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DC confirms Michael Keaton will return as Batman

Michael Keaton as Batman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

DC has confirmed Michael Keaton will once again don the cowl as Batman, alongside Ben Affleck, in the 2022 film The Flash, as the studio attempts to establish a caped crusader multiverse. It’s all a little complicated, and details aren’t exactly crystal clear at this stage, but bear with us. 

In an interview with The New York Times, DC Films president Walter Hamada alluded to plans to introduce parallel worlds wherein different versions of the superhero exist simultaneously, in a similar model to Marvel’s Spider-Man. 

Confirming Ben Affleck will reprise his role one last time as the caped crusader in the upcoming, Ezra Miller-led The Flash movie, Hamada suggests Keaton – who starred as the Bat in Tim Burton’s now-revered 1989 Batman – will also feature as an older Bruce Wayne, in a role similar to Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

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This isn’t exactly new news. We previously reported that it was likely Keaton would return as the Bat in the upcoming Flash movie. But Hamada’s recent comments have all-but confirmed what was merely a hotly-touted rumour, and added in the surprising news that Affleck – who famously jettisoned his own plans for a standalone Batman movie – will star alongside the 69-year-old actor. 

It’s a move from the studio that hopes to rectify a major problem posed by the recent string of critically-condemned – but commercially successful – DCU movies. Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman and Justice League left critics unimpressed and polarised fans of the comics, but nonetheless introduced a swathe of highly-bankable DC characters who have since received their own standalone titles (Wonder Woman and Aquaman among them). At the same time, other filmmakers were developing DC projects based in universes’ wholly detached from Snyder’s – meaning Hamada, who took over the studio in 2018, was faced with the challenge of fostering the coexistence of all these movies and characters without any one contradicting the other. 

In a concept already in full swing over at Marvel Studios – the third Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man film will reportedly re-introduce Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield alongside Tom Holland’s web-slinger – DC has opted to pursue the multiverse idea. In short, some characters (Henry Caville’s Superman, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman etc.) will occupy Earth 1, while newer incarnations (Pattinson’s Batman, for instance) will exist in Earth 2. 

They are separate universes, meaning the actions of one character won’t impact the actions of their equivalent character in a different universe. 

The Flash movie, Hamada says, will link the two – meaning we could see three different Batmen (Keaton, Affleck and Pattinson) existing in the same world. We just don’t know how yet.

"I don't think anyone else has ever attempted [the multiverse concept] on screen," Hamada said in the interview. "But audiences are sophisticated enough to understand it. If we make good movies, they will go with it."

Making good movies has been the studio's problem ever since Christopher Nolan’s searing The Dark Knight trilogy concluded in 2012. Todd Phillips’ Joker was, as befits DC, the most polarising film of 2019, and rumours are still floating as to whether Pattinson’s Batman will, in some capacity, confront Joaquin Phoenix’s Clown Prince of Crime. 

The point is, the studio’s plans for a multiverse mean there are lots, lots more DCU movies to come – and when you’ve got some of the world’s most iconic characters to work with, that can only be a good thing.