Michael Keaton returning for The Flash might mean Ezra Miller’s DCU Barry Allen is heading to the Tim Burton Batman universe – but it’s complicated.
The upcoming DCU The Flash movie stars Michael Keaton reprising his role as Bruce Wayne, which raises an important question — whether The Flash is going to the Tim Burton Batman 1989 universe in The Flash. The upcoming DCU Flash movies is a chance for James Gunn to officially reboot the DCU with an in-universe narrative explanation. Keaton’s appearance alongside Ben Affleck (also as Batman) is likely tied into this. However, just because Michael Keaton is returning to the role of Batman for the first time since Batman Returns, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is Burton’s movie world.
The Flash movie appears to be a Flashpoint-based storyline. Barry Allen attempts to use the Speed Force to prevent his mother from dying, but inadvertently either rewrites the timeline or travels to a different reality entirely. In the world he heads into, there are no metahumans — but there is a Batman, and rather than Ben Affleck, it’s Michael Keaton. While Michael Keaton was the first live-action Batman of the modern era, he’s always existed in his own continuity (the canceled Batgirl movie notwithstanding). However, despite the speculation that Keaton’s appearance means that Ezra Miller is heading to the Burtonverse Gotham by default, it’s not a guarantee The Flash Michael Keaton Batman is canonically the same Bruce Wayne from Batman 1989.
The Flash Movie Is The DCU’s Take On Flashpoint
The presence of the Tim Burton Batman in The Flash movie can be explained by Barry Allen’s enormous yet chaotic powers. A future version of The Flash had gone back in time in Batman v Superman: Dawn Justice, and Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League showed the character reversing the final moments of the film. However, the DCU’s Barry Allen is still essentially a rookie when it comes to the Speed Force. In a desperate attempt to prevent his mother’s death, Barry Allen creates or becomes marooned in an entirely different universe/timeline (the trailers are a little ambiguous here).
In either case, Barry arrives at an Earth where Batman is a veteran hero played by Michael Keaton — and this could mean The Flash movie takes place in the Tim Burton Batman universe. Moving Barry to another corner of the DC Multiverse rather than just placing the hero in a slightly changed timeline is an interesting spin on the already iconic Flashpoint story. In the comic book saga that served as a reboot for DC Comics to the New 52, Flash’s careless use of his powers ended up creating a timeline in which a war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman was close to destroying the entire planet.
While a full Flashpoint adaptation could offer some interesting moments, a Flash trip from the DCU to the Burtonverse could also do the same thing. With that said, various DC animated projects have covered the Flashpoint storyline, and The Flash looks to change things somewhat. There is no Aquaman or Wonder Woman in sight. From the trailer, it’s obvious that The Flash movie will tell a DCU Flashpoint story with its own fresh twists. The most obvious example of this is Sasha Calle’s Supergirl, who’s a prisoner in a medical facility (like Superman in the comic). This creates a Michael Keaton Batman in The Flash conundrum though — if The Flash has gone to the Tim Burton Batman universe, why is Supergirl there?
Flash Might Not Be Going To The Burtonverse
The truth is that, while the Michael Keaton return is very obviously a throwback to Batman 1989 (everything from the trailer music to the costume was lifted directly from it), it’s probably not the Tim Burton Batman in The Flash movie. In the Flashpoint comics, it was not Bruce Wayne as Batman, but Thomas Wayne. Batman was violent and killed people, based on him losing his son to the burglar instead of him and Martha Wayne dying. Batman in The Flash appears to be a bit jovial, including delivering a sly smile when asking if Barry wants his help — definitely not Thomas Wayne qualities. However, while Keaton is still playing Bruce Wayne, it’s likely to be a similar situation to the dual Barry Allens. Ezra Miller’s Flash doesn’t travel to the Burtonverse, he just travels to a universe where Batman is also Michael Keaton.
Michael Keaton was last seen in 1992’s Batman Returns — long before multiverses were a big screen concept, or studios even cared much about superhero movie continuity. Val Kilmer and George Clooney stepped into the franchise as seemingly the same Batman. However, there is a chance that each played a different Batman, and that multiple Kilmer, Clooney, and Keaton Bruce Wayne’s exist throughout the DC multiverse (and presumably Afflecks, Pattinsons, Bales, and even Adam Wests). There could be a Batman that looks like Michael Keaton on any number of alternate Earths. Just like there are many different Flash variants, as well as Green Arrow variants in the Arrowverse, this is likely just a variant of the Tim Burton Batman in The Flash movie.