Michael Keaton Returns As Batman?

Well this is a big surprise: Michael Keaton is in talks with DC and Warner Bros. Studios to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne aka Batman in the upcoming DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film The Flash. Even more surprising is that this version of Batman will be the same version seen decades ago in the original Tim Burton films, Batman and Batman Returns.

Of course, the big question among fans is how is this possible? There is already a Batman (portrayed by Ben Affleck) in the DCEU that does not mesh with the continuity of the Burton films. The best and most likely answer has to be the appearance of the Keaton Batman must be due to the Flashpoint event shown in the DC comics and The Flash TV show where Barry Allen aka the Flash runs fast enough to time travel and changes history, In this story, Barry Allen prevents his mother’s murder and his reality changes. This event led to last decade’s reboot of the DC Universe, the New 52.

This event could be used to allow the Flash to travel through different realities or the multiverse as shown in the Arrowverse crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, which aired earlier this year and where the TV version of the Flash met the DCEU incarnation played by Ezra Miller. There are already rumors the film will show that encounter from the viewpoint of the Miller version of the Flash. In fact, the Burton Batman universe was briefly seen in the crossover event during a montage in the first episode. Perhaps the Flash will be visiting other multiverses in a much higher scale *meaning a larger production budget that can afford cameos by A-list actors) than seen in the TV event. It is unknown what will be the extent of Keaton’s appearance but it’s unlikely he will have a huge role but will hopefully be more than a glorified cameo. This also gives validity to the fan theory that The Flash will be used to rewrite the DCEU and replace certain actors and retcon what has happened in previous DCEU films, just as Flashpoint rebooted the DC Universe in the comic books.  However, there are also rumors that the Keaton Batman will appear in other DCEU films in a similar connecting fashion as Agent Coulson or Nick Fury did for the MCU films. Exactly how this will pan out if this Batman will be the original Keaton Batman remains to be seen.

On the other hand, this may not come to pass and either the Keaton Batman will play a small role in an altered reality that mentors the Flash or Michael Keaton may change his mind or someone else will be tapped to fill in the role. Is Christian Bale willing to talk to Warner Bros. about this? Even seeing George Clooney as Bruce Wayne for a cameo would be awesome! It would be terrific if other big name actors who played DC heroes in the past could appear in The Flash. This would be perfect for Ryan Reynolds to come back as Green Lantern and leave a better impression with the role or if the film could somehow incorporate elements from the Christopher Reeve Superman films. 

The important thing to remember is that this is supposed to be a film about the Flash, not the DC multiverse. As long as director Andy Muschietti keeps the focus on Barry Allen and his story (and if the film actually gets made) then the film will be a phonemenal presentation of the Scarlet Speedster as he meets the other wondrous characters in the DC multiverse.

 

Crisis With The Arrowverse TV Shows

Lately, headlines announced some issue or another befallen one Arrowverse TV show after the other, and this gives the impression that  the Arrowverse TV shows are in trouble. It seems collectively, the superhero shows hit their peak earlier this year with the crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, and things largely went downhill from there.

This is just a broad generalization, some of the Arrowverse TV shows are doing fine, namely Black Lightning and Stargirl, but there is a sense that these superhero shows have run out of steam and feel dated.

The Hood

Arrow, the show the live-action DC superhero TV universe is named after, concluded its eight-season run earlier this year, just as it had found renewed energy. The reason the show ended was because the main actor who played Green Arrow, Stephen Amell, wanted to leave to resume a more normal life. For anyone, who doesn’t know, these shows are filmed in Canada, which requires the cast and crew to be away from their families. Arrow was justly celebrated when it ended, but there were questions of how the the Arrowverse would continue without its flagship show. Other shows like The Flash have eclipsed Arrow in terms of popularity and ratings, but the Arrowverse still seems empty without Green Arrow stalking around in the dark alleys telling bad guys “You have failed this city!”

