I can't believe I'm typing the following sentence right now: I'm actually PUMPED about some news coming out of the DCEU!!! Shortly after 2pm EST this afternoon, reports began to surface on social media indicating that the one and only MICHAEL KEATON was in talks to reprise his role as Batman for DC's upcoming 'Flash' project. The reports gained steam in the hours directly following the initial slew of tweets, to the point where, as I sit here typing just after 6pm, Keaton's return as the Caped Crusader now appears to be a pretty safe bet. There's a lot to digest here, so strap in as we proceed to dissect and react to it all.
If you're a big fan of comic book movies or just of Batman in general, then you know Michael Keaton as the man who, in addition to his otherwise impressive filmography, became the first to portray the Dark Knight in a major motion picture. Yes, Adam West is technically the original Batman, but his campy 1966 film far predates the modern comic book movie. 1989's 'Batman,' directed by Tim Burton, was the first time we saw a darker, more grounded version of the classic hero. Keaton appeared again in 1992's 'Batman Returns' before the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman was recast for the first of many times in 1995. In nearly three decades since Keaton's final appearance as Batman (to date!), we've seen four different actors play him on the big screen, with Robert Pattinson set to become the fifth in 2021's 'The Batman.'
Despite the character's immense popularity, the various iterations of Batman on the big screen over the years have drawn mixed reviews from both fans and critics alike, with Keaton and Christian Bale mostly praised for their appearances; Val Kilmer, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, meanwhile, have often been the subject of considerable criticism and scrutiny (especially Clooney - we all remember the bat nipple suit, George). Keaton returning to reprise his role as the World's Greatest Detective is welcome news to many, including myself, but it does beg the question: exactly HOW is he returning? And in what capacity?
If you haven't been keeping up with news related to the DCEU, I can't say I blame you. After all, not only have their movies been extremely hit or miss over the past few years, but their timeline of events has been about as clear as mud. Well, the good news is that 2022's 'The Flash' is rumored to be based on DC Comics' Flashpoint story line, the purpose of which was to clean up their timelines and reset their comic universe. This new universe quickly became known as 'The New 52.' So, if the upcoming film is indeed based on Flashpoint, it could represent an opportunity for the DCEU to hit the reset button on their big screen ventures.
To give you just a brief synopsis, Flashpoint involves Flash himself, Barry Allen, going back in time to try and prevent the death of his mother; in doing this, he inadvertently creates and finds himself in an alternate reality where:
Superman isn't a hero, existing instead as nothing more than a U.S. Government lab rat
Wonder Woman and Aquaman's respective nations are at war with one another
With no Superman, Cyborg has become the world's greatest and most notable hero
Joe Chill does not murder Thomas and Martha Wayne, but rather young Bruce
Martha Wayne is driven insane by the death or her son, becoming the infamous Joker
Thomas Wayne, driven by guilt over Bruce and Martha's fates, becomes Batman
When I first saw the news of Michael Keaton being in talks to once again play Batman, I wondered if he was perhaps in line to play the Thomas Wayne version referenced above. After all, he would still technically be playing a member of the Wayne family who takes up the mantle in that scenario. Instead, it appears that DC and Warner Brothers could be gifting us fans one of the coolest takes on Batman yet: 'Batman Beyond.' If you're a 90's kid, you probably remember watching this cartoon on the old WB Network (now known as The CW) or reading the story in comic form. If you're unfamiliar, 'Batman Beyond' takes place in a future where Bruce Wayne is an old man who simply cannot physically handle being Batman anymore. This version of Wayne even makes Batfleck look like a spring chicken! Anyway, Wayne chooses a young man named Terry McGinnis to become the new Batman, equipping him with an advanced suit and next level tech, all while serving as his mentor and advisor.
Now, it doesn't look like we're getting that exact 'Batman Beyond' story line, especially not in a film that's meant to feature The Flash, but it does appear as if some version of it is being set up. While things are not yet "official" official, what's been reported so far this afternoon is that Keaton's Batman would indeed be a mentor-like figure, similar to Nick Fury's role in the MCU (or, again, like the older Bruce Wayne we see in 'Batman Beyond'). Additionally, he would be the one replacing Ben Affleck as the DCEU’s main Batman/Bruce Wayne and would appear in multiple DCEU films; again, this level of detail leads me to believe that these 'talks' are pretty far down the line. This means that Robert Pattinson's upcoming version of the Batman character will NOT be a part of the DCEU, but will instead be set in his own unconnected standalone trilogy (similar to the most recent 'Joker' film). With there being no other Batman for this older, more weathered Wayne to mentor, it's believed that he'd be advising a different hero: Batgirl. Similar to what Marvel is expected to do in order to introduce some of its characters in upcoming MCU films, 'The Flash' is rumored to be recruiting this version of Bruce Wayne via some sort of multiverse, meaning that both 'Batman' & 'Batman Returns' would likely become canon in the DCEU. See? I told you that this was a lot to digest!
So yeah, needless to say, this is absolutely welcome news in my book. By all accounts, we are indeed getting a 'Flashpoint' movie, with the second best version of Batman we've ever seen (behind Christian Bale) making his grand return to the big screen as a part of it. Additionally, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played Thomas Wayne very briefly in the vastly disappointing 'Batman v. Superman,' has expressed interest in reprising that role, obviously in an expanded manner. It would be unbelievably refreshing to see Thomas Wayne on the big screen and do something besides collapse in a bloody heap next to his dying wife while his traumatized son watches, just sayin.' Maybe Thomas Wayne's Flashpoint Batman and the older Bruce Wayne multiverse Batman even interact, who knows?!? We have no clue as of yet how exactly DC/Warner Brothers will handle time travel and its consequences, so anything is possible at this point. I guess we'll find out about two years from now, when the film is set to release.
Did I think I would be writing a positive-themed DCEU blog when I woke up this morning? Hell to the no - but life comes at you fast, I guess. Let's get excited, people, this is the first good thing that Warner Brothers/DC have been able to accomplish together in a long time.