Movie producers in Hollywood are really hoping you like Batman, because you’re about to get served an awful lot of him. Everyone’s favorite “Caped Crusader,” the protector and guardian of Gotham City, has been a fixture at the box office for much of the past thirty years and has been played by a series of heavyweight actors including Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, and Ben Affleck. In the past, though, the famous bat suit has only been occupied by one performer at a time. Next year, we’ll get to see three different performers in the role.
“Batman” is more than just a comic book character and more than just a movie franchise. Batman toys are popular with children. Clothing with the “Batman” logo makes millions of dollars every year. Even more money is made by the range of “Batman” online slots, which are popular on just about every major online slots website in the world. While there are a lot of television shows and films that make a little ‘side money’ by lending their intellectual property to people who make casino, there were a whole nine official “Batman” online slots at the time of writing. That’s a lot of people playing a lot of games and a whole lot of money being spent on the “Batman” brand. It’s always seemed like it’s never been possible to over-saturate the market with “Batman” content, but 2022 will be the year when that idea gets tested to its outer limit.
The highest-profile “Batman” movie of 2022 will be “The Batman,” which sees former “Twilight” star (and recent arthouse movie fixture) Robert Pattinson making his first appearance in the role. There were briefly fears that the film might have to be pushed back to 2023 due to lockdown conditions in the United Kingdom, which is where the movie is being filmed, but that won’t appear to be the case. Special exemptions are being granted to high profile arts projects, and “The Batman” will continue filming as planned – mostly in and around the city of Liverpool. Fans of the franchise have high hopes for the film, which is said to echo Joaquin Phoenix’s relatively recent “Joker” movie in terms of tone.
Perhaps the worst kept “Batman” secret of them all is the fact that Michael Keaton, who played the part in “Batman” and “Batman Returns” in the late 1980s and early 1990s, will be returning to the part after an absence of more than thirty years. Stories about his impending return first appeared online in mid-2020 but weren’t confirmed until far more recently. We now have a little more detail about the format his return will take. Keaton will be playing “Batman” in what sounds like it might be a minor or cameo role in “The Flash,” which is scheduled for release in November 2022. At the age of 69, he’ll be the oldest actor ever to play the part on film or on television. Oddly, he won’t be the only “Batman” in the film.
Also appearing in “The Flash” is Ben Affleck, who made three appearances as Batman – two in 2016 in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” and a further one in 2017’s “Justice League.” As details about the plot of “The Flash” are being kept as a closely-guarded secret, we’re unsure how this might be achieved. One option would be to have Affleck and Keaton playing the character at different points in his life, while another might be to involve parallel universes or alternative realities.
While the idea of alternative realities might sound too far fetched even for a “Batman” movie, it isn’t out of the question when you consider recent comments made by Walter Hamada, the president of DC Films. He says that the films will take place in two different universes, with Pattinson’s Batman belonging to “Earth 2,” and Keaton and Affleck on “Earth 1.” Interestingly, Hamada used the word “co-existing” to describe Keaton and Affleck, which makes it sound like both incarnations of the character will appear at the same time. All we can infer from that is that “The Flash” sounds like it’s teed up to be a mind-bending movie. While the concept of a ‘multiverse’ has been successfully attempted on the big screen before, it’s the first time that the “Batman” franchise has dipped its toes in such potentially confusing waters.
While Keaton has never previously suggested that he’d be opposed to returning to the part, the return of Affleck is something of a surprise. When he announced he was stepping down from the role in 2017, he attributed his decision to losing his passion for the part and believing that the character would be better handled by someone for whom it had been a lifelong dream to play it. A three-year rest might have been all it took for him to rediscover his passion. Either that or DC Films have made him an offer that was impossible to turn down.
The risk of focusing so heavily on Batman is that the character of the Flash is at risk of being overshadowed in his titular movie. That will be a challenge for actor Ezra Miller, who doesn’t have the same profile as his two co-stars. The content of the script might balance things out, but at the moment, it appears that “The Flash” is at risk of being upstaged in his own movie. With so many Batman-related announcements being made, it feels more like a Batman movie with the character of the Flash in it rather than a movie about the Flash. If the intention is to launch a new “Flash” franchise and make it as popular as “Batman,” DC Films might struggle.
Now all of this news is confirmed, we can’t wait to see the first pictures of Keaton and Affleck on set and in character. We don’t know for sure whether either of them will put the Batsuit back on again or whether they’ll be restricted to playing Bruce Wayne, but it will be a pleasure to see them return to their most famous roles no matter what happens. 2022 feels like it’s a long time away right now, but it will be here faster than we realize, and it’s going to be a great time for fans of comic book movies.