Just last week, Jason Momoa revealed in an Instagram post that Ben Affleck’s Batman would make an appearance in the upcoming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. The news came as a surprise, particularly because Affleck had publicly stated he was done with “IP movies” and because it seemed like two different men had already replaced him as Batman: Robert Pattinson, who starred in this spring’s The Batman, and Michael Keaton, who played the Dark Knight in the late 1980s and early 1990s and is scheduled to return in the upcoming movie of The Flash.
Now it sounds like the story of Affleck’s return in Aquaman might be more complicated than it first appeared. A Hollywood Reporter article predominantly about the also-surprising decision to shelve Warner Bros.’ Batgirl movie that was already deep into production and would have co-starred Michael Keaton’s Batman reveals that Keaton had also filmed a scene for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
But the THR piece claims that test audiences found this scene “confusing, as it was unclear why Keaton’s Batman was in this universe.” That’s likely because the movie that reintroduces Keaton’s character is The Flash, which was initially planned to open before Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, but is now premiering next fall while Aquaman is due this coming spring. Without The Flash, a Keaton appearance in Aquaman would need a lot of explaining. (THR says Keaton was originally planned as the DC Universe’s equivalent of Nick Fury, “an elder statesman who could pop up in multiple films and offer guidance.”)
The article then speculates that the fact that Affleck filmed a scene as Batman for Aquaman 2 suggests that “Keaton had been replaced with Affleck’s version of the character.” So while this is not confirmed, it also seems possible that we’ve reached a point where Keaton’s performance as Batman in two movies — Batgirl and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom — might just vanish into some Warner Bros. vault somewhere. (And what does this mean for The Flash? Why would Warner Bros. get rid of all these Keaton Batman appearances if they still have his big return due in about a year?)
Between Batgirl and Aquaman, all these reports point to some huge shakeups coming to the DC movie universe in the near future. In addition to Aquaman 2 and The Flash, Warner Bros. currently has Black Adam with Dwayne Johnson planned for this fall, and Shazam 2 due in December. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is scheduled to open in theaters on March 17, 2023. But at the rate things are going, I wouldn’t bet my life on any of these movies coming out as advertised.
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