There will be more than one Batman in the upcoming Flash movie. Yes, the DC universe has confirmed that Michael Keaton will be throwing on the cape and cowl once more to play the iconic Dark Knight.
For many, Michael Keaton was the definitive Bruce Wayne/Batman. While his two Batman films were of a different generation and style, they remain some of the best Batman movies around. Michael Keaton also had a calm, charismatic, and emotional energy that the other Batman's just haven't quite nailed. Although, the likes of Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck have all brought something of their own to the beloved character. Here's hoping Robert Pattinson will do the same in next year's The Batman.
To this day, fans of 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns, which were directed by Tim Burton, are unhappy they didn't get a direct sequel. Even more so, they were upset that Michael Keaton left the franchise, handing things over to Val Kilmer and director Joel Schumacher. And let's face it, Batman Forever and its sequel, Batman & Robin, tanked the franchise for many years.
But Michael had some legitimate reasons he didn't return for a third movie.
Tim Burton Departing Had A Lot To Do With Michael's Decision
While Michael Keaton stuck around for discussions and development of his third Batman movie longer than director Tim Burton did, the famed director's departure didn't help matters.
Tim Burton's first Batman film in 1989 was a massive hit. Audiences loved Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Tim's gothic/noir style, and, of course, Michael Keaton as the titular character.
But Tim Burton's sequel received mixed reactions. While many die-hard fans actually prefer Batman Returns to Batman, mainly because of Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfieffer's excellent performances as The Penguin and Catwoman respectively, the studio didn't.
According to Den Of Geek, Batman Returns grossed a whopping $266 million in the worldwide box office but parents groups and (more importantly) McDonald's were furious. This is because the movie had been marketed to kids but presented a lot of adult themes, violence, and the Penguin's oozing green goo that Tim Burton joked reminded McDonald's of the food they feed America.
Because of this, Warner Brothers wanted to reevaluate the franchise. They invited Tim Burton in for a meeting but he could tell that they didn't want him to return to the project. The Beetlejuice director was already planning out what he would do with his third movie, which would've involved Billy Dee Williams returning as Harvey Dent and becoming Two-Face. But after Tim got the vibe that he was no longer wanted, he ditched the scene in favor of a Superman movie that never was.
Warner Brothers decided to bring on Joel Schumacher who was happy to design costumes and vehicles that would work nicely as toys in Happy Meals. The movie got a major facelift, as did the script...
Michael Had Big Problems With The Script
During The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast in 2017, Michael Keaton revealed that the biggest reason for his departure was that the script for Batman Forever "sucked."
During the discussion about the third movie in the franchise, Michael said, “The script never was great. I didn’t understand why [Schumacher] wanted to do what he wanted to do… I knew it was in trouble when he said, ‘Why does everything have to be so dark?’”
Clearly, Michael (like many of us) wasn't enthralled with Joel Schumacher's vibrant and comic-book-like style. Instead, he preferred the gritty, gothic, graphic novel look that Tim Burton captured so well in the first two movies.
Additionally, Michael was hoping for a much more personal Batman story for his third outing. Especially given the negative reactions to Batman Returns from the child-friendly market. Still, he tried to stick around for a bit of development to keep an open mind... That, and they were paying him a lot of money.
In an interview with the Guardian, he said, "I tried to be patient, but after a certain point, I was like, I can’t take this anymore, this is going to be horrible. But, look, there was some really horrible taste in the ’90s, and I probably contributed to that, unfortunately."
He also added, "It was a time of nouveau riche excess – everyone was known for their jets and their stuff. And I thought, I’m in this job for the long run, I don’t want this. And the truth is, I’m not boasting, but I was correct.”
While we're unhappy that Michael Keaton left the Batman franchise, he definitely made the right choice in avoiding Batman Forever.
While we never got the Batman 3 that we deserved, it looks as though that we might get something memorable in the upcoming Flash movie where Michael Keaton will return as Batman in an alternative dimension flick where Ben Affleck will be Batman as well.