems open to the possibility for more DCEU appearances, can this usher in the return of the Snyderverse? Or is it really just false hopes? We will keep an eye out for new developments on this potential future for the DC Extended Universe as they happen.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom conquers theaters worldwide on March 17, 2023.