After 30 years, Batman is ready to return. Sure, we’ve had more Batmen than ever before, from Ben Affleck’s grizzled Superman stomper to Robert Pattinson’s emo rich boy to George Clooney playing Batman as a handsome movie star who looks and sounds just like George Clooney. And then there’s that wiry guy from Batman and Batman Returns, the guy who sat around Wayne Manor waiting for the Bat-signal to shine.
Few actors have left a more definitive mark on the Dark Knight like Michael Keaton. When Keaton’s Bruce Wayne told Viki Vale that his life was “complex,” audiences believed it. Keaton captured the energy of a guy who only felt comfortable running around in a Batman costume, a guy who longed to meet the Joker or Catwoman or someone else who wanted to get nuts. So great was Keaton in two genre-defining movies that his departure confounds fans even today. Why would anyone give up a third chance to play Batman in a blockbuster movie?
According to a recent conversation with Variety, Keaton said no to Batman Forever because that’s what he does. “I was told that people used to refer to me as ‘Doctor No,’ because apparently, I used to say no a lot,” Keaton revealed. “I don’t think I really said no to that much.”
With such a reputation, Keaton’s decision to step out of the Batcave makes a bit more sense. Which is why it’s such a surprise that he would be game to take on the part again decades later, especially after doing a movie like Birdman, in which Keaton played an actor haunted by a past superhero role. Yet, against all odds, Keaton answered the Bat-signal’s call again when WB finally came knocking, but not just for one DCEU movie, but three: a big role in The Flash, a cameo in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and a supporting role in Batgirl.
Unexpected as it may be, Keaton has the best possible reason for coming back to Gotham City. Simply put: “It seemed like fun,” Keaton told Variety. Looking at the current state of superhero movies, Keaton found himself impressed that they “have their entirely own world.” With so much going on, Keaton admitted that he “was curious what it would be like after this many years.”
Of course, Keaton isn’t exactly a stranger to the modern world of superhero franchises. Many consider his turn as Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming to be one of the best villain performances in the MCU. Also, he was in Morbius.
But despite the key part he played in making the modern superhero movie kingdom, Keaton does not consider himself a fan of the genre, in part because he doesn’t watch any of the movies or shows. “And I don’t say that I don’t watch that because I’m highbrow — trust me! It’s not that,” he hastens to clarify. “It’s just that there’s very little things I watch. I start watching something, and think it is great and I watch three episodes, but I have other shit to do!”
Keaton has indeed been busy as of late. Between his recurring role on the Hulu series Dopesick and appearing in blockbusters such as Disney’s Dumbo, Keaton seems determined to shake off his “Doctor No” reputation. But with Batgirl suddenly shelved, his Aquaman 2 role reshot with Affleck back as Bruce Wayne, and Ezra Miller’s legal troubles putting The Flash in jeopardy, Keaton may not have quite as much shit to do as he previously thought. By all accounts, Keaton has filmed his scenes for all three movies, but since Batgirl cannot legally be shown on any platform, we may never see his Batman back in action if WB eventually decides to pull The Flash too.
Then again, it wasn’t that long ago that we thought Keaton’s Batman was a relic of pre-MCU superhero history. Keaton’s shown that he’s finally ready to say “yes” to the Bat. But will the new regime at WB give him a chance to bring his Batman back to the screens? Time will tell.
The Flash is currently scheduled to hit theaters on June 23, 2023.