After Ben Affleck's solo Batman movie failed to come to fruition, the actor announced his exit from the role. The decision was made to replace Affleck's Batman with another version in the DCEU, ensuring that the DC franchise wouldn't go without one of its most iconic characters. This paved the way for Michael Keaton's return to the role — facilitated by The Flash's multiverse narrative — three decades after last playing the part in Batman Returns.
Replacing Ben Affleck's Batman is no easy task, but it would seem that the DCEU may have found the perfect solution, even with Batgirl's controversial cancelation. Not only does Keaton's Batman possess a number of similarities to Affleck's, but he is also a character capable of fixing a number of the DCEU's most pressing problems. Though Affleck's Batman deserves better, replacing him with Michael Keaton's version of the character is actually the best way to proceed with the DCEU as a whole.
One of the biggest hurdles to replacing a character as vital to the DCEU as Batman is establishing who the new version is and why he's a worthy successor, but Michael Keaton's return preempts this. Keaton's Batman has already had two movies, so there's very little need to explain the character's backstory or his origins, as this was already done in Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns. With Keaton's Batman simply coming from another universe, there's no need to retread old ground, and it also doesn't make Burton's movies DCEU canon, which saves a lot of messy exposition.
More than just saving time, Michael Keaton's Batman return also practically guarantees an audience boost. Those who enjoyed Burton's movies but haven't followed the DCEU so far will be tempted back, particularly as the prospect of his return after 30 years is incredibly enticing. The Flash is free to explore as much or as little of Keaton's Batman story as it needs to — which makes the return of a previous Batman far better than the alternative.
Another way that Michael Keaton is the perfect replacement for Ben Affleck in the DCEU is that their versions of the hero share a number of similarities. Both characters are older incarnations of Batman, in the later stages of their respective careers, meaning that both are highly experienced and grizzled veterans of vigilantism. What's more, both Keaton and Affleck's characters famously broke Batman's "no-kill" rule, making their approach to crime-fighting similar, too.
By making use of an alternate Batman so similar to the DCEU's original one, the franchise ensures a relatively smooth transition from one to the other. Incorporating the tone of Keaton's character into the world of the DCEU will still take some work, but the similarities between the two heroes will help to ease the passing of the torch. Making the DCEU's new Batman one that's not too far removed from its first is a sensible decision, and will help with maintaining a sense of narrative and tonal continuity.
There are elements of Michael Keaton's Batman that will actually help fix a number of the franchise's worst issues. The most common criticism of the DCEU, including its Batman characterization, is that everything is far too dark and self-serious. The lack of levity, particularly in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, has been a major contributing factor to the DCEU's problems, and Ben Affleck's Batman is the biggest source of the franchise's needless angst.
However, Keaton's Batman, while similar in some ways, is subtly different in others, making his version of the character the perfect savior for the DCEU. The distinctly gothic but decidedly less self-serious tone of Tim Burton's Batman movies delivered a singular take on Gotham City and its most famous vigilante, and that slightly more light-hearted approach to Batman's darkness is something that will hopefully translate to a better future for the DCEU. Keaton's Batman should help alleviate some of the needless grittiness from the DCEU, and that's something that can only help the franchise as it moves forward.
The DCEU replacing its Batman actually could have been disastrous if the wrong version of the Dark Knight was brought into the franchise. To work well as a part of the DCEU's stories, the version of Batman brought in must possess certain qualities, and as every live-action Batman actor brings something different to the role, not every Batman would fit the bill. To better understand why Keaton makes the perfect replacement for Affleck, it's important to understand why other Batman actors wouldn't work.
It would be impossible to reconcile the tone of Joel Schumacher's movies, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, with that of the DCEU, ruling out both Val Kilmer and George Clooney's hypothetical returns. Christian Bale's Batman from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is one of the most iconic portrayals of the hero, but he also wouldn't work because it's a much more grounded take on the character, which would feel out of place within the DCEU. Robert Pattinson's younger Batman can be ruled out for similar reasons. And David Mazouz's version from Gotham wouldn't work because he's simply too young to convincingly step into Affleck's DCEU role.
The many ways in which other Batman actors wouldn't work within the DCEU actually highlights just how perfectly Keaton can replace Affleck. The elements that make their two versions of the hero alike are a major consideration, but their differences are also key, as they'll help Keaton's Batman redeem the DCEU's problems. Michael Keaton's Batman in the DCEU is actually the most fitting replacement for Ben Affleck's, and it's an exciting prospect for the franchise's future.