With The Flash movie, DCEU may beat Marvel to make history
The DCEU is really aiming for something that no superhero universe has tried before on the big screen.
Michael Keaton, who famously played Bruce Wayne/Batman in the two Batman movies directed by Tim Burton, is said to reprise his role in the 2022 feature film The Flash. Given the other big rumors surrounding the Scarlet Speedster's feature film, it seems that a Flashpoint-inspired storyline isn't just a good guess. It's fate.
And in doing so, the DCEU may actually accomplish something Marvel has never done before: Converging the multiverse on the big screen.
What Happened? — On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Michael Keaton is in talks to reprise his role as Batman in the 2022 DC superhero movie, The Flash. THR specifically says Keaton is looking to play his very same Batman again, meaning it's the continuation of the role he played in both 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns.
THR further revealed that if Keaton's deal goes through, the veteran actor will make multiple supporting appearances in future DC movies. The report compares it to Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury in the rival Marvel franchise. The outlet names the in-development Batgirl as a movie that "could fall under" that deal.
What this means — Coupled with earlier rumors that Jeffrey Dean Morgan will reprise his Thomas Wayne, Bruce's father who becomes a violent and drunk Batman in an alternate timeline, 2022's The Flash is bound to be a loose adaptation of the 2011 DC comic book crossover, Flashpoint.
In a story that saw Barry Allen (aka, The Flash) travel back in time, the speedster altered history in unfortunate ways. In correcting his mistake, The Flash creates a new rebooted timeline. That 2022's The Flash is echoing this story, all of this comic book gobbledygook basically means that The Flash will be a very important movie for the DCEU franchise as it will dictate what shape future movies may take in the years to come.
How DC beats Marvel — The film's supposed Flashpoint elements is strongly hinting at a big multiverse convergence on the big screen. In uniting all the separate film universes, the DCEU is on the precipice of doing something that even the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise hasn't actually done yet but only hinted at or joked about (such as in Spider-Man: Far From Home).
As already established by the 2019/2020 television crossover special "Crisis on Infinite Earths," the DC film franchise exists on one of many "Earths" that all play host to separate DC comic book adaptations. The Tim Burton movies previously existed on Earth-89 until the crossover special remapped the multiverse in unknown ways.
Before today, it was more or less assumed that only a self-contained, five-part TV special is capable of doing something as unwieldy as a multiverse story. But with The Flash and all the rumors about who's in it and what it's about coming to light, the DCEU may make history as it pulls off a crossover with a previously existing DC film franchise, that being the Tim Burton movies.
Marvel has done some crossing over on its own. Morbius, a Sony/Marvel movie starring Jared Leto that was delayed to next year, is apparently set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (with Michael Keaton once again acting as the nexus). But Marvel hasn't come out and said exactly how the connections work.
Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige didn't even acknowledge Morbius as a part of Phase 4 at San Diego Comic-Con when it seems to be a movie set in the MCU. And ultimately, Morbius isn't inhabiting a separate universe from the MCU. Should DC get its negotiations in place, one could expect The Flash to explicitly say it's exploring the DC multiverse.
What about Robert Pattinson? — The 2021 movie The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson in the role of the Caped Crusader, is said to be unaffected by Keaton's involvement. THR reports that the movie is being looked at "separate" from other DC movies, including The Flash, suggesting that Warner Bros. and DC may frame the movie the same way as it did Joker with Joaquin Phoenix.
And again: Multiverse. The Batman may not be in the DCEU but in another Earth. This is how convenient a multiverse premise can be, folks.
The Inverse Analysis — Besides the sheer glee that Michael Keaton may reprise one of his most famous movie roles of all time, it should be acknowledged that fans have begged for Keaton to return and play popular versions of an older Batman for years. Whether it's an adaptation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns or the animated series Batman Beyond, fans have wanted Keaton to revisit the DC Universe for years.
Now, their wish is coming true in a way that might actually blow up the DC Extended Universe. Should the DCEU cross over with the Burton/Keaton corner of the multiverse, superhero movies will have pulled off a feat no one in fandom could have ever imagined. But that's only if Keaton agrees and signs on the dotted line. Only then will DC actually make history.
The Flash will be released in theaters on June 2, 2022.