For many, Michael Keaton’s campy-yet-cool Batman was the first iteration of the character they’d seen grace silver screen, and while the arguments over which actor ultimately did it best are as ceaseless as the Marvel vs. DC debate, there’s no question that Keaton’s portrayal remains one of the most iconic. Needless to say, when rumors emerged regarding the actor’s return to the DC Cinematic Universe, fans were thrilled. The rumors were ultimately confirmed on April 19 when Keaton’s agency told The Wrap that the actor would be reprising his iconic role as Batman for the upcoming DC film The Flash. On June 4, The Flash director Andy Muschietti took to Instagram to share a new image from the set — an image fans quickly realized was strikingly similar to the rubbery get-up Keaton donned in Batman Returns.
While the suit is assuredly different from the one Keaton wore in Batman Returns, the yellow, indented logo and U-shaped groove directly underneath are nearly identical. In addition, the grooves leading from the collar bones to the chest symbol are in the same places his cowl and cloak would attach to the body of the suit. It seems undeniable this picture is the first image of Keaton’s look from the upcoming movie, but the suit — and Keaton’s role in the film — raises some big questions, like how is it possible for both Keaton and Affleck’s Batmen to exist within the same movie, and what does that blood splatter mean for his fate in the series?
Much like Barry Allen (aka The Flash), let’s jump a bit back in time. In 2011, DC Comics printed a mini-series called Flashpoint — a saga following Allen that would come to be pivotal and defining to the character. In Flashpoint, Barry Allen faces the consequences for traveling back in time and trying to prevent his greatest nemesis, Reverse-Flash, from killing his mother. When he did so, he pulled the entire Speed Force (the universe’s cosmic force that grants all the speedsters their powers), and therefore shattered the timeline. As a result, much of what we know about the DC Universe is quite a bit different. Barry is powerless, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are now fierce conquerors in war against one another, Superman doesn’t exist, and Batman is an entirely new person, literally.
In Flashpoint, Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas, is Batman. You see, instead of Bruce’s parents being the ones gunned down in Crime Alley, Bruce was the one who was murdered, causing Bruce’s father to become a revenge-thirsty anti-hero and his mother to become The Joker. Ultimately, Barry has to work with Thomas to regain his abilities and make the world right again, which is much easier said than done. And as to not completely spoil Flashpoint, because you should definitely read it, the ending results in a brand new DC Universe, in which three separate existences are merged together.
The upcoming Flash movie is touted as the DCCU’s own version of Flashpoint, meaning some of this madness is surely going to make its way into the 2022 film. During last year’s DC FanDome, an event focused around updating and hyping fans up for everything DC is currently working on, The Flash producer Barbara Muschietti further confirmed this, stating, “It’s going to be fun and exciting and there are a lot of DC characters in it. Flash is the superhero of this film because he is the bridge between all of these characters and timelines. And in a way, it restarts everything and doesn’t forget anything.” But, to avoid getting too wrapped up in Barry’s part in all this, let’s pivot back to the Batmen.
If it follows Flashpoint, three timelines are merged. Coincidentally, DC is working with three Batmen: Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, and newcomer Robert Pattinson. It seems very likely this event could be a way to permanently end the journey for two of them, most likely Keaton and Affleck. Based on the fact that Keaton’s new suit is so similar to his in Batman Returns, it doesn’t seem like the studio is going to go full Flashpoint and make him Thomas Wayne, but based on the blood on the suit it does seem possible that they could make Keaton’s Batman one that became increasingly violent. Although, another but albeit unlikely thing that could be revealed, is that Robert Pattinson’s Batman is Thomas Wayne, which would explain his hyperviolence we see in the trailer. If this is the case however, the state in which they are going to leave the DC Universe in after The Flash movie is incredibly up in the air.
A final fun fact worth noting is the blood splatter on his suit parallels the one on the Watchmen logo, another DC property. While I don’t think this means we can expect to see Rorschach popping up in The Flash, it might represent some parallels in the story, primarily the question of who holds those with power accountable. As of right now, all we have are screenshots and speculation, but here’s hoping we get some answers in 2022, when both The Batman and The Flash hit theaters.