Older, remaining Arrowverse shows such as The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl are running low on creativity. For the most part, the episodes and scripts are bland and uninspiring. The Flash ended its season with its main character no longer having his natural powers and his wife trapped in another dimension. But it was so dull and shrug inducing. The Flash has had problems in recent years with coming up with engaging villains and story arcs. For too long, the show relied on evil speedsters, but the new batch of villains are just blah. Then there is the undeniable fact that the actors seem bored and going through some drama, which will be covered shortly. It is just a shame, given the excitement most fans felt for the show and its lead character after the thrilling encounter between the TV version of the Flash with his DCEU counterpart during “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. The crossover event was supposed to provide a new spark of creative energy but very little has happened aside from some Flash villains being reimagined and not very well; although Lex Luthor’s revamping in Supergirl was interesting.  At the very least the meeting between the two Flashes rekindled interest in the upcoming movie version of the Flash.

Legends of Tomorrow is a mere shadow of its initial premise: C-list superheroes who time travel to get some respect. That is still there somewhere but it has been buried lately in these nonsensical magic-related plots and most of the original cast is gone. Some of the replacements are not very compelling, though to its credit Legends of Tomorrow does a decent job of being goofy and funny. Some episodes are very humorous and the show wisely figured out long ago not to take itself too seriously and embraced its comedic tone. However, other shows like Doom Patrol overshadowed Legends of Tomorrow by being quirkier and more insightful superhero shows.

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Arrow Hits Its Mark

“My name is Oliver Queen. I was stranded on an island with only one goal, survive. Now I will fulfill my father’s dying wish to use the list of names he left me and bring down those who are poisoning my city. To do this I must become someone else. I must become something else.” — Oliver Queen’s opening intro to Arrow, first season

The long-running superhero TV series Arrow just aired its final episode “Fadeout” on the CW. As series finales go, “Fadeout” was surprisingly well put together and a fitting conclusion to Arrow. The series had its ups and downs during its eight-season run but generally was a solid superhero show that introduced a larger DC universe that was appropriately dubbed the Arrowverse.

When Arrow premiered on October 2012, there was some trepidation over it. Some saw it as a weak version of Batman, specifically the Christopher Nolan version because of its initial grounded feel. Others unfairly complained Arrow’s version of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow was not the one played by Justin Hartley in Smallville. Keep in mind, Smallville ended its run a year earlier and it was hoped then that some spinoff would be created from that show. Instead the character was reimagined by Arrow’s showrunners, Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg.

The Hood

However, thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of actor Stephen Amell as the title hero and the shows’ supporting cast, Arrow quickly won over many viewers. Looking back, it made sense that the show had a grittier and less fantastical feel than standard superhero fare. Amell’s Green Arrow (first called “The Hood”) was an intense, no-nonsense hero who took no quarter. This enabled the showrunners to tell solid stories about crime and corruption in Oliver Queen’s Starling City and his quest to save his city.

Establishing A Universe

In many ways the sophomore season of Arrow was among its best with its ongoing story of Oliver Queen’s confrontation with Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, who was so well played by Manu Bennett. A distinctive feature of Arrow was its use of flashbacks in most episodes that interwove or were relevant with current storylines. The flashbacks during the show’s early days focused on Oliver’s adventures when he was marooned on the island Lian Yu. This structure paid off handsomely in the second season as we saw him first meeting and befriending Wilson on the island and how the two became bitter enemies. Meanwhile, the current storyline in the second season featured the return of Deathstroke and his machinations to destroy Queen and his city.

Naturally, as the show found its footing and gained in popularity, the DC universe was introduced. To Arrow’s credit this was done organically and not rushed. It started with blink-and-you-miss-them Easter eggs and the introduction of more superhuman-related plot devices like the strength-enhancing drug mirakuru or characters like Huntress, Deathstroke and later Barry Allen/The Flash. This introduction of the larger DC universe, as well as its driving plot lines helped propel the show’s popularity late into its first season and during its second.

While the show introduced viewers to the Flash (who was soon spun off into his own series), it also featured other distinctive DC Comics characters like Black Canary, Wild Dog, Ragman Batwoman, and Supergirl, who were often introduced in series crossover events or became important supporting characters.

One outstanding character was Queen’s confidante and best friend John Diggle (David Ramsey). Although Diggle was an original character, many speculated he was a stand-in for the Green Lantern, John Stewart. The showrunners teased fans with cloy Easter eggs throughout the show’s run such as the revelation that Diggle’s stepfather’s last name was Stewart. Finally, in the last few minutes of “Fadeout” it was shown that Diggle was on his way to becoming Green Lantern to the delight of many. However, do not expect more to be made of this. Even though Greg Berlanti is developing a Green Lantern series for the upcoming streaming app HBO Max, it is doubtful Ramsey will continue to play the role or that the show will be part of the Arrowverse. The best we can hope for is that Ramsey will reprise his role as Green Lantern in other Arrowverse shows like The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow. Incidentally, John Diggle is slated to appear in an upcoming episode of The Flash this season, but he won’t be Green Lantern.

