The Flash: Batman Set Photo Could Be Teasing Villain From Dark Knight’s Past

Did we just learn who the villain of The Flash movie is? Is it...another Batman?!

The Flash Batman
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s safe to say there’s never been a DC movie quite like The Flash.

Yes, this is a movie about Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen, the DCEU’s superhero youngster who is still learning the ropes since his team-up with the grown-ups in 2017’s Justice League, but the film is also much bigger than that. Not only will it feature many of the greatest superheroes in comic book history, but it will bring in Batmen from two separate movie universes, as well as Supergirl (Sasha Calle), to team up with the Scarlet Speedster for a multiverse-spanning adventure.

But in a movie as stacked as this one, the biggest draw of all is undoubtedly the return of Michael Keaton as the Burtonverse version of the Dark Knight. It will be the first time Keaton has donned the cape and cowl since 1992’s Batman Returns‘ much grimmer tone killed Tim Burton’s chances of making a third movie. If you’re not sure how it’s possible for Keaton’s Batman to just show up in a DCEU movie set in the modern day, don’t worry, Keaton doesn’t either. What’s important is that Keaton’s return seems to be setting him up as Barry’s new mentor from another universe, even though the Flash will also have his own universe’s Batman to help him out, with Ben Affleck also back in the tights despite seemingly exiting the role a few years ago after just two films.

While we know little about how these worlds are ultimately going to collide, we’ve already caught glimpses of both Keaton and Affleck’s Batmen in The Flash, thanks to photos released from the movie’s set. But if you thought director Andy Muschietti’s Keaton suit tease was wild, you’re probably not ready for the new photo he posted on Instagram over the weekend:

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Yes, that’s Keaton’s Batman Returns suit painted red with a Flash symbol across the chest. What the hell is going on? Is this just a wink at the audience to promote the team up…or is this an actual version of the suit someone is going to where in this movie?

Well, if it is teasing a plot point in the film, the most logical theory is that at some point in the movie Barry’s going to be in need of a new suit after his first one is destroyed or lost or something worse, eventually leading to the epic moment when Keaton passes on his costume to the Flash, like a passing of the torch between an old generation of heroes and a new one. But Barry isn’t a Batman, so he turns it into a Flash suit with some red and yellow spray paint cans.

What if it isn’t Barry in this suit, though? There’s a small (extremely unlikely) chance that Muschietti’s new teaser is actually setting up the movie’s villain, which we’ve heard very little about up to this point. While the movie is allegedly based on Flashpoint, a comic book event that saw Barry alter the reality of the DC universe after going back in time to stop his mother from being murdered, which would make Reverse-Flash the likely villain of the piece, it’s possible the movie is drawing from another event completely.

What if this is the suit worn by the Red Death, the villainous speedster version of Batman who was introduced in DC’s 2017 Dark Nights: Metal crossover event?

Batman Red Death

Created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the Red Death hails from the Dark Multiverse, a nightmare realm where different versions of Batman all turned to evil and eventually joined forces to destroy the main DC multiverse. The Red Death is a version of Batman, who, after suffering great tragedy, decides to kidnap and merge with the Flash, acquiring speedster powers for his own gain. Rallying behind the terrifying “Bat-God” Barbatos, a cosmic entity that has a personal vendetta against Bruce Wayne, the Red Death and the rest of the evil “Dark Knights” almost take down the Justice League for good before ultimately being defeated by the Caped Crusader and friends.

While the Bat-Flash suit teased by Muschietti doesn’t really look anything like the Red Death’s, it’s possible The Flash is doing a new take on the villain that more closely connects with Keaton’s Bruce and Miller’s Barry. This is a far-fetched theory to be sure, but this also wouldn’t be the first time Warner Bros. has cherry-picked a Snyder-Capullo creation for live-action (see: the Court of Owls in Gotham).

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That said, the Red Death would definitely be a deep cut for WB, which has many better-known Flash (and Batman) villains to choose from for this movie. Reverse-Flash is definitely the likelier candidate.

We’ll find out what’s behind all this when The Flash hits theaters on Nov. 4, 2022.