Why Michael Keaton’s Batman 3 was cancelled
In 2023's The Flash, Michael Keaton will return as Bruce Wayne, a.k.a Batman, after 31 years. He first starred in 1989’s Batman and then returned in 1992’s Batman Returns, which were both directed by Tim Burton.
Joel Schumacher took on the third Batman project, Batman Forever, and Michael Keaton was replaced by Val Kilmer. Schumacher altered Burton’s already planned story to make it a bit more colorful and family-friendly.
But many fans still wonder that if Burton’s films were considered to be a success, then why didn’t he and Keaton return for a threequel?
The story behind Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s cancelled Batman movie
The first Batman movie, featuring Jack Nicholson’s Joker, grossed $411 million worldwide. It was highly profitable, but the same can’t be said about 1992’s Batman Returns, which only made $266 million. The sequel was produced on a budget of $80 million and had a big sum of money allocated to marketing as well. Ultimately, it did break even, but Warner Bros. wanted better results from the third one.
Burton had plans for the threequel, which would have continued the darker tone from the first two movies. But in the villains’ department, it would have included the Riddler and Billy Dee Williams in the role of Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two-Face. Robin would have been played by Marlon Wayans, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman would have returned.
But this darker threequel of Burton got canceled as Warner Bros. wanted a lighter tone for the third film, to give it a more family-friendly appeal and attract a bigger demographic of viewers. So these factors led Burton out of Batman 3.
Why Michael Keaton also sat out of Batman Forever
Without Burton, Michael Keaton didn't want to return either. He considered it and even had conversations with the new director, who was looking to make things more colorful. Schumacher even said:
“I don’t understand why everything has to be so dark and everything so sad."
Keaton then gave a counter by saying:
"Wait a minute, do you know how this guy got to be Batman? Have you read… I mean, it’s pretty simple."
He just couldn’t comprehend the shift in the tone as it all felt a bit nonsensical to him.
So, he didn’t agree to return either, and Val Kilmer starred in an altered version of Burton’s original story for Batman Forever, which grossed $336 million worldwide on a $100 million budget. It was a moderate success that allowed Schumacher to direct the Batman & Robin fiasco in 1997, which effectively killed the Batman franchise for eight long years.
2 other canceled Batman movies of Michael Keaton
So far, Michael Keaton’s Batman in The Flash is said to be one of its best elements. His return would render Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies pointless. But unfortunately, he is still not able to leave cancelations behind.
After The Flash, he would have become DCEU’s regular Batman under Walter Hamada’s leadership, and we would have seen him return in Leslie Grace’s Batgirl.
He had already shot his part and the movie was in its post-production stage. But with the change in leadership at Warner Bros., a fully done Batgirl movie was canceled and became a tax write-off for WB. Walter Hamada also had plans for Batman Beyond, which would have also seen Keaton returning as the older Bruce Wayne.
It would have been written by The Flash and Birds of Prey writer, Christina Hodson. But after Hamada’s tenure ended, the likes of James Gunn and Peter Safran put the brakes on the Batman Beyond movie as well.
The Flash’s ending was altered in a way that Keaton would not be the main Batman anymore. Instead, we’d see a new DC universe with a new Batman in Brave and the Bold. So, The Flash might officially mark the final appearance of Michael Keaton’s Batman. It arrives on June 16.