The news that Ben Affleck will, after retiring from the role, return as Batman in an upcoming DC movie is a huge surprise, BUT ALSO, it perfectly scans with the melody of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”. It’s not the most important detail to discuss about this news, but I can’t stop singing “Batfleck’s back, alright!” to myself, and now you can’t, either. You’re welcome.
This news comes from The Flash director Andy Muschietti, and while I remain skeptical that a Flash movie ever materializes, we do seem to be getting closer to this reality. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Muschietti confirms Michael Keaton will return as Bruce Wayne, and that Ben Affleck will also reprise his version of Bruce Wayne, continuing the story set up in Justice League in which Wayne mentors young Barry Allen, aka the Flash. Their dynamic was one of the better angles in Justice League, so I’m not sad to see this hauled out of the JL scrapheap, though I maintain that Matt Reeves, who titled his bat-movie THE Batman (emphasis mine), cannot possibly be happy about all these Batmen running around the DC movie universe.
But what does it mean to have two Batmen returning to the DC movies just as Robert Pattinson is launching a new take on the character? Well, I think we can assume the Flash movie is going to tackle some aspect of Flashpoint, a famous Flash comic in which Barry Allen f-cks with interdimensional reality and learns about the multiverse. Muschietti himself teases this possibility, calling Batfleck “the baseline. He’s part of that unaltered state before we jump into Barry’s adventure.” Barry is totally going to end up in different worlds with different Batmen, but the Vanity Fair piece also notes that Pattinson “remains the future of the franchise”, so I don’t think this means Zack Snyder’s vision for Batman will be carried forward. I think the Flash movie is going to be about Barry consolidating alternate worlds and/or timelines, and in the end, RBattz will appear as the one true Batman and move forward with the character in the next generation of DC movies.
You know what would make this super fun? If ALL the previous Batmen appear in this movie. If DC is going to go all-in on the multiverse, it makes sense that Barry would encounter every iteration of Batman, at least in quick cameos. Get Christian Bale, George Clooney, and Val Kilmer back for appearances, hell, send Barry into an animated universe where he can encounter the animated Batman (still the best Batman). If you’re going to commit to multiple versions of Batman at once, go all the way in on the concept. No one was particularly asking to have the various DC movies reconciled into a coordinated universe, but if they’re going to do it, why not go crazy and just put it all out there?
This is EXACTLY the kind of fun thing the DC movies have resisted doing for the last 15 years, but it’s something only they can do. Marvel doesn’t have six versions of Iron Man they can put together on one screen, this is a spectacle ONLY DC can deliver. Hell, Barry should pop into New Themyscira where Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman is in charge. DC has a long cinematic history they can call on, which sets them apart from Marvel in a tangible way. Take advantage of it! I do not love the specter of old versions of the same character hanging around, but if you’re going to do it, might as well have fun with it. It would be quite a spectacle, to see generations of beloved characters sharing the screen, even if only for a brief moment. But even if they resist having maximum fun with the concept, this should allow Ben Affleck to retire his Batman for real and go out on a high note, hopefully, which would be a nice coda for the Snyder era of films. Batfleck’s back, alright!