Michael Keaton's Batman Was Going To Be The Nick Fury Of The DC Movies

If you thought the fiasco that is the winding down of the DCEU finished with "The Flash" and its historic failure at the box office, think again. Warner Bros. is now in the difficult position of having to build hype for James Gunn and Peter Safran's upcoming slate of DC films, which will reset the on-screen DC Universe, while simultaneously gearing up for the release of "Blue Beetle" and "Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom," both of which are relics from the pre-Gunn/Safran age.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, that hasn't stopped the studio spending money on the latter in order to make it a better film, with the outlet reporting there have been extensive rounds of reshoots and test screenings in the run up to "The Lost Kingdom" debuting on December 20, 2023. And one casualty of this whole debacle has been Michael Keaton's Batman, who, at one time, was envisioned as a Nick Fury-esque mentor character for the DC Universe.

Keaton's Dark Knight obviously perished (multiple times) during the ultimate battle against Zod at the end of "The Flash." But prior to succumbing to Kryptonian might, the character was supposed to be a mainstay of the DC Universe going forward. Before it was shelved, we knew "Batgirl" had at least one scene in which Barbara Gordon met Keaton's Batman. In fact, back when Keaton's "The Flash" casting was first, confirmed there was talk of his Dark Knight becoming to DC what Samuel L. Jackson's S.H.I.E.L.D director was to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Deadline reporting as much in early 2020. Now, though, it seems that idea is as dead as Keaton's Batman himself, which, considering how many times the poor guy was dispatched in "The Flash," essentially means it's utterly wiped out.

You wanna get nuts? Let's get nuts!

The vision for Michael Keaton's Batman becoming the DCEU's version of Nick Fury came from former DC Films head Walter Hamada, according to THR. But the man who oversaw the original, $1 billion-grossing "Aquaman," alongside the entire rise and fall of the Snyderverse, conspicuously stepped down from his position in October 2022. Since then, most of his plans for a newly invigorated DCEU have been scrapped, clearing the way for James Gunn and Peter Safran's vision for a rebooted on-screen universe.

Rearranging everything in the wake of Hamada's exit was not only difficult for Warner Bros., it sounds like a complete disaster, especially when it came to deciding which films Keaton was going to appear in. THR reports that the "Birdman" star had filmed a cameo for "Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom," which was originally set for a December 2022 release before being bumped to March 2023. But after the delay-plagued "The Flash" eventually received a June 2023 release, Keaton was replaced by Ben Affleck, who shot a new version of what would have been Keaton's cameo. After that, "Aquaman" star Jason Momoa posted a photo of him and Affleck, seemingly confirming his return as Bruce Wayne in the upcoming sequel.

Following that whole ordeal, "The Lost Kingdom" was once again moved, this time being given a release date after "The Flash." That essentially made Affleck's appearance unnecessary, with THR reporting that the latest cut of "Aquaman 2" "features neither version of the Dark Knight." And honestly, that seems like the best way to go. Not only did "The Flash" fail to do justice to Keaton's iconic Batman, the movie was an unmitigated box office failure, once again suggesting that a full-scale reboot of the DC Universe is beyond overdue.

What could have been

Unsurprisingly, this latest report mentions that neither James Gunn nor Peter Safran were too excited about building up a new DC shared universe that had a good chance of never coming to fruition — even if it had Michael Keaton's Batman at its center. While the veteran star would have done a fine job as the Nick Fury of the DCU, the films in which he was set to appear would likely have followed the same trajectory as all the other recent DC failures, from "Black Adam" to the box office disaster that was "Shazam: Fury of the Gods."

At one point, there were seemingly plans for Keaton to assume a similar mentorship role in a "Batman Beyond" movie penned by "The Flash" scribe Christina Hodson, which really doesn't sound like a bad idea, and would have likely worked out better than Keaton assuming the mantle of elder statesman for the entire doomed DCEU. Not only have fans been waiting for a "Beyond" movie for some time, Keaton remains the greatest Batman ever, and this would have no doubt been a more fitting return for him than slotting him between the unevenness of "The Flash."

But at this point, we don't need to worry about any of that. James Gunn is gearing up for "Superman: Legacy," which is set to kick off his new slate of DC movies in 2025. Walter Hamada and his vision of a Keaton-shepherded DCEU are long gone, and Warner Bros. faces a tough time ahead as it battles superhero fatigue and an audience that particularly doesn't seem interested in anything DC unless it's Batman or the Joker. When "Aquaman 2" does arrive, it'll be interesting to see what, if anything, remains of the world Keaton was supposed to oversee.

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