The Flash Movie Is Already Making Tim Burton’s Batman Universe Better

Michael Keaton’s Batman returns in The Flash, and the multiversal DCEU film is already making Tim Burton’s Batman universe much better. Until very recently, the idea of Michael Keaton reprising his role as Batman in a DCEU Flash movie sounded impossible. However, as superhero films evolve to something much closer to the comic books, the concept of the multiverse has become easier to be adapted to the big screen – and it will be carried onto the DC movies with The Flash revisiting Tim Burton’s Batman universe.


One of the reasons why a franchise made of dozens of DC movies like the DCEU exists is the success of previous Batman movies. With the exception of Batman & Robin, all Batman movies were a hit for Warner Bros. on some level – a history of success that traces back to Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). While Batman had already become DC Comics’ flagship superhero by then, Batman’s pop culture image was still very much associated with the 1966 Adam West show. Despite not being a comic book fan himself, Tim Burton managed to translate some of Batman’s best traits from the comics to the big screen in a movie that redefined the superhero genre. An unusual choice for Batman, Michael Keaton left his mark on the role, and there are many who still consider Keaton to be the best cinematic Batman.

Michael Keaton reprised his role as Batman in Batman Returns, which also saw Tim Burton back in the director chair. Burton consciously made Batman Returns as different from Batman as possible, as both Burton and Michael Keaton did not want to make just a rehash of what had already worked in 1989. Batman Returns was very stylized and had Burton’s print all over it, and the result was a much more divisive film than Batman. Warner Bros. eventually decided to go for a new direction with Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, which saw Val Kilmer replacing Michael Keaton as Batman. Tim Burton’s Batman duology never received any sort of closure on screen, but that will now change with Keaton’s Batman returning in The Flash. It’s clear from The Flash’s first promotional material that Flash will somehow visit Michael Keaton’s Batman Earth, which means that Burton’s iteration of Batman and Gotham City will be revisited. Tim Burton is not involved with The Flash. Even so, having another look at “Earth 89” 32 years after Batman Returns makes for a great addition to Burton’s Batman universe.

The Flash Will Finally End The Burton/Schumacher Canon Debate

Although terms like canon and timeline were not as present in the superhero movie conversation in the ’90s and early 2000s, as they are today, the question of whether or not the Joel Schumacher Batman movies are canon over the Tim Burton ones has been sparking debates for years. The four Batman movies released between 1989 and 1997 were very much anthologies, as there was never a strong connecting thread between them. Still, it’s clear that Batman Returns is a sequel to Batman and that Batman & Robin is a sequel to Batman Forever. However, it was never made clear whether Batman Forever is supposed to be interpreted as a Batman Returns sequel, or if the Joel Schumacher Batman films have nothing to do with the Burton ones. Val Kilmer’s casting as Batman and the jarring contrast in tone suggest that the Schumacher movies are not canon to the Burton ones. Still, the fact Michael Gough and Pat Hingle reprised their roles as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon respectively in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin makes things complicated.

DC never answered the Burton/Schumacher canon question, but what is known is that Burton’s plans for a third Batman movie were completely different from Batman Forever’s plot. Now, decades later, The Flash will finally settle the debate. Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne will have his own legacy and a three-decade-long journey as Batman behind him in The Flash, and unless things like Chris O’ Donnel’s Robin or Jim Carrey’s Riddlerplan are mentioned, the DCEU film will cement the Tim Burton Batman films as their own continuity apart from the Joel Schumacher ones.

The Flash Will Settle Whether The Batman ‘89 Comic Is Canon

Similar to the Joel Schumacher Batman canon debate, The Flash will also settle whether the Batman ‘89 comic series is canon to the Burton movies. Batman ‘89, a six-part story taking place after the events of Batman Returns, was published by DC Comics between 2021 and 2022. Batman (1989) co-writer Sam Hamm wrote the Batman ‘89 comic, but Tim Burton had no involvement in the project. Batman ‘89 ignores Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, and it loosely adapts Burton’s plans for his Batman Returns sequel. The Batman ‘89 comic was therefore supposed to finally revisit Michael Keaton’s Batman story, but now that The Flash is doing the same thing, nothing guarantees that the DCEU movie will consider the comic canon. If it does, then Batman ‘89 will be considered canon to the Tim Burton Batman movies.

The Flash Adds Fantastical Elements To Tim Burton’s Batman universe

While Tim Burton’s Batman films were not exactly realistic, not in the same sense as Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or even Matt Reeves’ The Batman, there were little to no fantastical elements in Batman and Batman Returns. Granted, Selina Kyle being resurrected by cats or the Penguin commanding an army of penguins was far from realistic, but there was no such thing as superpowers or magic. However, Michael Keaton’s Batman will now get to interact with much more comic-bookish elements in The Flash. Barry Allen will encounter Keaton’s Batman most likely as the result of a failed time travel, a concept that would have never fit into the original Tim Burton Batman films. It took decades for concepts like time travel and multiverse to become common in blockbuster movies, and it will be interesting to see such a stylized world like the one from Keaton’s Batman colliding with a more comic bookish approach like the one in the DCEU films.

The Flash Adds Other Superheros To Tim Burton’s Batman Story

In addition to fantastical elements, The Flash will also add other superheroes to Tim Burton’s Batman story. Batman was the only DC hero to appear in Batman and Batman Returns, and while George Clooney’s Batman namedrops Superman in Batman & Robin, the Tim Burton Batman films never referenced anything that was happening outside of Gotham. Keaton’s Batman will now have the chance of interacting with other superheroes for the first time in The Flash. The first teaser for The Flash revealed two versions of Barry Allen plus Supergirl in what is clearly Keaton’s Batman’s Batcave, proving that Tim Burton’s Bruce Wayne will finally get to meet superpowered heroes. It will be interesting to see if Batman mentions other heroes having existed in his universe, offering more context regarding what happened between Batman Returns and The Flash.

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