In news that truly no one could’ve expected or been awaiting, all the major Hollywood trades are reporting that Michael Keaton will return to the role of Batman (30 years after he last played the role in Batman Returns) for the DCEU’s ‘The Flash’ movie.
The film will reportedly be a loose adaptation of ‘Flashpoint’ where Barry Allen visits a parallel world where his mother is still alive, but many things are different to what we know. Apparently in this version, the main difference is that the world he visits will be the ‘Burton-Verse’ which is defended by Michael Keaton’s Batman, 30 years after ‘Batman Returns’.
Obviously this news is huge and completely unexpected, so I have taken some time to (bearing in mind Keaton is yet to officially sign on the dotted line) look at all the ramifications this move will have.
Firstly, Keaton himself long seemed disillusioned with blockbusters after his initial run as Batman, even skewering his persona and experiences to great effect in the recent Oscar winner ‘Birdman’, but it seems he has now got that out of his system, and is fully back on the blockbuster train, with not only this but his recent turn as the Vulture in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’.
Speaking of which, the recent Morbius trailer actually revealed Keaton returning to that role in the Sony/Marvel universe, hinting that he may be there to build towards a ‘Sinister Six’ movie and that Keaton is set to take a central position in that universe, but can that happen now? Surely one of the major villains in the Marvel Universe cannot also be the current Batman? That would be like Tom Holland being Spider-Man and Nightwing at the same time. Whatever happens here, this is a major blow to Sony/Marvel.
However, back to DC and the story itself, it is being reported that Keaton is being eyed as a’Nick Fury’ like figure who could proceed to feature in multiple films as a mentor figure, particularly a potential ‘Batgirl’ film, which is also being written by ‘The Flash’ and ‘Birds of Prey’ screenwriter Christina Hodson. This is a fascinating concept and would return the DC film to a sense of contintiuity, and could even leave the door open for a full blown ‘Batman Beyond’ film if the first couple of appearances are a success.
I am also hearing that it is likely Keaton will appear in costume in ‘The Flash’ at least at some point, which is also likely to delight nostalgic fans, and all this then begs the question of is the ‘Burton-Verse’ canon now, and therefore Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Danny DeVito’s Penguin, and more unlikely, Jack Nicholson’s Joker could realistically pop up in the DCEU?
This truly does open up the multiverse, and DC has a very rich history of films to pluck from, and this therefore means that all other past and alternate DC projects can appear in the DCEU in some stage, including Matt Reeves’ Batman Universe that he is just starting to build, and even the world established by Christopher Nolan in ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’.
As for Robert Pattinson, his Batman is currently set to take place in a different world to the DCEU so Matt Reeves can completely do what he wants with the property, but this development very much leaves open the door open for Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne to one day share the screen with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, among others.
This move also adds yet another lock to the door that Ben Affleck had already firmly locked behind him on the way out of the DCEU. He was great in the role but for his career and health, it is best he leaves well alone, and with Keaton in talks, it now seems like the situation is a win/win for everyone, and Batfleck stans will get to say a real goodbye in next year’s Snyder Cut anyway.
I am not sure what this means for Henry Cavill as Superman either, as the rumour was he was set to cameo in multiple future DCEU films like Keaton is now set to do, and while its possible for both to do it, this isn’t the great news Cavill fans wanted. However, I think it is very likely he will don the cape again one day, most likely initially cameoing in Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam film.
One worrying factor for DC is that this film is set for just a couple of months after Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ which while we have no confirmation, is also likely to feature appearances from iconic Marvel characters of the past and open the Multiverse wide open in the MCU, so doing a very similar story a few months after is not ideal, but I really think the presence of Keaton can help off set this.
The film is officially ‘The Flash’ and will still star controversial actor Ezra Miller, and while we don’t know how much of its flashpoint changes will be permanent in the DCEU, we do know Michael Keaton appearing would be a real game changer and also make this film a much bigger deal than it previously would have been.
For so long DC has been behind Marvel in the long scheme planning, but Walter Hamada has a plan it seems and he’s ready to put it into action.
The ‘Extended’ part of the DCEU is finally being really explored and I think handled correctly, this could be something really special.