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Ben Affleck's The Batman Would Have Focused On Arkham Asylum

Ben Affleck wanted to explore the battier aspects of Batman's rogues' gallery.

Three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson, who was lined up to shoot the solo flick The Batman when Affleck was still attached, has revealed that the star intended for Arkham Asylum to be the focus of the film. 

Speaking with the HappySadConfused podcast, the ace DP — who has worked with the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Oliver Stone — related that his interest in the project came about when he read Affleck's script, which ended up being not quite what studio Warner Brothers had in mind for the picture.

"I wanted to shoot Batman with Ben...There was a script, but not a loved script," Richardson said, showing his mastery of subtle understatement. "There was a lot of work [Affleck] was doing to it to change it."

Perhaps the trouble had to do with the proposed movie's tone, as Warner Brothers engaged in a wholesale revamping of its DC Extended Universe (since rebranded as Worlds of DC) after the failure of 2017's Justice League. The studio made a move away from the ultra-dark and gritty tone of its early films, resulting in smash hits like James Wan's candy-colored Aquaman (which became the first DC movie to earn over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office) and Shazam!, a straight-up superhero comedy (and a pretty darn delightful one).

According to Richardson, Affleck's script for The Batman doubled down on the darkness. "He was going more into the insanity aspects. So I think you would've seen something a little darker than what we've seen in the past and more into the individual, who's inside Batman," Richardson said. "What element may be sane and what element may actually not be sane. So he was entering into a little more of the [setting of] Arkham [Asylum], as you know, he's going into where you keep everyone who was bad... And so that whole aspect was sort of... it was very fascinating to go to the darker side of Batman."

We could argue that we've gotten plenty of the darker side of Batman onscreen over the years, but we digress. The revamped version of The Batman is being written and directed by Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), who has promised a noir-ish look at the Dark Knight's early years, with a focus on his status as the World's Greatest Detective (an aspect of Bats which has yet to be explored in any meaningful way in previous films). The criminally underrated Robert Pattinson has been cast in the title role, and the rumor mill has indicated that Reeves' script may include as many as six, count 'em, six villains.

Ironically, we will soon see Arkham onscreen anyway, as Warner Brothers' success with their lighter films (and new emphasis on standalone, filmmaker-driven projects) has emboldened the studio to once again go dark. This October will see the release of the Joaquin Phoenix-starring Joker, which will put its focus squarely on the man — failed comedian Arthur Fleck — whose psychologically damaging journey through life will lead to him becoming the Clown Prince of Crime. That film's trailer revealed that Fleck will pay a visit to "Arkham Hospital," taking place as it does in a modern, grounded world where the word "asylum" is no longer in vogue.

It would have been interesting to see Affleck's take on a Batman solo film; his performances as the Caped Crusader in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League were better than he is often given credit for, and although fans had their share of complaints about both films, Batfleck's brutal, physical fighting style generally wasn't among them.

However, Pattinson is (in our humble opinion) an excellent choice to take on the mantle. He looks the part, and while he's still known mostly for his role as sparkly vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight series, he's proven his acting chops in smaller indie films such as Good Time and High Life.

Reeves will apparently be bringing his own team to the project, as the comments made by Richardson (who most recently shot Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) implied that he won't be involved in the revamped picture. But we're encouraged by Reeves' approach to the material and his choice of lead actor, and we're psyched to see how his vision comes together when The Batman hits screens on June 25, 2021.