Diggle finds green lantern ring

Another notable character introduced in the show was Ray Palmer/The Atom, who was played by Brandon Routh. When Brandon Routh was first announced to portray Palmer, it seemed like stunt casting since he portrayed Superman in Superman Returns. This casting turned out to resurrect Routh’s career as he was promoted to the show lead in Legends of Tomorrow and excelled in his performance as the goofy scientist. As many know, Routh’s redemption came full circle when he reprised his role as Superman in the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse crossover event.

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The Fallout From Justice League

Come together

This was not how things were supposed to turn out for Warner Bros. and DC. Justice League, the culmination of the studio’s version of their own shared cinematic universe, is not getting the reception they were expecting. The film’s main selling point was the fact that it featured the long-awaited teamup of DC Comics’ greatest superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. However, its opening weekend take was only $94 million, the lowest for any film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It’s being ravaged by critics and it’s not drawing in the numbers it should be. Now, Justice League’s weak performance brings up a very important question, where does the DCEU go from here?

DCEU’s Uncertain Status

It is foolish to think plans for the DCEU will continue as if anything is wrong. Something has to change. Surely, Warner Bros. executives are taking a long, hard look at their superhero franchise and determining how viable it is. Expect announced films to be canceled, new personnel, and other radical changes to the DCEU, including a reboot.

The DCEU will not suddenly go away. Right now, Aquaman has finished filming and is slated for next year. Then a sequel for the successful Wonder Woman will certainly be made given Wonder Woman is the DCEU’s biggest hit. A Shazam film is also slated to begin filming next year to join the Wonder Woman sequel for release in 2019.

An Aquaman solo film…dig it

After that things get murky. There will be a Batman solo film directed by Matt Reeves, but that has been mired in controversy. Originally, Ben Affleck was to direct and star in The Batman, but the actor/director has had a falling out with Warner Bros. and first it was announced that he would only star in The Batman. That began the Internet rumblings that he would vacate the role, which is too bad since he is quite good as Batman. Adding fuel to the fire are Affleck’s recent statements suggesting that he is ready to move on from the role. At this point, it may be easier for DC and Warner Bros. to set the film apart from the DCEU.

Affleck’s swan song?

To date, there aren’t any solid plans to give Superman a sequel to Man of Steel and it’s unknown if it will ever happen. Henry Cavill, who portrays Superman, is contracted for one more film and it is possible that Warner Bros. and DC may just have him appear in someone else’s film before recasting the role. It is a shame because Cavill, like Affleck, has done an excellent job in portraying the superhero, but it is not the end of the world. As we saw with Spider-Man it is fairly easy to replace actors, though overall, it is regrettable that we may never see a full evolution of Superman into a beacon of hope as shown in the end of Justice League.

Other projects with uncertain fates include Batgirl, Gotham City Sirens, Green Lantern Corps, Cyborg and a Suicide Squad sequel. Given the problems Warner Bros. has had with its core superheroes it may be best to put those projects on hold so they can right their cinematic ship.

A Flashpoint To The Future

On a related note, a Flash solo film has been stuck in development hell for years as writers and directors join then leave the project. Most recently, the film is supposed to be an adaptation of the Flashpoint mini-series where the Flash time travels and resets the DC Universe. Using this storyline would give Warner Bros. a convenient way of rebooting the DCEU, but the story, with its alternate takes on characters and situations, sounds expensive and may go over the heads of casual viewers. It would be easier for the film studio to just do a hard reboot without any explanation. This has worked in the past for other franchises, and the one instance where time travel was used to reboot a franchise was Star Trek and it left fans with a bad taste.

Flash to the reboot/rescue?

One option for the studio is to repeat what happened with Wonder Woman. The solo film was set in the past and largely apart from the DCEU. Reportedly, the sequel will also take place in the past and this example could be a way to ease out of the DCEU. The same thing can be done with Aquaman and Shazam; remove references to the DCEU and focus on the characters. That is why Wonder Woman succeeded. Concentrate on solo films with little to no references to a larger universe and let the shared universe grow organically.

