Apparently, Ben Affleck’s version of Batman is going to be in a 4-hour-movie in which he says the word “fuck.” If for some reason, you see this movie in the theater, you’ll not want to get up to go to the bathroom, otherwise, you might miss Batman saying “fuck.” For the rest of us, if we miss the Holy Bat-F-Bomb, we can just pause HBO Max, go to the bathroom, and then unpause it. If we want to keep rewinding this scene (or scenes) we could, in theory, make Batman say “fuck” for four hours.
Ahead of the long-awaited release of the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League, director Zack Snyder has sent two messages: You can probably go see a 4-hour-version of the movie in theaters at the same time it’s on HBO Max, and also, Batman is gonna say “fuck.” In certain corners of the internet, this news was celebrated and mocked in peculiarly similar ways. The hardcore Snyder-loyalists think this sounds awesome, and the people sick of the hardcore Snyder-heads think those people are dumb for thinking this sounds awesome. Arguably, this response represents nowhere near the majority of normal people’s feelings about a 4-hour-superhero movie that probably features Batman dropping the F-Bomb. How do most of us feel? Holy shoulder shrug emoji, Batman!
Before 2012, before The Avengers and the dominance of the MCU, Batman saying “fuck” would be a big deal, but in the post-MCU world, it doesn’t really matter because Batman movies are simply not as popular as Marvel movies. To paraphrase Kate Mckinnon’s faux-scientist Dr. Wenowdis; we do know this. How do we know this? Because, in the post-2012 world — after The Dark Knight Rises made 1.081 billion bucks worldwide — Marvel movies have — for the most part — made more money than DC movies.
I’m not going to argue if that makes them better (I actually kind of liked 2016’s Batman Vs. Superman!) but, since 2012 had Batman neck-and-neck with the Avengers (which made 1.519 billion that year) the splashy MCU has been winning the hearts and minds of more people than the venerable DC heroes. Look, right now Disney+, the home of all Marvel movies and all the new Marvel TV shows is just a better deal for families than HBO Max. This isn’t to say HBO Max isn’t giving us a lot of what we want, it’s just unclear if the Snyder-version of the DC Universe is the one we really want.
But why? I mean, everyone is going to watch the “new” Justice League and everyone is pumped about Wonder Woman 1984 that we’ve even forgiven Gal Gadot for that weird “Imagine” singalong back at the beginning of the pandemic. So, if the DC superheroes are on the rise, and HBO max feels like a bargain for families, why do we kind of not give a shit about the relative hardcore-ness of Batman?
I think there are two reasons.
First, Ben Affleck’s Batman was good (even if the movies weren’t) but he simply wasn’t better than Christian Bale. It’s would be weird to say that Snyder’s Batman wasn’t “dark” enough for people who liked the Christopher Nolan movies. It’s just that Affleck was sort of riding on the cape-tails of the Bale’s Bat-growling. Had the Nolan movies never existed, I think Affleck’s Batman would be more well-loved. This is a little like imagining an alternate universe where Val Kilmer starred in the first 1989 Tim Burton Batman, but I think it works. Like James Bonds, new Batmen have to “top” previous Batmen, and make everyone (in this case, dads) say, with one unified voice, “Yeah, this guy is REALLY Batman.” Through no fault of his own, Affleck didn’t do that. He was the Timothy Dalton of Batmen, which is to say, he only got two movies, neither of which was very good, but we liked him okay in the part.
The second reason why the return of Affleck’s Batman — complete with a bat-fuck-bomb — is so anti-climatic for us normies is that we’ve already been told to get excited about Pattinson. Is that first trailer for The Batman perfect? Nope! Is this the real-deal new Batman? Hell yes! Again, think about Bond. Imagine it’s early 1995, and there’s been a trailer for GoldenEye. Pierce looks cool as 007, but then, for no reason, director John Glen releases a big LaserDisc remaster, extended, re-cut edition of License to Kill. Would everyone have gotten super-hyped to revisit Timothy Dalton’s lackluster (and super-dark) final James Bond film, when we were gearing up to embrace a new Bond? Sure, there are still Gal Gadot Wonder Woman movies coming out and everyone loves Jason Momoa, but if the selling point on the extended Justice League is that Batman is saying “fuck,” it feels like too little too late.
A few years ago, Robin, the Boy Wonder, starred in his own TV show called Titans, and the first thing he said in the trailer, was “Fuck Batman.” Titans didn’t become anyone’s favorite superhero TV show, but Robin saying “Fuck Batman” remains my favorite stunt that a name-brand comic book media thingamabob has tried to pull. I loved the thrilling, hardcore X-Men movie, Logan, but on some level, in the backs of our Wolverine-loving minds, we kind of always expected that movie to exist. Whether it was the bloody, and gut-wrenching graphic novel Old Man Logan, or excellent film verison, the idea of doing an R-Rated Wolverine movie isn’t exactly edgy because the character sort of demands that such a thing exist anyway. But, Robin saying “Fuck Batman” still makes me laugh precisely because it was trying to offend me.
Having Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne say “fuck” doesn’t offend me at all. I wish it did. And, that perhaps, is why maybe four-hour Justice League doesn’t sound as edgy as everyone might think. Maybe it’s good. Maybe it’s bad. But the truth is, this movie already came out three years ago. Making it longer and more Bat-fucky might make it a little cooler, but it remains to be seen if any of that can surprise us.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League will hit HBO Max (and maybe theaters) in March 2021.