The status quo of Batman in the DCEU has grown increasingly confusing in recent years. Ben Affleck originally occupied the heroic mantle in three movies, but has since vanished off the face of the Earth. That's only poised to get even more puzzling as The Flash brings back Michael Keaton's '80s Batman and sets him up to replace Affleck moving forward.
Following the ground-breaking change in DC's speedster flick, Keaton was positioned to make his next on-screen appearance in HBO Max's Batgirl movie. The elderly Bruce Wayne was said to serve as a mentor to Leslie Grace's Barbara Gordon and much of the DC universe going forward, but that all just got much more complicated.
Not only has Batgirl been canceled by the new Warner Bros. Discovery regime, but Keaton's rumored Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom cameo has been replaced by Affleck. Although things aren't looking good for Keaton's future in the DCEU, new details have emerged regarding the role he would have played in Batgirl.
Michael Keaton's Batgirl Role Revealed
Fandango's Erik Davis and The Wrap's Umberto Gonzalez recently held a Twitter Spaces in which the insiders revealed details on HBO Max's Batgirl. Their discussion followed recent "funeral screenings" held at Warner Bros. for the cast and crew of the DC flick after its cancellation.
Gonzalez revealed that a source who saw the latest cut said Michael Keaton's Batman was "age-appropriate" and "retired" in the movie, with his role amounting to a "pivotal cameo when he pops in and out:"
"I asked how Keaton is in it at least, and I was told he was good. He's playing Bruce Wayne/Batman age-appropriate, he's got white hair when he's Bruce Wayne. And the kicker here is that his Batman is ‘retired.’ But he obviously pops in to help and advise Barbara Gordon (Leslie Grace). But he's not really that much in it, but he has a presence when he's in it, and it's sort of a pivotal cameo when he pops in and out.”
The insider also discussed the quality of Batgirl, with the source comparing the movie to an "expensive CW pilot:"
“A source of my said: ‘I saw Batgirl, certainly not the worst superhero movie but ultimately, I understand why they took the right down.’ I asked this individual elaborate a little further and was told it's basically essentially an expensive CW pilot, which is what I heard it was.”
They went on to note how the movie plays as "lighter and more comic book-like" with a "pretty good action set piece at the end," while also confirming the run-time of 1 hour, 40 minutes:
“It plays like a very expensive CW pilot. It's not really a strong film, the tone is just very CW, lacking in depth, lighter, and more comic book-like, which is odd because Michael Keaton’s in it. It’s finally lighter than his Tim Burton films. Currently, it's about an hour and 40-plus minutes. It's basically an hour, 40 minutes CW pilot. With a pretty good action set piece at the end from what I'm told. And again, not the worst superhero film I've ever seen.”
Lastly, Gonzalez noted how Batgirl didn't "feel cinematic," as it was clear the movie was "shot for television as it was for HBO Max:"
“It's obviously shot for television as it was for HBO Max. So, it's like so everything is in the center of the screen and I’m being told it just doesn't feel cinematic which is something they probably could have corrected if they did some additional photography. But ultimately, the powers that be decided it wasn't worth the tens of millions it would have cost to do that.”
Will Michael Keaton's Batman Return After The Flash?
Quality is always subjective, but the comments of this insider certainly lend to why Batgirl ended up being canceled. With Warner Bros. Discovery only appearing to be interested in big-screen movies, this HBO Max original doesn't sound as if it could have translated to theaters, especially given the comparisons to CW television and a lack of cinematic feel.
Michael Keaton's Batman being angled as a retired mentor in Batgirl ought to indicate the direction DC will take him in future projects if the plan is still for him to return after The Flash. This concept may sound intriguing to some, but likely lackluster to most who hope to see a fully-fledged Dark Knight fighting crime in Gotham in the DCEU.
But with Batgirl canceled and Keaton being replaced by Affleck in Aquaman 2, perhaps Warner Bros. may be back-tracking on previous plans. This theory is particularly evidenced by the underwater sequel now coming after The Flash, by which point Keaton should be in firm position in Affleck's replacement.
Even if DC doesn't choose to keep Keaton around as the primary Caped Crusader, that doesn't mean he can't return in the future. The older Bruce Wayne could still slot into potential Multiversal events and possibly even feature in a live-action Batman Beyond adaptation in his own universe as he trains a young Terry McGinnis.
Only time will tell what the future holds, but for now, Michael Keaton will return as Batman in The Flash, which hits theaters on June 23, 2023.