The world is once again obsessed with Batman, with Robert Pattinson’s new take on the Caped Crusader dominating the box office. That will soon change, although a massive alteration to DC’s release schedule raises some big questions.
Until recently, Warner Bros. had scheduled The Flash, in which both Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton will don their cowls as their respective Batmans (Batmen?) for later in 2022. That changed on Wednesday, when The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit and Aaron Crouch published massive changes to Warner’s theatrical schedule.
For convenience, here’s the entire new slate as reported by Hollywood Reporter:
- DC League of Super-Pets will open on July 29, 2022
- Black Adam will open on October 21, 2022
- Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom will open on March 17, 2023
- The Flash will open on June 23, 2023
- Meg 2 will open on August 4, 2023
- Wonka will open on December 15, 2023
In another twist, the Shazam! sequel Shazam: Fury of the Gods, originally slated for June 2023, has been bumped up to December 16, 2022, raising the question of whether the sequel will again take place around Christmas.
On the surface, these changes mean little. But when it comes to Batman, specifically the return of Michael Keaton’s version, these new release dates actually mean a lot.
Batman Returns, Again
Since 2020, it’s been confirmed that Michael Keaton will return as his iconic Batman in The Flash due to some multiverse-related events that will take place in the film. The exact plot details are scarce, but it’s been speculated that The Flash is inspired by a few modern comic book storylines: 2011’s Flashpoint, in which The Flash wakes up in a new timeline he created, and the 2017 story The Button, a multiverse-centric crossover between Tom King’s Batman and Joshua Williamson’s The Flash.
The film seems to be taking huge cues from those comics, as it will involve Ezra Miller’s The Flash uniting with Ben Affleck’s Batman and Michael Keaton’s Batman. Keaton’s return to the role will be the first time Keaton has played Batman since 1992’s Batman Returns.
But Keaton’s renewed place in DC’s films isn’t limited to The Flash. Also scheduled for later this year is Batgirl, starring Leslie Grace (In the Heights) in the title role. For reasons that are still unclear, Michael Keaton’s Batman will also play a huge role in that film. As recently as February 2022, Keaton was on set shooting scenes for Batgirl in his Batman costume.
The Flash was originally scheduled for release on November 4, 2022. Batgirl is still scheduled for an undetermined release date in 2022; it was a safe assumption that Batgirl would release after The Flash, as it’s in The Flash that Keaton’s Batman would make his grand return to the screen. But with these changes to Warner’s schedule, this suddenly isn’t the case.
Instead, Batgirl is still set for HBO Max later this year. Assuming the movie streams in November or December, Batgirl will play months before The Flash opens in theaters. For fans who are particular about how superhero universes work, Batgirl could spoil how Michael Keaton’s Batman returns, whether it’s through a total rewriting of the timeline, or Batman being displaced in the DCEU, or who knows what else. No one can say for sure when little of The Flash has been revealed. But right now, expect Batgirl to be a really big deal.
Flashpoint for the DCEU
The DCEU has been less concerned with inter-franchise continuity than its rival Marvel Cinematic Universe. But The Flash is shaping up to be an opportunity for DC to hit the reset button, so it’s possible The Flash will “reboot” the DCEU, setting it on a new path that may or may not foster more continuity and creative consistency. Or maybe, like comics themselves, this will all just stay too much to keep up with and whatever happens, happens.
As Robert Pattinson proved in The Batman, audiences care less about continuity than studios think. As long as there’s a Batman around, seats will get filled.
The Flash will now open in theaters on June 23, 2023.