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How Both Affleck And Keaton Are Returning To Their Batman Roles In The Same Movie

The long-awaited Flash movie is set to expand the DC Universe in a significant way with the appearance of not just one, but two iterations of Batman. 

In a shocking development, Justice League star Ben Affleck will reprise his role as the Dark Knight in the Ezra Miller-led Flash solo movie from director Andy Muschietti. Also appearing: Michael Keaton, who was previously rumored to be suiting up for another go as his vision of the Caped Crusader from 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns. The news of Affleck's appearance came as a particular surprise to fans, as the actor had seemingly walked away from the iconic character for good after Justice League's poor critical reception and Affleck's proposed Batman standalone — to be written and directed by the star — was shelved. 

On Saturday, during DC's 24-hour virtual FanDome event, it became more apparent how exactly The Flash would make this happen. During the speedster's brief panel, the film's creative team confirmed that Barry Allen's solo spotlight debut would officially be introducing the concept of a multiverse to DC's cinematic landscape. With the virtual presentation lasting a scant ten minutes and the project still waiting to go before cameras, the director, screenwriter, and star referenced the multiverse's origins in The Flash comics, particularly the significance of the 2011 Flashpoint crossover event that rocked the entire DC timeline.

This confirms that Barry Allen's big screen adventures would see him messing with the time-space continuum, ultimately changing the fabric of DC media as we know it. "Time travel isn't simple," Flash screenwriter Christina Hodson explained. "It's not always a straightforward case of 'go back and change one thing, and another thing changes in the future.'"

Between the mentions of various comic storylines and Hodson's statement on the mechanics of time travel, the Flash won't just be moving through his own world's timeline. He'll likely be jumping across time and space into other universes, paving the way for run-ins with multiple Batmen, not to mention different iterations of other DC heroes. 

Affleck's Batman will help lay the groundwork for the trip of Miller's Flash through the speed force

Early reports of Affleck's return as one of DC's most legendary heroes came with a slight caveat. While the Justice League version of Batman will reprise his role, it is (for now) his only appearance in an upcoming DC project (not counting new footage appearing in the Snyder Cut when it finally drops in 2021). That may be sad news for Batfleck fans, but it does reaffirm that Barry Allen will begin his story in the same universe as the one we've seen him in before. In the Vanity Fair interview announcing Affleck's return, Muschietti explained that the relationship between Barry and Bruce seen in both the theatrical version of Justice League and the Snyder Cut is built into the narrative foundation of his film. 

"It's Barry's movie, it's Barry's story, but their characters are more related than we think," Muschietti explained. "They both lost their mothers to murder, and that's one of the emotional vessels of the movie. That's where the Affleck Batman kicks in." 

Establishing that emotional connection between the two to help tell Allen's story isn't the only reason Muschietti wanted Affleck in his Flash film. For his vision of Flashpoint to work, both Barry and the audience need a familiar starting point. "[Affleck's] the baseline. He's part of that unaltered state before we jump into Barry's adventure," the director said. "There's a familiarity there."

Keaton's version of Batman, which will call back to Tim Burton's films, presumably then appears during Barry's movement through Muschietti's vision of the speed force, which screenwriter Hodson teased at DC FanDome as "literally unlike anything you've ever seen before." 

"This movie is a bit of a hinge in the sense that it presents a story that implies a unified universe where all the cinematic iterations that we've seen before are valid," Muschietti told Vanity Fair. "It's inclusive in the sense that it is saying all that you've seen exists, and everything that you will see exists, in the same unified multiverse."

The Snyder Cut of Justice League may help set up multiple Batmen

As the speedster's first solo film, The Flash will have a lot of work to do in terms of establishing Ezra Miller's cinematic version of the fastest man alive. But during the Snyder Cut panel at DC's FanDome, the Justice League director teased that the speedster's solo debut may have some help setting up Barry Allen's latest adventure. Not only did Snyder promise that viewers would "see tons more of the Flash," he specifically revealed that audiences would be privy to "a little bit more of his emotional arc" and a wider range of abilities. 

"You're gonna see something with the Flash in this film I don't think that you've ever seen before. Something that has to do with his abilities," Snyder teased. "Because you know he's a quantum character. He interacts with time and space, so you might see him do something that is timely." 

While there's plenty of aesthetic and tonal reasons to see Zack Snyder's original vision of Justice League, arguably the most exciting thing about his cut arriving in 2021 on HBO Max is the actual narrative. On numerous occasions, the director has teased how despite involving mostly the same cast of characters, it will tell a noticeably different story and will give more space for the Justice League's heroes to develop on screen. 

Whatever happens, we'll have plenty more answers to look forward to about just how Affleck and Keaton will share the screen.