Michael Keaton’s DCEU Future Risks Undermining His Batman Return

Michael Keaton's Batman returns – this time for The Flash and Batgirl – but the DCEU's plans for the character could lessen the impact of his appearance overall. Two decades after his last outing as Batman, Michael Keaton will reprise his role as the caped crusader now as part of DC's shared universe. While details on how Michael Keaton's Batman will appear in The Flash and Batgirl are still a mystery, it is safe to say that Flash's time travel powers and the strange rules of the Multiverse will play a role here.

Michael Keaton originally played Batman in Tim Burton's game-changing Batman (1989) before suiting up again three years later in the also Tim Burton-directed Batman Returns. Yet Burton leaving the franchise, coupled with Keaton and Joel Schumacher not being on the same page about the character's future, meant the actor did not return for Batman Forever. Val Kilmer was then cast as the new Batman, starting a long tradition of recasts and reboots of the Dark Knight.

Related: Michael Keaton Flashback & Batman 89 Retcon Hinted At In Batgirl Photos

Thanks to Batgirl's set pictures, which reveal Michael Keaton's Batman working with a younger J.K. Simmons' Commissioner Gordon, it is possible to infer that the events of The Flash will completely change the DCEU timeline. Instead of Ben Affleck, who originally starred opposite J.K Simmons in Justice League, it seems that Michael Keaton will now be the DCEU's Batman retroactively. That alone would explain why he, and not Affleck, is the one working with J.K Simmon's Gordon in Batgirl's flashbacks. Yet the problem is that, for Michael Keaton to have been the DCEU's Batman all along, most of the events of Batman and Batman Returns could have never happened. Keaton's Batman had his own Commissioner Gordon, played by Pat Hingle, and his own versions of iconic characters like Harvey Dent, the Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman. The DCEU cannot just ignore Harley Quinn from now on or say that the Joker had been dead since the 90s, meaning that a lot of Keaton's Batman stories from the Burton movies will not be transported to the DCEU. With so many changes to his backstory, Keaton's DCEU Batman will essentially be a new character after The Flash - thus diminishing the impact of his return.

The fact that Keaton is returning is exciting by itself, but it would be much more meaningful if all of Bruce Wayne's experiences in the Burton films were also validated by the DCEU. Obviously, nothing the shenanigans of the Multiverse can do will erase Tim Burton's Batman films, but the events of those movies may not have a direct influence on how Keaton's Batman story will unfold in the DCEU. Much of Batman's personality and how Keaton approaches the character will most likely be kept, but everything else will be a blank canvas. As a comparison, Spider-Man: No Way Home brought Maguire's and Garfield's versions of Spider-Man to the MCU, but not as variants nor as rebooted/retconned versions of themselves.

As such, The Flash will revisit Michael Keaton's Batman, and Batgirl will see him interacting with the new DCEU, but the character's origins risk getting lost along the way. The Multiverse opened up several possibilities for both Marvel and DC, but making the best of it is still proving challenging for many productions to date. It is now the DCEU's mission to use the character in a way that honors his legacy - but Keaton's DCEU Batman future currently looks like undermining his highly-anticipated Batman return.

Next: Batgirl's Robin Reveal Hints That Keaton's Batman Isn't The Burton Version

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