According to a THR report, Michael Keaton is in talks to return for several upcoming DC films as Bruce Wayne/Batman, starting with The Flash.
It's said that the 68-year-old star would be operating in a "Nick Fury" type role in the DC Universe.
It's unclear how Keaton, who is also a key part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Vulture, would fit into the larger DC picture.
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 might be doing in a series of upcoming DC movies. A report from The Hollywood Reporter says that the Academy Award-nominated actor and former Dark Knight is in talks to return to the big screen in the same role for DC's upcoming The Flash movie—and possibly several more.
The THR report says 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 the report, though, suggests that Keaton would be appearing 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. 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 tried before.
An older Bruce Wayne (Keaton turns 69 in 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 in the early 2000s cartoon Batman Beyond (which is streaming on HBO Max and you should very much watch), a retirement-aged Wayne appears as a mentor to a new, younger protege named Terry McGinnis who takes over as the Batman for a new era.
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.
Earlier this 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.
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). But what's not clear is how any of this fits together.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman has already interacted with Ben Affleck as Batman. And Robert Pattinson has already been announced as the new Bruce Wayne. And that's not even bringing the whole #SnyderCut of it all into the mix. How will this all be explained? Maybe The Flash will take the opportunity when jumping from dimension to dimension to make this all make sense. But in the meantime we can all just be excited about the intriguing prospect of Michael Keaton's return. That will do for now.
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