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Michael Keaton's Batman Can Introduce Batman Beyond

Michael Keaton is in talks to return to his role as Batman in the upcoming DC Extended Universe film The Flash. Having last portrayed the Dark Knight in 1992's Batman Returns, many longtime superhero fans might herald Keaton's return to the role with eagerness. However, while there is a clear sense of excitement surrounding this classic Batman's potential return, the mystery that follows is how Warner Bros. will tackle the role.

While the plot for The Flash remains a mystery at the moment, it's clear Keaton isn't just returning for fun fanservice and nothing else. One possible reason for Keaton's Batman to be returning is to create a backdoor set-up for a potential Batman Beyond film. The evidence seems to point DC and Warner Bros. have plans for Keaton, so this might very well be the ideal way to use their Keaton.

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Multi-Film Arc For an Older Batman

According to reports, Keaton is in talks for a multi-film deal to return as the Caped Crusader. This indicates that whatever role he serves in The Flash will not be a mere one-and-done deal. So this makes one wonder what sort of part they have in mind for him. The role of an older, grizzled Batman immediately draws attention to a few memorable stories. The first of which is Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which DC has drawn from frequently in the last decade. Both The Dark Knight Rises and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice recycle plot elements from The Dark Knight Returns. If Keaton returns exclusively as another iteration of Miller's Batman, it would seem redundant and somewhat underwhelming.

However, Batman taking on the role of a mentor, raising the next generation of Bat-Family heroes from the ground up might be more interesting. This is even more true if Keaton's Batman exists in-canon with the Batman from Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, indicating that there's also a Robin and Batgirl in his life, as well as an Alfred who has since passed on. It also leaves the door open for potential cameos from previous Batman characters from the old continuity, such as Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, Chris O'Donnell's Dick Grayson, Alicia Silverstone's Batgirl and even Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

All that means that Batman would have created rich lore surrounding himself. This means that, with the strange mix of neo-noir setting and bizarre futuristic technology integrated into the four-film (possibly two-film if only the Burton films are canon) series, fans could see a modern Gotham incorporating a great deal of bizarre technology that could create a cyberpunk version of Gotham only seen prior in the Batman Beyond continuity.

However, between the found family ending of Batman & Robin (or the melancholic ending of Batman Returns), Bruce Wayne might have kept up the fight as the Dark Knight only for things to have collapsed. In the original films, Wayne frequently keeps friends at arm's length, as seen with Vicki Vale or Selina Kyle. So it's possible he's gotten too injured to continue the fight and needs a replacement, and perhaps he's isolated himself from anyone who can help him. That would lead to him reaching out to Terry McGinnis for help.

The Appeal of Terry McGinnis

To date, no Batman has truly passed the torch in a satisfactory way. The Dark Knight Rises ends with Bruce allowing a new Batman to appear, but that truly isn't a "passing the torch" moment. This especially was not the case with Michael Keaton, who unceremoniously left the role once Tim Burton exited Batman Forever.

In many cases, Keaton's Batman is the most enigmatic of them all. He's always been a supporting character in his own movies. This makes it easier for him to remain a supporting character in relation to a new hero: Terry McGinnis. McGinnis is a unique character that has not yet been introduced to DC Cinematic Universe, despite plans in the early 2000s that ultimately amounted to nothing.

While it is great to see Keaton playing Batman, it would be even greater to see him playing a role other than just Batman. It would be better to see him as an aging Batman who realizes he can't keep it up, and, despite isolating himself from all his loved ones, comes to train McGinnis. Terry's films can feature his training to become the new Batman, confronting messes left by the elder Bruce Wayne as he evolves into his own unique character.