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Michael Keaton is back as Batman in The Flash, but wait, is that Christian Bale?

Batmans ‘returns’

Michael Keaton as Batman in The Flash. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

After years of waiting, Warner Bros. finally seems prepared to release The Flash, starring Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen, to a theater near you. And with a release date comes trailers, and with a new trailer comes the first look at Michael Keaton in the batsuit for the first time since 1992’s Batman Returns.

The trailer shows the older Batman teaming up with two versions of the Flash, facing off against Kryptonian baddies like General Zod and rescuing at least one Kryptonian hero, Supergirl. Also, Ben Affleck’s Batman is there.

Wait, Michael Keaton is in The Flash?

Yep! Keaton was in conversations with Warner Bros. about appearing in the film as early as mid-2020, although in 2021 he was still uncertain of whether he’d take the job. Keaton will be playing Batman, and judging by the trailer, he’ll be back in a suit quite comparable to his famous all-black duds with a yellow symbol.

What’s not guaranteed is whether Keaton will be playing Bruce Wayne. The Flash is reportedly based on Flashpoint comic event, in which Batman is actually Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne.

What is Flashpoint?

Flashpoint is a 2011 DC Comics series — written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Andy Kubert — in which Barry Allen traveled back in time to prevent his own mother’s murder, which unintentionally created a strange new timeline in which everything was unequivocably worse. And one of those worse things is that in this timeline, Bruce Wayne was gunned down in Crime Alley, and his parents survived. So, it’s entirely possible that Keaton is playing Thomas Wayne, an even sadder version of Batman than the usual. But Ben Affleck is definitely playing Bruce Wayne from the Snyderverse. We know that.

In the comics, Flashpoint was used as editorial leeway to reset the DC Universe in a line-wide reboot called the New 52. See, when Barry eventually realized he needed to undo the time travel he’d done, he donked it up again, resulting in a permanent change to the main DC setting, resetting some continuities entirely and folding in some of the company’s non-canonical siloes, like Wildstorm and Vertigo, into the main line.

Lots of fans have speculated that The Flash movie could do the same for Warner Bros.’ DC films line. And they may be right. In his recent video announcing the new direction of DC films, WB executive James Gunn said that The Flash is “a movie [...] that resets the entire DC Universe.”

But here’s a twist: Keaton was also set to reprise his role in the Batgirl movie that Warner Bros. recently shot... then completely scrapped. And Gunn says the newly announced The Brave and the Bold Batman movie will cast an entirely new actor in the Bruce Wayne role. So The Flash may be a one and done for Keaton’s Batman.

Is Christian Bale’s Batman in The Flash?

Batman speeds away from a falling cop car on his motorcycle in The Flash. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Don’t let that shot of Batman on a motorcycle fool you! Sure, it does look a lot like the “batpod,” the motorcycle Batman rides in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. But there’s been no hint that Christian Bale is attached to The Flash (although some extremely dubious rumor sites are teasing the possibility). The design of this cycle is almost certainly intended as homage — or there are simply only so many ways you can make a vehicle look like it belongs to Batman without making it look silly. But so far, there’s no confirmation or even hint from Warner Bros. that Bale will return.

I mean come on, three Batmans in a single story? That would be absurd.