Batman star Michael Keaton's return to the DC Universe in The Flash could pave the path for Batman Beyond, a live-action adaptation of the animated series taking place in Warner Bros.' unfolding DC Multiverse. Keaton portrayed the costumed crime-fighter in the Tim Burton-directed Batman 1989 and its 1992 sequel, Batman Returns, but chose not to reprise the role in director Joel Schumacher's sequels Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Now Keaton — who recently portrayed Marvel Comics villain the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, an ongoing role he'll reprise in Sony's Spider-Verse spinoff Morbius opposite Jared Leto — is reportedly being teed up for a multi-movie role with The Flash.
Keaton is in talks to play Batman in a "mentor capacity" across multiple movies, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit, who compares the role to Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury. Jackson's super-spy first appeared in Marvel Studios' universe launching Iron Man as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., a role he reprised multiple times in the lead up to ensemble movie The Avengers.
It's unclear if Keaton's Batman will be the same caped crusader depicted in Burton's films or a new iteration of the character. Word of Keaton's involvement comes after rumors claiming Jeffrey Dean Morgan — who played Thomas Wayne, the ill-fated father of the future Batman (Ben Affleck) in Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — will portray Flashpoint Batman in The Flash, believed to reunite star Ezra Miller with Justice League co-star Ray Fisher's Cyborg.
Keaton's reported mentorship role could then segue into Batman Beyond, where a gruff and retired Bruce Wayne becomes the reluctant mentor of a teenaged Batman who uses a high-tech suit to fight crime in a futuristic Gotham City. In the animated series, it was Terry McGinnis (voice of Will Friedle) who donned the Bat-suit as part of a new generation of superhero under a much older Bruce Wayne (voice of Kevin Conroy).
In 2019, fans rallied for a Batman Beyond live-action film teaming Keaton's Batman with the Robert Pattinson version of the character to star in director Matt Reeves' The Batman in 2021. That film appears to be set in its own reality, away from the Ben Affleck Batman of the DC Extended Universe, and will center on a fresher Batman early into his crime-fighting crusade.
Among the fans calling for a Batman Beyond film: Bat-fan and comic book aficionado Kevin Smith, co-host of online chat show Fatman Beyond, who believes a live-action adaptation of the fan-favorite animated series could gross one billion at the box office with Keaton's return to the role.
Warner Bros. releases The Flash June 3, 2022.