For years, Warner Bros. has tried—and mostly failed—to use its DC superhero movies to imitate what Disney has been doing with Marvel, introducing characters in their own solo movies and then putting them together for a big team-up movie (though only Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman really got introductions like that before Justice League came along). Now, though, the studio has landed on a brilliant idea that plays to its own strengths rather than mimicking Marvel’s, and it might give DC just the push it needs to get its superhero movies back on track—and by “its own strengths” we’re specifically referring to one of the best damn things to come out of a DC superhero movie: Michael Keaton’s Batman.
According to Deadline, Keaton is currently “in early talks” to reprise his role as Batman (as seen in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and its 1992 sequel), but rather than being the focus of his own adventure, he’d be taking on a more advisory role to a new generation of heroes. Deadline refers to it as a “Nick Fury-like” gig, and while that does mean this is once again explicitly imitating Marvel (referring to Samuel L. Jackson’s role as the guy who ties together all of the Marvel movies, one way or another), it’s hard to object to that when we’re talking about the freakin’ Michael Keaton Batman.
The specific details of how this would work are even more exciting, and not just because it would apparently mean excising Justice League and Ben Affleck’s Batman from the canon of DC’s movie universe. Deadline says this would specifically pick up Keaton-Batman’s story after Batman Returns, meaning he would be playing the same Batman who broke up Joker’s museum date and fought off murder penguins at the abandoned Gotham zoo, and he would be serving as a mentor in the upcoming Flash and Batgirl movies. (This would also give them a chance to recast the Flash, if they were maybe looking for an excuse to do that, since keeping Ezra Miller would be a meaningless connection to a series of now-unrelated movies.)
Deadline cautions that a deal between Keaton and Warner Bros. “may not happen,” but c’mon, this is has to happen. We know budgets might be a little tighter with Zack Snyder shoveling barrels of cash into his new version of Justice League, but this is the Michael Keaton Batman we’re talking about. Pay him whatever he wants.