Today in I Didn’t Even Know That Was An Option news, Michael Keaton may return as Batman in The Flash, the movie centered on Ezra Miller’s speedster. The Wrap first reported that Keaton is in talks to reprise the role, but then Deadline jumped in to clarify that Keaton and Warner Brothers are in “early” talks and “this deal may not happen”. So, there are talks, but this is far from a done deal, sort of like every time Marvel has gotten Keanu Reeves on the phone. Got it.
The idea is that Keaton will play an older version of Bruce Wayne, and there is a lot of confusion about where Old Man Keaton-Wayne fits into the DC Films continuity. I don’t think anyone at Warners is fussing about their continuity, but because they haven’t outright chucked the Zack Snyder iteration of their superhero universe, fans are wondering how it all connects. The answer is the multiverse. Comic books love multiverses—Marvel’s is coming via Doctor Strange in a couple years—because it gives myriad writers telling myriad stories a loose way to sort various continuities and hand-wave away timeline crunches caused by new continuities and rebooting characters. It sounds like DC Films intends to use the multiverse in exactly the same way, to loosely connect everything they’ve done over the last decade without needing a total reboot. The idea actually already exists in the DC universe, as Ezra Miller did a cameo on the Arrowverse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, connecting the film and television universes as alternate Earths. Bringing Keaton back would just be expanding the idea into the movies.
Of course, fans still have a ton of questions. Is Keaton taking over for Ben Affleck? Batfleck was supposed to be an older, wiser Bruce who serves as a mentor for the younger heroes of the DC cinematic universe, and that is now how Keaton’s return is being described, with the potential for this to be a Nick Fury-like role for DC, with Keaton popping in and out of several movies. Or is Keaton’s Batman going to come from an alternate Earth? And how does this align with Robert Pattinson’s Batman? I assume RBattz will exist in an alternate universe, as does Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. The nice thing about a multiverse is you can silo off the pieces that don’t really fit quite easily.
But man, once again, if I am Matt Reeves I am bummed about this news. When Reeves and Pattinson started filming The Batman in January, they were making THE Batman movie, with a new iteration of the character, moving on from lost Batfleck years. Now it sounds like Warners is trying to salvage their original Old Batman plan, but with Michael Keaton. Reeves and Pattinson are no longer making THE Batman movie, they’re making A Batman movie, and that is not the same thing. Six months ago, Matt Reeves was in charge of Batman, now he is making just one of three iterations of the character we’ll see over the next couple years, between his movie, the Snyder Cut, and The Flash. I genuinely wonder how long Warners can do this before talent starts demanding exclusivity clauses in their contracts.
Of course, all this is dependent on Warners and Keaton closing a deal AND The Flash actually getting made. With a revolving door of directors, and Ezra Miller taking a stab at the script in order to satisfy his vision of the character, this has turned into an “I’ll believe it when I see it” movie. There are also some questions around Miller, whose script Warners is not using, and who was last seen throwing a woman to the ground in Iceland. It will be cool to see Michael Keaton return to Batman 30 years after he last donned the suit, but I also think this movie is never actually happening and this is all moot.