Whoever takes on the role of Batman in the upcoming sequel will have some big shoes to fill.
Back in 2016, in the midst of Warner Bros.' attempt to resuscitate the DC Comics cinematic universe, Ben Affleck starred as the caped crusader in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and in Justice League the following year with Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot. The general consensus seemed to be, we can't let Marvel and those Avengers have all the fun. Affleck had to fill some great expectations—he immediately followed in the footsteps of Christian Bale, who took over for George Clooney, Val Kilmer, and Michael Keaton before him—and ultimately audiences weren't too keen on the Bostonian filling this role, nor were they excited to learn that he would be writing and directing a sequel called The Batman. Affleck eventually took a step back in 2017 and announced he would just stick with appearing on screen.
As of this week, Affleck confirmed that he has dropped out of the upcoming Batman sequel entirely. With Matt Reeves (best known for co-creating the Keri Russel-led series Felicity and directing Cloverfield) writing and directing The Batman, the search for the next Bruce Wayne is officially on.
Comparing the audience response to (and box office sales of) the Avengers franchise to those of the Justice League films, the latter could be considered a flop. Few were that excited about Affleck donning the mask in the first place, nor did many seem to care much that he will no longer be attached to the DC Comics cinematic universe. The box office success of Aquaman feels like a fluke when you look back at what critics said about Justice League in 2017. This all begs the question: does anyone actually care about who the next Batman will be?
Well, yes, the Internet does seem to have some theories and fanfics simmering out there, suggesting some handsome dark-haired Hollywood men. According to Gizmodo, Reeves' version of The Batman will revolve around a younger Batman. Affleck is 46-years-old, so that could have been one of the deterrents keeping him from returning to the role. But consider this—if the movie is going to center on a young Batman, there is the possibility that Reeves could take inspiration from the 1999 cartoon series Batman Beyond, which focused on a middle aged Bruce Wayne hiring a young college student named Terry McGinnis to fight crime under his tutelage. If that's where this film is headed, some fans are campaigning for the return of Michael Keaton, or even Kevin Conroy (who voiced Bruce Wayne in the cartoon).
There's also a push for Timothée Chalamet to take on the iconic role, perhaps even the role of the young Terry McGinnis studying to fight crime under Bruce Wayne's watch, though he doesn't seem to be too excited about the possibility. The actor shrugged and said, "I want to work on anything good," when asked about any ambitions to join the DC universe. You can probably rule him out for this one, then, and he would probably make a better Robin anyway.
At this point, you'd also be hard pressed to find an actor who hasn't already done a major franchise or superhero blockbuster. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael B. Jordan have already been snatched up by Marvel. Miles Teller did The Fantastic Four, but he's got that Top Gun reboot to worry about, and he might also might be too young to play Wonder Woman's love interest in the film. Adam Driver's name might get tossed around left and right for this sort of "brooding rich guy with no actual superpowers" role, but perhaps his commitment to Star Wars as Kylo Ren, the resident brooding man-baby of that galaxy far, far away, is enough for now.
And if we're going the "Internet Boyfriend" route, there is space for Noah Centineo, who has yet to hit the big, big screen in a leading role (you'll catch him in the upcoming Charlie's Angels reboot for that). Or, what about Henry Golding? Sure, he'll be busy filming the next installment of Crazy Rich Asians, but last summer he proved he can play the part of wealthy leading man twice (A Simple Favor will not be overlooked). Finn Wittrock could be great for this, but when you think about it a little bit harder, he'd probably make a better Nightwing (also known as Dick Grayson, formerly known as Robin). Other suggestions for the new Batman on Twitter include: Richard Madden, Jack O'Connell, John Krasinski (he's certainly proved he can handle the action scenes), and Oscar Isaac (also a certified Internet Boyfriend, but also busy with Star Wars).
Regardless of who Reeves selects, we're about to enter a new phase that could possibly usher in a DC renaissance if he picks the right person. Warner Bros. is also planning to release a Suicide Squad sequel, The Suicide Squad (not to be confused with the Harley Quinn spinoff, Birds of Prey), as well as DC Super Pets, the same summer as The Batman, so buckle up for another Marvel vs. DC smackdown in the near future.