Directing Batman: The Toughest Job in Superhero Movies?

There's no one in the superhero movie business as highly scrutinized as the director of a Batman movie.

Sure, people still mock Christian Bale's gravelly Bat-voice, the internet relentlessly joked about Ben Affleck's #Batfleck casting in 2013, and George Clooney still can't live down his turn as The Dark Knight in Batman & Robin, 20 years later. But despite the pressures on the actors, it's their directors who really take it on the nose when the films disappoint in any way.

So it makes sense that Affleck has given up the director's chair for the tentatively titled The Batman, deciding not to subject himself to both that job and the second-most scrutinized superhero movie job in the world — actually playing Batman.

Batman directors are treated almost as historical figures in the fanboy community — larger-than-life characters who single handedly determine the fate of the beloved Bat. They are responsible for his triumphs and for his failures. Fans love, and hate, those directors with a passion.

A Fanboy's History of Batman Movies might read like this: Tim Burton The Great fearlessly paved the way for the superhero genre to be taken more seriously. Joel Schumacher the Terrible shackled Batman in an anatomically correct rubber suit and banished him to movie jail. Only Saint Christopher Nolan could free Bruce Wayne, restoring him to the dark, gritty hero fans knew he was always meant to be.

Of course, all of this is an imperfect history. A movie involves hundreds of people — and though the buck stops at the director, forces outside of a filmmaker's control can lead to their failures or successes. (Schumacher, for his part, wanted Batman & Robin to be gritty, but was told his movie needed to sell lots and lots of toys — so no dark and gritty for him.)

Sources told Heat Vision Monday that both Affleck and Warner Bros. were unhappy with the shape of the script for the upcoming film, and history tells us getting a Batman movie right is really, really hard. Between the wastelands of 1997's Batman & Robin and 2005's Batman Begins, many pitches and filmmakers came and went before Nolan got it right.

So who's next? So far, every Batman director has been a visionary.  Love them or hate them, the Batman movies (I'm counting Batman v Superman here) by Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder all feel like films made by those directors. That's a rarity for the superhero genre in an age in which the Marvel Cinematic Universe films fall under the vision of Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige — who, while he does allow filmmakers to imprint their own stamps, ensures they also serve the larger tone and story of the MCU.

Whoever is next for Batman, history tells us that he or she likely will make a movie that feels distinctive to the director. And if that's not the case, that'd truly be something unexpected for Batman. 

comments powered by Disqus