Ben Affleck’s standalone Batman movie has now been well-and-truly relegated to the “What might have been?” bins of history, derailed by what was, by all accounts, one man’s truly epic indifference to ever having to be the fucking Batman again. Still, there was a moment there where Affleck—who was originally also attached to write and direct the movie, and who is, it’s occasionally worth reminding oneself, an Oscar-winning director of not inconsiderable skill—was doing everything in his powers to keep his own flagging interesting in the project alive. Per IGN, his version of Batman was going to be less about costumed crimefighting, and more about how every single person living in Gotham City is some flavor of out of their minds.
This is per cinematographer Robert Richardson, who was working on the film with Affleck, and who talked about its tentative first stages with the Happy Sad Confused podcast this week. According to Richardson, the film would have been about “insanity,” and would have delved deep into Arkham Asylum, a.k.a. the world’s least secure mental health facility, where all of Gotham’s finest costumed psychopaths and murder clowns are sent.
Film audiences have seen Arkham before; it’s where Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow hangs out in the first chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Still, it’s a rich setting—as a couple of very successful video games have proven—allowing writers to delve into Bruce Wayne’s chriopteran pathology, face off against numerous villain, and do all the other things that might hypothetically stop a guy like Affleck from walking off the set during a permanent smoke break and never coming back.
Alas, it was not to be, and so Matt Reeves has taken over the idea of a standalone Batman movie, with Robert Pattinson as his brooding, clown-punching muse. Meanwhile, Todd Phillips’ Joker looks to be taking up the mantle of “psychologically fucked-up Batman movie,” even if the Dark Knight himself never makes an appearance in the Joaquin Phoenix-starring flick.