It’s an odd day for Batman fans. Following news of Joel Schumacher’s passing, we also have rumours of Michael Keaton being in talks to reprise his 1989 role of Bruce Wayne/Batman for the DCEU‘s upcoming The Flash film…
Keaton pretty much owned the role in his two turns as the Caped Crusader in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns, both directed by Tim Burton. The actor, however, departed the franchise following Burton’s own departure, and they were replaced by Val Kilmer and the late Joel Schumacher respectively. Kilmer was, in turn, replaced by George Clooney, in the infamous Batman & Robin.
While Keaton’s involvement in Batman was already somewhat of a unique choice for the actor, more recent films have seen him re-visit his superhero past with Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman in 2014, and as the Vulture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s 2017 film Spider-Man: Homecoming.
With Keaton’s somewhat return to high profile projects, fans have clamoured for the actor to reprise his role as an aged Bruce Wayne–reminiscent of the character in the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) series Batman Beyond (or Batman of the Future).
The animated series saw a retired and lonely Bruce Wayne train a new contender for the cowl. It essentially set a unique tone for the character outside of the comics, and sealed the Batman’s significance in the share universe within the parameters of the DCAU.
While The Flash has been facing production issues of its own–the last of which being the seeming suspension of star Ezra Miller–the film iteration’s appearance in 2019’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event on The CW seems to have opened the floodgates for multiversal exploration.
After all, the “native” Batman of the film Flash’s universe would be Ben Affleck’s iteration, first introduced in 2016’s Batman v Superman. However, since Miller’s handshake with TV’s Flash (Grant Gustin), the Bleed’s the limit for DC! Interestingly, Crisis on Infinite Earths also saw an introduction of yet another aged Bruce Wayne, this one inspired by both Kingdom Come and The Dark Knight Returns, played by the iconic Kevin Conroy, who has voice the character in animations and games for close to 20 years!
Keaton’s involvement in the DCEU would also further validate rumours of Batman v Superman‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s involvement as an alternate reality’s Thomas Wayne. In the comics, Thomas Wayne appears as the Batman of an alternate Flashpoint reality. The comic-based alternate universe saw the death of young Bruce instead of his parents, resulting in Thomas donning the mantle of a brutal Batman, and Martha becoming the Joker.
While there’s been quite a bit of hurdles for the film franchise, both Aquaman and Shazam! have seen commercial success, with 2017’s Wonder Woman and this year’s Birds of Prey proving that the cinematic series is capable of actually watchable content.
The DC film franchise has arguably nothing to lose at this point and is free to explore without much concern regarding the limits of a shared continuity. With James Gunn’s soft reboot with The Suicide Squad next year, as well as a sequel to Wonder Woman slated for this year, DC’s freedom to explore may be the silver lining in the dark and dreary cloud of its initial efforts. Indeed, Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League for HBO Max is just about enough proof that they’re willing to try anything.
Of course, things may not be as fulfilling given that WB already has a Batman film slated for 2021. Directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson as the Dark Knight, it would be unlikely that the studio would have two iterations of the character parading about.
That said, one can always hope that Pattinson is secretly playing Terry McGinnis, with Keaton reprising Bruce for what could be a live action adaptation of Batman Beyond!