‘The Flash’ Ignores Schumacher’s Batman Movies

Does the upcoming The Flash (2023) movie cast Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies aside? While the official trailer for the upcoming blockbuster did give us a proper look at the return of Michael Keaton as Batman, the shorter trailer shown during this year’s converted Super Bowl LVII halftime break revealed a few extra precious shots. One in particular opens up a can of worms labelled Speculation Soup by seemingly confirming that the two Batman movies that Joel Schumacher directed exist in their own separate continuity.

We’re going back to the quartet of Batman movies made through the ’90s. Tim Burton got the ball rolling in a game-changing way with Batman (1989) and then Batman Returns (1991), with Michael Keaton playing The Dark Knight/Bruce Wayne. While both movies earned keen critical and fan assessment, the failure of the second film to live up to the box office expectations set by the first, plus the reaction to the more disturbing, darker elements (McDonald’s famously recalled their Happy Meal tie-in toys) had Warner Bros Studios insisting on a shake-up.

For the third outing, Burton was pushed into a Producer role and Joel Schumacher was hired as Director. While Keaton seemed initially happy with the early discussions over the project, the studio’s insistence on maximizing merchandising potential saw both Burton and Keaton back away.

So, that’s where we come to the question of whether to reboot or recast? The result of Batman Forever (1995) was technically a mixture of the two. While no references were made to the previous movies and there was no attempt to build on any story elements, Michael Gough returned as Alfred, as did Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon. Plus, while tonally Schumacher’s films are more colorful, the design of the universe felt more like an adjustment rather than a reinvention – the Batmobile, for example, looked like an upgrade of the previous version, rather than a redesign.

Just to add a minor complication, Val Kilmer fell out with Joel Schumacher during production of Batman Forever which saw the role of Bruce Wayne recast again, with George Clooney taking on the mantle for the fourth movie. Once again, despite even closer links to the preceding movie and the return of Chris O’Donnell as Dick Grayson, Gough as Alfred and Hingle as Commissioner Gordon, there’s a feeling that Batman and Robin (1997) could be considered a standalone movie as there are no references to Batman Forever and there are several design tweaks, such as the costumes and cars.

So, that brings us back to the Super Bowl slot for The Flash. While being reintroduced to the world of Michael Keaton’s Batman we see a room containing seven Batman suits, each one slightly different but all based on a similar black design with black and yellow insignia. The ones that appear in Batman Forever and Batman and Robin are totally absent. If this is a shot of all the suits used by this version of Bruce Wayne in his career as Batman, this could be official confirmation that Schumacher’s Batman stories didn’t directly follow the Burton ones.

The evidence is there to suggest that the four Batman films between 1989 and 1997 should be seen as an anthology of stories from three different multiverses. Understandably, with Schumacher’s Batman, Warner Bros. didn’t want to stray too far from what Tim Burton had achieved with his two movies, which explains returning elements in casting and production which muddled an overall sense of continuity. An appearance of either Val Kilmer or George Clooney in The Flash would obviously confirm things, but Clooney has stated that he wasn’t approached.

Unlike the Marvel cinematic universe, the DCEU/DCU has been untroubled by too many issues of continuity, but with more and more threads of stories opening up it was perhaps inevitable that they would have their Crisis moment to clarify things.

James Gunn’s announcement of a central continuity separate from what will be known as Elseworlds stories has led to retrospective classifications such as the news that Superman: The Movie (1978) is set within the same Earth-789 universe as the Tim Burton Batman outings. The difference with the comic universe and their screen counterparts is that we have to contend with the area of casting and whether returning actors occupy the same timeline. In the case of the Batman anthology, it appears that it doesn’t.

Now excuse me while I go and lay down in a darkened room for a moment.

Story source ScreenRant.

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