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Michael Keaton Could Be Main Batman in Upcoming DC Universe Films

  • An NYT report has brought on speculation that Michael Keaton could be the DCEU’s main Batman going forward, replacing Ben Affleck. Both men will appear as the character in the upcoming The Flash.
  • A previous THR report stated that the 68-year-old could appear in several films in a “Nick Fury” type role.
  • Keaton, also a key part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Vulture, played The Dark Knight in both Batman and Batman Returns.

    Batman Returns is two things: the title of Michael Keaton’s second (and final) outing as Bruce Wayne/Batman with director Tim Burton, and also what Keaton has been rumored to now be doing in a series of upcoming DC movies. A report last year from The Hollywood Reporter first brought the rumor that the Academy Award-nominated actor and former Dark Knight was in talks to return, and recently a New York Times report from Brooks Barnes at the very least confirmed that Keaton will be appearing as the character in the upcoming film The Flash.

    As the Times report states, Keaton, along with previous Batman Ben Affleck, will both appear in The Flash, scheduled for release in 2022. The movie will deal with a multiverse, with Affleck as Batman in one dimension, and Keaton as Batman in the other. This also opens the door for Robert Pattinson’s Batman, who has already been confirmed to have his own trilogy of films which will exist in their own dimension. Complicated stuff! But not that complicated.

    While many online outlets ran with Barnes’ report as confirmation that Keaton would be the DC Universe’s main Batman character going forward, that doesn’t seem to be the case. After the internet blew up with the rumor, Barnes clarified his reporting in a tweet. “If I had info on him beyond “The Flash,” I would have obviously put it in my article,” he wrote. So, not quite yet, Batman fans.

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    Many fans online have heard this story of an older Bruce Wayne (Keaton turned 69 last September) being cast, and had their mind jump immediately to Batman Beyond, the early 2000s cartoon that saw an older Bruce Wayne take on a young apprentice named Terry McGinnis (the show now streams on HBO Max and if you haven’t seen it, you should watch it). If The Flash is used as an intro to this new version of Batman, a Batman Beyond movie might not be far behind. Think about how the MCU’s Spider-Man and Black Panther were both introduced in Captain America: Civil War. One of these upcoming movies could include a taste of a live action Batman Beyond that could potentially, if done right, lead to a stand alone movie.

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    The THR report said that Keaton’s Batman would be not only in The Flash, but also other DC-oriented films such as Batgirl, in his Bruce Wayne role. The most eyebrow-raising aspect of that report, though, suggested that Keaton would be appear across several films in a role “akin to the role played by Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” He would theoretically be playing some sort of mentor and power broker; someone pulling the strings on major events happening over the course of several films.

    This potential version of Batman/Bruce Wayne would, then, in theory, serve to introduce the concept of the multiverse into the DC movie universe. Through a multiverse, a world could be established where Michael Keaton, Robert Pattinson, and Ben Affleck can all be Batman, and can all interact with whatever characters the story needs them to (Pattinson’s The Batman is being considered a standalone, but the studio has to want to keep its options open, right?). Things might be a little tougher for the writers, but that’s a problem they’ll deal with when it comes up. Think of Keaton’s Batman in the same breath as Leonard Nimoy’s appearance as Spock in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek series, or the many different Spider-Mans in Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. It’s a confusing concept, but one that’s been executed decently before.

    An older Bruce Wayne (Keaton turned 69 last September) is far from unprecedented in the Batman canon; Frank Miller’s legendary graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns depicts the caped crusader returning to fight crime at the tender age of 55, and as we already mentioned in Batman Beyond.

    A return to the DC world would put Keaton in Josh Brolin territory as someone with major stakes in multiple superhero universes (Brolin played both Thanos in the MCU and Cable in Deadpool 2). Keaton played Adrian Toomes in Spider-Man: Homecoming, one of the best villains in the MCU’s 23 films so far, and clearly one with a future; a post-credits scene in Homecoming hinted at a return, and there were even plans for him at one point to return in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

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    Last year, Keaton appeared as Toomes/Vulture in the trailer for Morbius, even further muddying the waters. Morbius is a part of Sony’s Marvel Universe (which so far only includes Venom, Morbius, and the upcoming Venom sequel) and not the MCU. But we also don’t know the details of Sony and Marvel’s deal that allowed Tom Holland to continue playing Spider-Man in the MCU, so it’s possible that those two worlds could become much closer.

    On top of that, there’s Keaton’s acclaimed role in 2014’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (and should have earned him a win). While that movie isn’t explicitly a superhero role, it does find him playing a role oddly in-line with the real Michael Keaton: an actor best known for playing a superhero role in decades past.

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    Much of DC’s plans for their upcoming universe is unclear; we know that James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad and Matt Reeves’ The Batman are both due for release in 2021, and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 sequel should be out this fall (if COVID-19 doesn’t cause yet another delay). The idea, seemingly, would be that the multiverse factor and some story maneuvering could clear most of this up. But it’s no slam dunk.

    Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman has already interacted with Ben Affleck as Batman. How will this all be explained? The writers of The Flash certainly have their work cut out for them.

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