Batman Returns! Michael Keaton Joins The Flash In Multiverse Adventure

Michael Keaton will be returning as Batman in the upcoming Flash film. What does this mean for the larger DC universe? We look back at the legacy of the 90’s Batman films in the wake of this news and of the passing of Joel Schumacher.

June 22, 2020, will be marked as a day of remembrance for Batman fans. Many fans awoke to the news that Joel Schumacher, the director of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, had passed away. Schumacher may not be entirely loved by Bat-fans, but he was a tremendously talented filmmaker with a filmography that stretched across numerous genres and tones. Iconic works like St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Falling Down, Phonebooth, and many more. This also marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Batman Forever and many fans were fondly remembering the film, so hopefully he got to see the love and support people had for his take on the caped crusader. Rest in Peace Joel.

Within an hour, another piece of Batman nostalgia hit. First reported by The Wrap, and then picked up by other trades, was the news that Michael Keaton was in talks to reprise his role of Bruce Wayne and Batman from 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns in the upcoming Flash film, reportedly still a Flashpoint retelling. The report says we will see Bruce 30 years after the events of Batman Returns (no word if they will make reference to Batman Forever/Batman and Robin). No word on how big the role is, but it looks like Warner Bros. wants Keaton on for more roles in the future, similar to Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in the MCU, to act as a mentor to other heroes, including an appearance in the upcoming Batgirl film.

This news delighted fans, as for many of them Keaton is still the definitive incarnation of Batman. Batman in 1989 was a cultural phenomenon that reshaped the summer blockbuster season and pretty much defined the 90’s. Batman Returns is a cult hit among fans for how dark it is and how Burton was able to impart his unique creative voice on the material. Plus, following 30 years into the future to pick up and see what Batman has been up to gives fans the same level of excitement as the return of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker in Force Awakens or Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. Something you never thought you’d see again, but coming back after all these years.

An older Bruce Wayne gives off vibes of both The Dark Knight Returns but also of Batman Beyond, both of which feature an older Bruce Wayne who becomes a mentor to a younger protege to take on the mantle. Similar to how Marvel likes to use the titles from popular series but makes unique stories within their own cinematic universe (the Age of Ultron and Civil War comics have very little in common with the films), I imagine Flashpoint will be the same. The same basic premise of Barry going back in time to change the past will alter the timeline and create a new reality for him, but the details of that reality will be very different from the comic. DC could use it as a chance for this Flashpoint universe to feature an amalgamation of a bunch of different Elseworlds stories smashed together (or even other film universes). This could be a good place to feature a Red Son inspired Superman, or even feature an appearance by other iconic actors in DC roles. This Flashpoint universe has Lynda Carter as an older Woman, Brandon Routh reprising his role as Superman, endless possibilities.

Then when Barry fixes the timeline, only some minor changes are left because why else would you do Flashpoint if not as an excuse to retcon some decisions (like how X-Men: Days of Future Past was used to wipe the slate clean for future X-Men films), and explain why Batman went from looking like Ben Affleck to now being Robert Pattinson.

The rumor of Keaton stepping into a mentorship role for the upcoming Batgirl film is interesting because it raises the question of whether Keaton will stick around in the main DCEU timeline, or will the Batgirl movie take place in the Burton-Verse once it is restored. Christina Hodson is writing both Flash and Batgirl, so it will be interesting to see what happens with that property.

Michael Keaton’s presence as Bruce Wayne/Batman in a Flash film elevates that particular film to more of an event status than many anticipated. The Flash on the CW has been running (pun intended) for six seasons and is still going strong. For many, it is still the ultimate incarnation of the scarlet speedster in live-action so going into a film, one has to wonder what Warner Bros. and DC can offer people that they couldn’t just see on their television screen. The solution: a big grand return of a beloved actor in a role that defined a generation. If the film makes its 2022 release date, it will have been thirty years since audiences saw Keaton as the caped crusader. There is an entire generation who grew up with him as their Batman, who have kids of their own to share in this experience. Keaton’s return to the DC universe makes this not just a Flash movie, but a Batman legacy sequel, which is very popular nowadays (just look at how well other legacy sequels like Force Awakens, Jurassic World, and Halloween did).

It also creates a wave of positive buzz that the Flash film needs. The film is currently being directed by Andy Muschietti of It Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 fame, but he is the fourth director to take on the project. When it was first announced in 2014 Seth Grahame-Smith was set to helm. He dropped out and was replaced by Rick Famiyuwa (Dope) who then departed the project. In 2018 it was confirmed that Game Night duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein would take on the project, but they eventually left the project after rumored conflicts with star Ezra Miller on the tone of the film (Miller wanted something similar to what Snyder had set up, while the duo was looking for a more comedic spin). The question of whether Ezra Miller will still be the Flash has been up in the air after a video surfaced earlier this year of him choking a fan and throwing her to the ground. The movie was announced back in 2014 but has moved to so many release dates and gone through so many directors many have joked it would never happen. But now the presence of Batman, specifically fan-favorite Michael Keaton, will create a sense of anticipation the film desperately needs.

Now it is worth noting the Flash television series has done something similar. Last fall the CW did a massive five-night crossover event called Crisis on Infinite Earths that spanned all their shows and brought many actors back to iconic roles, including Tom Welling from Smallville playing Clark Kent, Brandon Routh returning as Superman from Superman Returns, and even Ezra Miller dropped in as the Flash (in a scene shot in widescreen so it might show up in the Flash film repurposed). We also got a glimpse of the Tim Burton Batman universe (Earth 89) that was destroyed in the initial anti-matter wave at the beginning. It is unlikely the movie will call it Earth-89 or acknowledge the events of the CW series, but it would be a nice little touch.

While the concept of the multiverse has been a staple for comics and DC, in particular, it is a relatively new concept to mainstream audiences who experience this stuff on film for the first time. 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduced the concept to huge success and now both Marvel and DC seem to want to play with that sandbox more. DC already did on the small screen with Crisis on Infinite Earths, and in 2022 both will have films that explore the multiverse. Marvel has Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set for March 25, 2022, and with Sam Raimi at the helm, there is a chance we may see Tobey Maguire return as Spider-Man, even if it is just for a cameo. Now Flash (or Flashpoint if they choose to call it that) will see the return of Keaton as Batman.

With the news of Keaton returning as Batman coupled with the fact that Joel Schumacher passed away, it was a day of reflection and nostalgia for fans of the Dark Knight. The Batman films of the ’90s were big pieces of pop culture for many people and helped shaped the comic book movie landscape to this day. One of the beautiful things DC has done with their television shows is honoring the strong legacy of the material by casting actors who have connections to past incarnations. Every incarnation of a DC hero, regardless of if you like it or not, is valid. They exist and are part of this rich history. Having the Batman of the 90’s return shows that DC isn’t afraid of that legacy on film anymore; that the new and old can co-exist and make one another stronger.

What do you think of this news? Are you excited to see Keaton return as Batman? What other past stars would you like to see appear in the Flash film? Would you rather see a straightforward Flash movie? Is this just too many Bat-Men for you? Let us know in the comments below.