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And A Justice League For All

Justice League is the latest film for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise and I think it is one of the best. Once again, a DCEU film has for some bizarre reason received a divisive reception, but to me this film works on just about every level. The story continues from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and in a nutshell, shows Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) seeking out other meta-human super heroes: Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg )Ray Fisher) to form a team capable of stopping an alien invasion led by supervillain Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds).
The action and stunts in this movie are top notch and the story is relatively straightforward. Some would say too much so since it is a two-hour film as opposed to Batman v. Superman, which was two and a half hours long. I would have liked to have seen more world-building and perhaps another 10-15 minutes of runtime to do so, but Justice League still did not feel rushed to me. Another complaint I’ve heard is the CGI, especially with Superman’s missing facial hair due to actor Henry Cavill having a mustache during reshoots. There were maybe a few seconds where I noticed this, but it did not ruin any scenes and the rest of the effects in the movie were quite good. Everything from Cyborg’s armor to Steppenwolf’s parademons were all well done. The fight scenes were a thrill to watch and the history lesson shown early in the film that depicts a previous invasion was a special treat since it shows alien Green Lanterns for the first time in the DCEU, as well as massive armies of Atlanteans and Amazonian warriors facing off against the hordes of Apokalips. I do wish this scene was longer to set up the whole invasion storyline, but what we did see was great.
 
The acting was also a positive as the chemistry between the team members was a highlight. Ben Affleck continues his role as the definitive live-action Batman, Gal Gadot is just as good as she was in this summers big hit Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller(the Flash) provides hysterical comic relief as the youngest member of the team, Ray Fisher is effective as the troubled hero Cyborg and Jason Momoa gives fans a good preview of Aquaman, the next DCEU film in December 2018. The underwater battle sequence shown was a sight to behold and should be great to see for a whole film come next year. Finally, Henry Cavill returns as the iconic Superman. His resurrection is handled well and showcases his awesome powers as things don’t go quite the way Batman planned because Supes isn’t in a good mood when he does wakes up. His eventual return to battling the villains is a great moment and gives fans their first glimpse of the hopeful Superman in the DCEU they’ve been waiting for. I also enjoyed Steppenwolf’s portrayal by Ciaran Hinds. He was a powerful adversary for the League and his parademons were also scary looking henchmen. I did not see him as a weak villain, however I would have liked to have seen more of where he came from, the planet Apokalips, as well as his ruler Darkseid, who is only mentioned but not seen.
The tone of this film is lighter than Batman v Superman, and there is more banter between the heroes which is not surprising since Joss Whedon took over from Zack Snyder during reshoots. Most of the quips are amusing and they didn’t take away from the stakes the Justice League faced with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Batman is a changed character from the previous film since Superman’s sacrifice and death gave him a new outlook on what it means to be a hero. This propels him first to form the Justice League and then to bring Superman back to life when he realizes that the League are overmatched and need the Man of Steel to get them over the top against Steppenwolf and his legion of parademons. Wonder Woman is shown still dealing with the aftermath of losing Steve Trevor in her solo outing and even argues with Bruce about having to come to terms with your past. I liked seeing this character progression and it seems to bring the heroes full circle from where they started in previous films.
 
Aside from the minor quibbles of the shorter run time and mustaches, Justice League is a film that I definitely enjoyed. The ending sets up further adventures for our heroes and villains with a  post-credit scene (SPOILER ALERT!) showing a freed Lex Luthor wanting to create his own group of supervillains starting with Deathstroke. Whether this happens or not is unclear due to the mixed reception the film has gotten.
I would love to see another JL film, especially if it features the League battling a rival group of supervillains and having Green Lantern joining the team as the seventh member. New characters joining the league is hinted at in the end and this is something that should be explored in future films. Previous incarnations of the Justice League in both comic book and animated films, plus, characters like Martian Manhunter and Shazam, would be nice to see. In any case, even if this doesn’t happen, it was great to finally have a live-action Justice League film featuring these legendary characters. It was a pure joy seeing them joining together on the big screen for the first time, showing off their amazing powers, and saving the world. Any future team-up movies with them are something we all can look forward to.
C. S. Link