Suicide Squad: It May Be Up to Ben Affleck to Save the DC Comics Movie Universe

Batfleck might be the last hope for Warner Bros.'s struggling superhero franchise.

Suicide Squad

Photo by Clay Enos/ DC Comics

The DC Comics movie universe is in trouble and there’s only one cape-wearing, super Boston sports fan who can save it.

After two critical duds in a single summer, Warner Bros. Pictures is in need of a savior. The much-hyped but ultimately disappointing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to excite anyone but hardcore fanboys and the same fate seems to be in store for Suicide Squad, which is also feeling the heat from critics.

The future looks equally dark for DC’s big team-up flick, Justice League. The first trailer that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con came across as a hastily slapped together White Stripes music video, instead of an epic teaser for a blockbuster movie. That doesn’t bode well for the project because, judging by the last few flicks, the trailers have been way better than the final product.

On the bright side, the upcoming Wonder Woman movie is quite promising, as its trailer was well-received by both longtime fans and critics. It’s even given DC a rare leg up on Marvel by being the first female-led superhero movie. However, we’ll have to wait and see if director Patty Jenkins, a newcomer to the realm of over-the-top action flicks, can deliver by exceeding the thrills and chills of its teaser.

Should the worst case scenario happen with both Justice League and Wonder Woman receiving bad reviews, it could spell the end for this comic book universe. But there’s hope, perhaps the last hope for the studio, and that hope is Ben Affleck.

Ben Affleck and Zack Snyder

Photo by Clay Enos / DC Comics

DC’s biggest problem isn’t in the cool action scenes department or even its overly dark tone. It’s the lack of substance and coherent plots. The blame falls on the directors and executives for muddling their stories, constantly tinkering with them in order to react to whatever Marvel is doing with its super-powered money makers.

There’s consequences for copying flashy concepts like heroes fighting heroes in Captain America: Civil War or joke-cracking outsiders, a la Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool. Working in these angles just to compete with a rival studio comes at the price of telling good stories.

“As storytelling, Suicide Squad is the worst of the worst,” Vulture said in its review of the film. “The film never makes a compelling case that it needs, or even deserves, to exist,” Slate wrote. “As with so many franchise pictures, Suicide Squad began as a release date on a calendar and was back-filled from there, written and directed (by David Ayer) much too quickly.”

While meddling studios and rushed productions may have played a role in the critical demise of Suicide Squad, and likely Zack Snyder’s mess in Batman v Superman, that’s not going to happen on Affleck’s watch.

Having been embarrassed by the reaction to his first outing as Batman, the actor seems to be taking charge in ensuring that his next few appearances as the Dark Knight won’t receive a similar backlash—he recently added an executive producer credit to his billing on Justice League. He’ll also be writing, directing, and starring in the next solo Batman movie, giving him an amount of creative control in this superhero universe surpassed only by Snyder or newly minted DC Comics president Geoff Johns.

Especially if Justice League (DC’s answer to the Avengers that comes out a year before the new Batman premieres) tanks, the solo Caped Crusader adventure is poised to be the flick that determines if this universe is worth continuing. That’s why Affleck is putting it all on his back, because he has the Oscar-winning talent behind the scenes. He’s a Hollywood veteran who’s weathered critical bombs and superheroic failures only to fight his way to the top of the ladder as a prestigious filmmaker, making him the perfect person to rescue this sinking ship.

The DC movies that Warner Bros. has been churning out since the end of the Dark Knight trilogy have largely failed to live up to the legacy of director Christopher Nolan, who set the bar with his take on Batman. That high bar is why the recent films seem like such colossal flops in comparison, and Affleck must buck the trend when he takes the helm.

As long as Affleck can keep his Batman movie in line with his vision as a filmmaker, focusing on story development and not the action-oriented whims of Warner Bros., his film may be the one to the save the day. But if the movie crashes and burns, then it’ll be a bat-shaped signal for Affleck and company to call it a day on this cinematic universe.