The journey to The Flash’s theatrical release was a rocky one.
After years in development limbo, filming through a global pandemic, and multiple reshoots and story changes, not to mention several controversies surrounding its star, it’s a small miracle that the Ezra Miller-led film was released at all.
A Brief Flash Refresher
In the closing moments of The Flash, an expensive-looking car pulls up to the courthouse steps Where Barry Allen stands. Out steps Bruce Wayne. Only this wasn’t the Bruce that Barry, nor the audience, were expecting.
To backtrack, much of the film concerned Allen traveling back in time to prevent his mother’s murder. Warned against this by Ben Affleck’s mainline DCEU Bruce, Barry does it anyway and winds up mucking up time itself.
The Flash is deposited in the past, but also in a universe where there are no metahumans on record. Batman however does exist. This world’s Caped Crusader is actually Michael Keaton, reprising his role from the Tim Burton movies of 30 years ago.
One thing leads to another, Keaton suits up, they rescue Supergirl, (Sasha Calle) and try to stop General Zod, but Kara and Bruce perish in the process.
The State of DC and The Flash’s Batman Switcheroo
Back to those courthouse steps. Bruce gets out of his car but it isn’t Ben Affleck greeting Barry. It isn’t even Michael Keaton. It’s actually George Clooney who, of course, portrayed the Caped Crusader in 1997’s ill-fated Batman & Robin.
Why? Well, it’s kind of a long story.
When The Flash was originally green-lit several years ago, the DC Universe on film was in a much different spot. Then-Warner Bros. Studio chairman Tobey Emmerich and Walter Hamada who were in charge of DC Films, wanted ultimately to set up a Flash sequel that would, down the line, lead to an adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Those ambitions got reshuffled when Discovery acquired WB And all of its entertainment assets. Hamada and Emmerich were out of a job, and removed from their high-up positions at the studio in 2022.
Pamela Abdy and Michael De Luca took Emmerich’s job as co-CEOs of the Warner Bros. Picture group. They expanded the plans for The Flash’s ending sequence, which initially simply had Supergirl and Keaton’s Batman (who, incidentally, they were going to position as the lynchpin of the DCEU) meet up with Barry Allen.
Another wrench got thrown into the works when James Gunn and Peter Safran were handed the keys to the on-screen DC Universe last fall. They took out all the extra superheroes and dialed things down to Ezra Miller’s Barry and Bruce Wayne.
Internally, it was reportedly a question as to which Bruce it would be, but Clooney was brought up as a long shot and the rest played out as audiences saw in the finished film.
So Where Does All This Leave Ben Affleck?
After Barry Allen’s time travel shenanigans, Affleck’s Batman was erased from existence. This is obviously indicated to viewers by the surprise inclusion of George Clooney at Flash’s coda.
But Affleck is seemingly set to make one last appearance in December’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, thereby majorly muddying the waters of continuity. Because if Affleck no longer inhabits this timeline, then what’s he doing in Aquaman 2? Shouldn’t it be Clooney? It remains to be seen exactly how this will shake out.
Interestingly enough, a post-credits scene was apparently planned for Flash that would’ve featured Affleck back as Bruce. Per ViewerAnon on Twitter, the character was to leave a video message for Barry instructing the speedster to “Find us!” This element was completely scrapped by the time Flash was released though.
Whatever the case may be, the DC Universe presses onwards under the joint leadership of Gunn and Safran.
Robert Pattinson’s The Batman movies will continue untouched and the character will again be rebooted and recast for the currently-undated The Brave and the Bold which will see Bats team up with his son Damian Wayne. Casting for that film won’t be coming anytime soon, however.
The Flash is now playing in theaters everywhere.