WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Justice League, in theaters now.
When it comes to both critical reaction and box office expectations, Zack Snyder’s Justice League failed to hit the mark despite Warner Bros.’ lofty expectations. However, one aspect of the film many fans believe Snyder got right was when the film’s heroes banded together to fight Steppenwolf and his Parademons. It’s worth noting, as well, that a big part of this team dynamic coming down to its leader: Batman.
While Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice painted a darker, more violent Batman, Justice League frames the Dark Knight as a more inspirational and heroic warrior, which ironically comes at a time where Affleck’s future as the character is actually uncertain. Despite the actor saying that he’s staying on in the DCEU, reports persist that the studio wants to cut ties with him.
Matt Reeves, who took over directorial duties from Affleck, is also reportedly ready to press on with a new vision for Batman’s solo flick, with Jake Gyllenhaal being mentioned as his preferred replacement, leaving fans even more confused. While all this Bat-drama continues to unfold, Justice League quietly offered a solution for all parties involved, with a simple road map for moving forward: Remove Bruce Wayne from the DCEU — well, for the most part.
Just after the League is beaten up by Steppenwolf at the Gotham City Harbor, we see a battered Bruce back in his hangar where the team reconvenes. In a private conversation, Wonder Woman sees his discomfort and more so, the bruises on his body, which reiterate the fact that he’s a man fighting among gods… literally. “You can’t do this forever,” she tells him, to which he responds, “I can’t even do this now.”
It’s a cheeky remark and cements in her mind his bravery and humanity, and just why he’s meant to lead the League. But on closer inspection, this potential meta-statement offers the DCEU a bold opening for the Caped Crusader’s cinematic future. After Superman’s triumphant return helped defeat Steppenwolf, we saw Bruce apparently turning Wayne Mansion into the Hall of Justice. This provides an opportunity for the DCEU to push Affleck to the background, though not fully eliminating his presence, by passing the cowl on to a younger Batman.
A Nightwing script is already finished, though director Chris McKay is reportedly still searching for the right Dick Grayson. Could the process be taking a bit longer than usual because Warner Bros. is also searching for its future Batman? Imagine the end of the Nightwing movie a scene where Bruce shows up to hand off the mantle to his former protege.
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