Dear Ben Affleck

– by LRM

Dear Ben,

I'm going to come right out and say it, since I know you've had a crazy few weeks and I don't want to take up too much of your time:

It's time to give it up.

No, not your career, which I think still has the potential to be one for the ages. No, it's time to give up the cowl. 

Let's face it. Signing on to play Batman in the DC Extended Universe hasn't really resulted in the kind of career highlight you probably expected in 2014. At the time you were coming off of an epic reinvention as the writer-director of Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo. You were a critical darling, an Award Season staple, and you'd successfully shaken the Etch-A-Sketch clean of past misdeeds like GigliJersey Girl, and Daredevil

Yes, the future was bright, and signing on to play beloved hero Batman probably seemed like a great way to keep your winning streak going. After all, Christopher Nolan had recently wrapped up his epic Dark Knight trilogy, effectively showing the world that comic book films can be high-minded, prestigious affairs. And it also meant you'd get to get in on the ground floor as Warner Bros. was building a huge DC Comics franchise that would rival Marvel Studios, putting you front-and-center in one of the hottest things in Hollywood.

You'd just signed on to be the linchpin in a franchise that would be internationally-recognized, and in a role that Christian Bale had recently proven would allow you to still be taken seriously as an artist. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, a lot, apparently.

The first movie on your DC to-do list, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, got delayed mid-production, making the whole affair drag on for nearly a year. Part of the reason it got delayed was because you brought your buddy Chris Terrio on to help with the script- a script you clearly thought needed help. And then when the film finally came out in 2016, and not in 2015 as originally planned, it was far from the victory parade most thought it would be. While you likely hoped it would be loved like other huge entries in geek properties like The Avengers or Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it actually ended up being received as a giant misfire.

Okay.

But hey, you still had two other movies coming out, right? The Accountant and Live By Night. While the former was an extremely modest hit, with tepid reviews and average box office returns, Live By Night bombed. And it bombed hard. Like, in every way. That one had to sting since, unlike The AccountantLive By Night was your baby.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has been up your a** about getting this The Batman movie off of the ground. In fact, while you were out there trying to promote your baby, people were only interested in talking about The Batman. That had to be annoying.

And now, despite the fact that you assured us all as recently as three weeks ago that you were directing the movie, you went ahead and announced on Monday that you were stepping down.

Look, I'm with you. I'm a big fan of you and your work. And while a lot of my colleagues have treated your commitment to this project like a safe bet and a sure thing, I've been seeing the writing on the wall for quite some time. I've picked up on all of the subtle ways in which you've expressed that this whole DC thing isn't working out for you, and so when you finally stepped down on Monday it was actually kind of a relief. I'm sure it was for you, too.

So now what? 

In your statement, you said you'd stay on as the star of The Batman. But, really, why? What's in it for you at this point? You're going to be seen as Batman in Justice League- a movie that most people are, at best, skeptical about because it comes from the same collective of talent that gave us Batman v SupermanWonder Woman is already being dogged by negative early press. Then there'll be a huge layover where there isn't another DC movie until October of 2018 when Aquaman comes out. By that point, who even knows what the status of the DC brand will be?

Are you really going to spend the next two years of your life doing a combination of licking your wounds from Live By Night, dealing with criticism for Justice League, and running around dressed like a giant bat? 

Why?

Seems like a waste of time. Especially since you're probably not going to want to extend your deal past The Batman, which means you won't come back for Justice League 2 (which was delayed for The Batman!) or a sequel. So there won't be an epic one-on-one movie where your Batman faces off against Jared Leto's Joker (who everyone hated, by the way), or any continuation of whatever story you introduce in The Batman

You're 44, dude. Do you really want to be playing Batman in Justice League 2 in a few years when you can see 50 in the not-so-distant future? And where are you going to find the time to direct stuff you actually love? 

At this point the laughably immovable neck of your Batman cowl probably feels more like a noose.

It's time to take it off.

Let's let Justice League be the end of it. After that, the Geoff Johns Era of the DCEU will officially begin, and I'm sure the DC Comics guru can come up with a way to do a soft reboot of the whole franchise. It's okay, man.

At this point, you sticking around is akin to putting a bandaid on a broken arm. At some point, that thing is actually going to have get fixed, and a bandaid simply ain't gonna do it. By leaving, you'll force Warner Bros. to actually take the necessary steps to hit the PAUSE button, fix everything that's plagued the DCEU so far, and get this thing back on course. And they can do it with a young, eager actor who won't be hamstrung by Batman the way you'll be if you stick around.

Look, we all like shiny objects. After your first run as Hollywood Golden Boy began 20 years ago in 1997 with Good Will Hunting, you were drawn to shiny objects like Michael Bay movies (of which you did two!!!), a superhero movie (Daredevil), and getting engaged to Jennifer Lopez. All of those trendy, popular things seemed like easy entries into your Win Column, and then every single one of them ended up as a black eye, or they fizzled out

I think the DCEU is the Jennifer Lopez of your second go-around as Hollywood Golden Boy

Just like you eventually called off that wedding, it's time to call off the DCEU.

Do it. Do it now. Before it's too late.

I'll leave you with this trailer for Gigli, in case you remain unsure.

Sincerely,

A Friend

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