Continuity isn't a major concern for movies of the DC Extended Universe. Unlike their rivals over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there isn't a single unifying voice calling all the shots. And it shows. Next year we'll be treated to a new and hopefully improved version of 2017's Justice League, when the much-hyped Snyder Cut hits HBO Max. Which means the unholy mess of a theatrical release will go in the bin.
Or will it? I'd much prefer to see Warner Bros. and DC own their missteps by unifying all their movies in a silly comic book-y kinda way. What better person to do that than OG cinematic Batman Michael Keaton, in a multiverse-spanning Flash movie?
The lack of deep DC Extended Universe continuity is clearly a result of its constantly shifting creative direction -- the links between fun outings like Wonder Woman, Shazam and Birds of Prey and dumpster fires like Suicide Squad and Justice League felt tenuous at best. Right now, DC is committed to 2021's The Batman with Robert Pattinson as its primary Bat franchise, but let's take a look at how a Caped Crusader of yesteryear could celebrate decades of movies and tie them together.
Return to Batman Returns?
Michael Keaton, who played the caped crusader in Tim Burton's beloved 1989 Batman and 1992 sequel Batman Returns, is reportedly in talks to don the cowl (and Bruce Wayne's exquisite sweaters) again. It wouldn't be a straight sequel to his previous movies, according to TheWrap; instead Keaton could show up in the first solo outing for speedster superhero The Flash, helmed by It director Andy Muschietti and due out in 2022.
The Flash movie will apparently reveal what's happened to Keaton's Batman since Batman Returns, where he was last seen pining after Catwoman. That's the most exciting possibility. Technically, the late Joel Schumacher's mildly maligned Batman Forever and much much maligned Batman & Robin were in the same universe, but Keaton opted out and The Flash will seemingly ignore them.
So we'd have a clean slate in seeing Burton's gloriously strange Bat-verse, and my mind is reeling at the possibility of seeing how it has developed in the last 30 years. There have been whisperings of the director's plans for his version of Batman Forever; it'd be sweet if Keaton alluded to this stuff happening -- even a glimpse of Billy Dee Williams as an 80-year-old Two-Face would be incredible -- and DC could cash in by telling those stories in a comic series or animated spinoff.
An HBO Max or DC Universe animated series would absolutely get people onto those streaming services, and maybe even remind the world that yes, DC Universe does still exist and there's a bunch of amazing content on it.
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Also hinting at the Keaton possibility was The Hollywood Reporter, which suggested he'll show up in several DC superhero movies in a mentor role like that of Nick Fury in the MCU. His role may cross into other versions of DC movie universes, acting as connective tissue in a wild movie multiverse -- something Marvel hasn't quite gotten around to yet (despite Spider-Man: Far From Home's red herring).
Using Keaton's Batman to do this makes a whole lot of sense too; the Burtonverse he lives in is a ridiculous place where someone thought having Penguin run for mayor could be a good idea and being licked by a bunch of cats can resurrect the dead (Batman Returns is quite silly). So leaping into a weird multiversal adventure would feel like just another day's work for him.
The Flash movie is also the perfect opportunity to bring the concept to movie audiences, since DC already revealed that its movies and TV shows are connected (despite taking place in separate universes) by having Ezra Miller's cinematic Flash meet Grant Gustin's televisual Flash in last year's Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover.
Signs even point to Muschietti's movie being a universe-hopping affair; it's meant to adapt 2011 comic story Flashpoint. That saw the Flash inadvertently creating a dark alternate reality by going back in time to prevent his mother's murder; his actions had a ripple effect that saw Bruce's father Thomas becoming an even more brutal Batman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman engaging in an apocalyptic war, and Superman being raised in captivity by jerk-face government scientists.
If that sounds awesome, it's because it is. You can read it in its original five-issue miniseries form or watch the animated adaptation, The Flashpoint Paradox. I'd recommend the latter -- it tells a better standalone story and fills in details the comics gloss over. The story was also adapted in the third season of the TV show, which seems ripe for referencing in the movie.
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Keaton could unify DC's live action universes beautifully while drawing from its rich cinematic history. His return would fling the doors open for just about any version of any character to return -- Christian Bale's Dark Knight step away from sipping espressos in Italy to chat about Bat credit cards with George Clooney's nipple-suited version (even if those would be ludicrously pricey cameos). However, I'd prefer they stick to living actors -- pulling a Rogue One to bring Christopher Reeve back as Superman would be a step too far.
I'm among the fans who've been obsessed over this stuff for decades, so this prospect is almost too exciting to take. We'd be rewarded for sticking with DC's movies from the horror of infamous stinkers Catwoman and Jonah Hex to the glory days of Joker and Watchmen. I'm not even concerned about confusing or alienating casual viewers; whether beloved or infamous, these movies and characters are well known enough as pop culture icons.
I might just be working myself into a lather of hype, since none of this is confirmed -- we might get a few more details during DC's FanDome virtual convention on Aug. 22. But wild speculation is part of the joy here; DC has a golden opportunity to pay a beautiful tribute to its cinematic history and tie it all together using the multiversal madness of its comic book source material.