The details surrounding Keaton’s return as Batman certainly went against expectations.
Many thought The Flash would see the actor’s version of Batman in his prime. Instead, this Bruce Wayne was older, more grizzled, and tired. In fact, he was retired altogether before Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen showed up.
A detailed reason for hanging up the cape wasn’t given in the movie itself, but Wayne did mention that Gotham was now one of the safest cities—it didn’t need a Batman any longer.
Though, fans couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to it. After all, retiring as the Caped Crusader is a big deal.
Keaton’s Tragic Reasons for Retirement
Muschietti noted that he “really wanted to defy people’s expectations of where Bruce Wayne would be:”
"I really wanted to defy people's expectations of where Bruce Wayne would be thirty years later, and I also wanted to deepen the backstory if Bruce Wayne, as the story tells, has been retired for twenty-five years, what happened to him? I always said something should happen to Bruce Wayne to want to stop being Batman."
The filmmaker went on to disclose the hero’s tragic reasoning for packing up the Batsuit. According to him, at some point, Keaton’s Batman “killed a criminal” in front of their own child:
"And my idea was, he did something that goes against his code and killed a criminal in front of [the criminal's] child—not knowingly, but he still did it. Which is an exact mirroring situation of what happened to him when his parents were killed in front of him [next to] Monarch Theaters, and that created the monster that The Batman is."
That mistake would’ve been something Keaton’s Bruce Wayne “couldn't cope with:”
"So he just couldn't cope with it, and that's why he decided to shut off his other side, Batman. And he hasn't been able to forgive himself. And now, the way we find him is a bit of like, the evolution of that journey. You know, he's a tragic figure. He's basically a character that is in search of redemption, but eventually finds a way to do it by helping Barry.”
Michael Keaton’s Future as Batman That Won’t Ever Happen
This reasoning for Michael Keaton’s retirement isn’t the most exciting or interesting possibility they could have gone with. One would think it would have been based more on the character’s lore, like how Ben Affleck’s Batman had become shattered thanks to the death of Robin at the hands of the Joker.
While this Batman retired before the movie started, by the end, he would be finding a lot more action.
The finished cut of The Flash might have had Michael Keaton‘s Dark Knight dead by the time the credits rolled around, but in a previous version of the movie, the veteran actor and his Bruce Wayne was set to meet Barry Allen at the very end of the film in his new universe.
He would have also had a slightly bigger role in the canceled Batgirl film as a mentor of sorts to Barbara Gordon’s titular hero. Keaton could’ve even led a Batman Beyond movie.
Instead, fans better prepare for another fresh reboot of the Dark Knight. This time, however, he’ll be bringing along the Bat Family.
The Flash is now available for purchase digitally.