Let’s start with a positive statement: Ben Affleck is a decent Batman. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which earned $166 million this weekend, is as terrible as you’ve heard — dumb, joyless, a rolling wave of fallout clouds interspersed with ads for future films from the DC Comics Universe — but Affleck himself is not that bad. He says things like, “Do you bleed?” and, “I decrypted the files!” with a straight face, and he wears that Bruce Wayne vest like he’s on the cover of Yacht Weekly. (Fact: Affleck has never looked better than he does in this movie.) He can’t save BvS — I can’t name a single actor who could — but you don’t hold it against him, which is the best-case outcome for a dude who had to wander around in Bat-block shoes growling at people for two and a half hours. It’s not his fault.
Not that Affleck knows it? If you watch one piece of press from last week’s promotional march, please make it Sad Affleck, a master class in public displays of regret and blame avoidance. To Affleck’s credit, he spent most of the press tour pushing the studio line — “This is a movie for audiences, not critics!” “We’re just trying to have some fun!” “I wanted to be Batman for my son!” Etc. But the wheels come off somewhere around the :30 mark of this junket interview, and the depths of Affleck’s miserable, (possibly fake) phoenix-tattooed soul are revealed. Look at him, just moping in the corner, making the whole world feel bad for him. It’s some real movie-star shit, and genius, too: Now Affleck is just another poor schmuck being pushed around by bad directors and evil conglomerates. He’s more embarrassed than anyone. He’s sorry, America, and he’ll try to do better next time.
So: Ben Affleck gets to be Batman. Ben Affleck gets to be a decent Batman. Ben Affleck gets to direct another movie on Warner Bros.’ dime, and Ben Affleck gets to avoid any responsibility for the crappy movie that got him here. Congratulations, Ben Affleck, you did it. You won Batman v Superman.
This piece originally appeared in the March 28, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.