Michael Keaton’s Return and the Future of Batman

If you’re a Bat-fan, you’ve probably heard the news by now: Michael Keaton is in talks to reprise his role as Batman after starring as the Dark Knight almost around thirty years ago in Batman and Batman Returns.

‘In talks’ being the key wording here, but let’s move forward with the assumption things will come to fruition. Supposedly, Keaton will return as Batman in the upcoming Ezra Miller-led Flash movie, which is rumoured to be based around the comic book storyline Flashpoint.

Traditionally, Flashpoint sees the Flash travel back in time to save his mother, but in the process, he inadvertently changes reality. Returning to the present, he finds that he no longer has powers, Superman never emerged as a superhero, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war with each other, and Bruce Wayne was murdered as a child; leading his father, Thomas Wayne, to become the Batman.

For the longest time, it’s been assumed that when the Flashpoint movie finally came about, we would see Jeffery Dean Morgan return to take up the cowl, after his debut as Thomas Wayne in Batman v Superman.

However, if these talks are successful – although let’s be real, there’s a chance this might not go through considering how many times the Flash movie has changed course – we will instead see the Flash find himself in a reality where Michael Keaton is once again Batman.

Further rumours claim that Keaton could be sticking around beyond that, according, once again, to Borys Kit of the The Hollywood Reporter:

Now, if you check my Batman ’89 review, you’ll see I’m a big fan of the Batman and Gotham that Keaton helped bring to life. And after three different iterations of Flashpoint (the comic, the animated movie and season three of The Flash TV show) I think mixing things up by having the Flash ending up in the Burtonverse as opposed to a messed-up war-torn DC universe could make things feel fresh and interesting.

But keeping Keaton on as THE Batman afterwards..?

I don’t know how I feel about that.

My personal favourite Batman is Ben Affleck. While yes, Dawn of Justice and Justice League are regarded as pretty bad films, Ben Affleck, in BvS at least, was the standout for me. I liked his performance, I dug the costume, I loved how imposing he was. This was a Batman who actually looked threatening. Someone who might actually strike fear into the hearts of criminals.

And seeing him in action proved he was unlike any Batman who had come before.

Let’s just take a look at the warehouse sequence again:

Stunning.

Anyway, it’s not just what we’ve seen of Batfleck that I fell in love with, but the opportunities he represented. We’ve had a gritty, self-contained Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy. We’ve seen a Batman in his early years (again, The Dark Knight trilogy). We’ve seen Batman starting to open up slightly in Schumacher’s films. But what we’ve barely seen is a decent attempt at a Batman who can interact with a wider universe.

Here was a chance to see it all, and do it properly. Yes, Zack Snyder’s mass-murdering Batman wasn’t ideal (although the other Batmen are hardly strangers to murder)…

…but after Justice League, Batfleck would have fallen into the hands of either Affleck himself or Matt Reeves. We could have seen a different take on this caped crusader, one who has allies like Nightwing and Batgirl/Oracle to call on. One who could be entrenched in a universe of Supermen and Wonder Women, but still have his own little piece of the world unique to him.

We could have seen how villains like Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face operate in a Gotham where Batman hasn’t straight up killed them the first time he’s met them.

It could have been different, is what I’m saying.

But alas, instead, we’re going back to early years Batman with Robert Pattinson. Or as my favourite podcast likes to call him, Robat Battinbat.

First off, I know that isn’t actually Pattinson under that cowl.

Secondly, I’m not dismissing Pattinson’s Batman. I think that suit looks dope, and I’m excited to see what he and Reeves do with the property. So far, everything sounds pretty cool. And if things go well, there’s no reason that Pattinson’s Batman couldn’t give me near everything I wanted from Affleck’s, bar the more experienced nature.

It just depends how they go about it.

Many people seem to be under the assumption that RoBat BattinBat will function in his own little universe, like Joker. The fact that Keaton will supposedly become the new Batman in the Wonder WomanAquamanShazam! continuity supports this further. Having multiple Batmen going on at once is a tad strange, but having multiples in the same universe? Very unlikely.

Personally, I think that’s a mistake.

It’s almost universally agreed that Ben Affleck’s Batman was the best part of the early DC cinematic universe. So to swap that out for a Batman who can’t really interact with the rest of the heroes in the same way a Batfleck or a Battinson could seems like a mistake to me. Sure, Keaton could continue to don the Batsuit, but let’s be real, the guy is 68 years old. How good would him jumping around rooftops getting into fistfights actually look? Especially when you’ve potentially got Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa and co. fighting alongside him (future Justice League movies permitting, of course).

So what I’d like to see is this: Flashpoint starts with a Ben Affleck cameo. It’s not necessary but it would be a nice goodbye. The Flash does his whole time travel thing and accidentally ends up in Michael Keaton’s universe. Obviously, the Flash realises this is all wrong. Tries to undo it, and returns home, only to find that Robert Pattinson is now Batman.

Then, if people are still hungry for more Keaton, he can continue to be Batman in a series that makes sense – a Batman Beyond adaptation. You probably know this already, but Batman Beyond was an animated series, and later comic book, that followed a senior Bruce Wayne as a mentor to a new, futuristic Batman. Having this Terry McGinnis Batman and Keaton’s Bruce Wayne off in their own little universe makes more sense than having a younger Batman (Pattinson) and an elder Batman (Keaton), neither of whom can actually interact with the rest of the DC Universe.

After all, Batman is an integral part of the Justice League and the DC Universe as a whole. It would be like making the first few Avengers movies without Captain America or Iron Man. You could do it, but it would be a waste.

Plus, Pattinson Batman realistically could eventually see Robin, Batgirl and other members of the Bat-Family introduced. If Keaton was Batman, then they too would be getting on in years. Assuming Bruce adopted Dick Grayson at some point, Robin would now probably be in his late 30s-40s, and seeing as Pat Hingle’s Commissioner Gordon was already 65 in the first Batman, then his daughter, Barbara Gordon would be circling 50 if we’re being generous (obviously, as Kit suggests up top, this one would be a new Batgirl – but if you’re going to reinvent everything around Keaton’s Batman, why use him?).

I don’t know. I’m open to anything; if it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, it’s bad. It just seems so bizarre to me that the two characters that Warner Bros. and DC are having the hardest time integrating into the movie universe are their two most popular, and personally, I’d like to see them at their best before we explore a world where they’re both retired.

In an ideal world Ben Affleck would have had a chance to actually show off what he wanted to do with the character. Hopefully Pattinson can fill that void. Banking on Keaton, however, just feels like Warner Bros. are shaking things up just for the sake of it.

I guess we’ll see what happens in 2021 and 2022.

2 thoughts on “Michael Keaton’s Return and the Future of Batman

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