Batfleck Returns in The Flash

After departing the role in 2019, Ben Affleck has decided to suit up as Batman one last time in the upcoming Flash film joining previous Batman actor Michael Keaton, but what does it all mean?

Batman mania is sweeping Warner Bros., so much so that he appears to be the focal point in movies that aren’t even about him. The Flash, a movie that has had a troubled production since it was announced, appears to be finally taking shape with a number of casting announcements. The latest being a game-changer and something fans never thought they would see again, an actor who was done with Batman is returning to the role…and it’s not Michael Keaton (even though he still is in this film). Yes instead of one Batman, this Flash will have two Batmans, and the second is the return of Ben Affleck to the DCEU after leaving in 2019 when Robert Pattinson was announced as the new version of the character.

This news was met with a great deal of shock given the long-troubled history Affleck had with the DCEU while he was working on it, and the fact that the hype ball is rolling on a new Batman movie with a new actor. Combine that with the fact that this is still technically a Flash movie but appears to be taking shape into something much bigger helps raise the hype of this project.

Affleck’s career as the Dark Knight has been a rocky one, to say the least. When he was first announced as the Dark Knight in 2013, the reaction was what you would expect from comic book fans: they hated it. There were massive campaigns to have him removed from the role (ironic since one would guess many of the people who wanted him gone are probably those that now are his biggest supporters). The plan was laid out: Affleck would star as Batman in both Batman V Superman and at the time the two-part Justice League film and then play Batman in a solo film he would direct. It made a lot of sense for Warner Bros., to pair one of their best creators (Argo had just won Best Picture for Warner that same year) with one of their top IP projects. Affleck seemed to be fully on board with this idea.

However, soon the cracks started to show. Reaction to Batman V Superman was negative, yet many fans were actually impressed with Affleck’s version of Batman. While many did take issue with how the film depicted Batman as a killer and much more akin to the Dark Knight Returns incarnation of the character, it was clear this version of Batman’s story would be one of becoming (or returning) to the more classic incarnation of the character. And while it appears to be unclear what the difference between the Snyder Cut Batman and the theatrical release version of Justice League will be for the character, the theatrical cut shows a Batman growing from his experience in the previous film. He is not only the lynchpin bringing the team together but he acts as a mentor to a young Flash, showing this is a Batman who could have trained Robin and feels like the silver age incarnation of the character.

Still, behind the scenes trouble plagued Affleck’s Batman project. It appeared that his version of the script (which featured Deathstroke as the main villain) was rejected by Warner Bros. The reaction to BVS seemed to really hit him hard, and the experience of reshooting Justice League was not a pleasant one for him, as he has gone on the record saying. He dropped out of directing The Batman but said he would stay on to play the role. Then it appeared that new Batman director Matt Reeves was setting up a different take on the character, with a new young actor, and it left the fate of Affleck’s turn as Batman up in the air. His personal life starting to build up (Affleck was going through a divorce and checked himself into rehab) he decided, rightfully so, that his health was more important than a movie. That appeared to be it for his incarnation of the Dark Knight.

This left many fans sad at the prospect of what might have been, given that he never got his own solo movie to shine in and from his few appearances fans did like this version of the character. But it seemed like the best thing for everyone; the studio has a new Batman project with Robert Pattison that seems exciting, while Affleck could take time off to heal and spend time with family, then take on projects he is happy with.

Yet it appears fans will get one last chance to see Ben Affleck done the cape and cowl, as it was reported on August 20th that he would appear in the upcoming Flash movie, in what is a minor role and a chance for him to say goodbye to the character. Affleck read the script recently and decided to join the project, so this is a new development for the film.

He isn’t the only Batman in this Flash movie. Michael Keaton is set to reprise his role as Batman from Batman and Batman Returns in a much larger role. Warner Bros. has always favored Batman, seeing him as their golden superhero, and on the surface this does seem like Batman overload. Obviously the sheer number of Batmen in this Flash film is a little weird, but it does make a certain amount of sense. Affleck’s will be an extended cameo, the Bruce Barry is familiar with, and when the universe changes from whatever he does, he meets the new (old) Batman played by Keaton. That way Barry and the audience know something is not quite right.

This makes a certain amount of sense given that Affleck’s Batman does seem to have a mentor relationship with Barry Allen, and Barry could go to Bruce for advice in the beginning. The fate of Affleck’s Batman is not known but there are many possibilities. Batman was originally meant to die in Zack Snyder’s Justice League sequel, so maybe the DCEU Universe Bruce Wayne could give his life helping save Barry and the rest of the universe. Bruce could also be changed by the multiverse adventure and help explain the recast.

Robert Pattinson’s Batman film is also up in the air. DC released concept art for the film and the new logo, with more to be announced at DC FanDome, but the status of its place in the DCEU is unknown. Will it be connected to the franchise or a stand-alone set of films similar to The Dark Knight trilogy? Will The Flash film end with Barry returning to the DCEU and meeting Robert Pattinson’s Batman and acting as he has always just been there?

Between Zack Snyder’s Justice League and The Batman in 2021, plus the multiple Batmen that will appear in The Flash in 2022, we have three high profile DC Warner Bros projects that feature three different Batman. A far cry from the 2000’s when they didn’t want Batman to appear on Smallville because they didn’t want to dilute the specialness of the brand by having more than one Batman. Yet it further continues to elevate the importance of the Flash film, one that now appears as an event on many levels. The first Flash film is now the final appearance of Ben Affleck’s Batman, the return of Michael Keaton’s Batman, and could be a new start for the DCEU.

The Flash will arrive in theaters on June 3, 2022.