In 2020, seems like all world leading superhero franchises DC, Marvel, Sony have only one actor on their mind. In the past decade, Hollywood found its potion for success in the superhero franchise business. And surprisingly (or not so) the poster child of the early years of the genre, Michael Keaton aka Batman, again finds himself in the eye of the storm…
The Birdman actor mocked the genre with his Oscar-nominated performance in 2014. He drew inspiration from his time as Tim Burton’s Batman and from its sequel Batman Returns. Interestingly, prior to being Burton’s Dark Knight, Keaton was known for his comedic work. His casting came with a backlash from fans who were eagerly waiting for the first-ever Batman feature film.
Watch: Tim Burton’s The Batman Official Trailer
But with his first whisper of I am Batman, Keaton owned the mantle. Tim Burton’s Batman made Keaton the iconic bat with a yellow badge. While Burton’s vision inspired formative years (1980/90) of superhero movie-making, Keaton simply never returned for a final film.
Now the news is Keaton is reprising his role as the Batman in the WB owned DC’s Extended Universe!
The Age of The Superheroes
It’s a good time to be a Marvel fan but perhaps the best time to be a DC fan. While the fans always engage in the debate which superheroes are better – it’s really no debate at all.
A decade ago Hollywood understood the real potential of the superhero franchise. Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man kicked in the Infinity Saga for the Marvel Studio. Further, Christopher Nolan’s work with the WB’s The Dark Knight franchise cemented the fact that narratives can change the genre forever. And while Sony had the most renowned superhero Spider-Man, the studio was able to blow it even with Sam Raimi at the helm.
The year was 2002. Celebrated director Sam Raimi spun a Spider-Man trilogy for Sony with Tobey McGuire in the titular role. The cast consists of actors like Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco in character roles. The first movie was a joy for viewers while the second one stumbled upon their expectations. But the real blow came with Spider-Man 3 (2007) which bombed.
While Sony didn’t want Raimi to have full control, the studio also demanded Venom to be added. That really made no sense.
The franchise turned into a nightmare and Sony learnt its maiden lesson in a superhero franchise business. And Sony’s failure came with the unsuccessful reboot: The Amazing Spider-Man!. All this while Hollywood reiterated its lesson from George Clooney’s Batman & Robin and Burton’s incomplete trilogy.
Come 2008, Marvel Studios, under a new head Kevin Feige and director Jon Favreau took a high stakes risk with Iron Man. The movie’s success not only proved a saving grace for the Marvel Studios but also for the superhero genre. Disney bought Marvel the next year, Harvard dubs it as a corporate Cinderella story.
And then the success of one movie snowballed into a series of blockbusters. The studio aimed for a franchise and hence came Iron Man 2 in 2010, backed by Disney’s money this time – another inspiring success. Hollywood took its cue.
Watch: MCU Vs DCEU
Around the same time as the first Iron Man, executives at Warner Bros’ DC studio revived the Batman with Christopher Nolan at the helm and Christian Bale in the titular role. The Dark Knight trilogy, a parallel blockbuster franchise, was the rise of realism in superhero movies. And so the superhero genre was saved.
In 2013 based on Nolan’s success, WB launched Man of Steel with Henry Cavill in Superman’s cape.
A decade down the line, each production house has their own treatment of the superhero-verse. WB miserably failed at keeping the DCEU universe going on. Conversely, Marvel Cinematic Universe saw huge success with some 76 characters at hand. Meanwhile, Sony had a licensing agreement with Marvel that allowed them to share Spider-Man. In the following years, Sony spiraled its own universe of Marvel characters with Jared Leto’s Morbius and Tom Hardy’s Venom called Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters.
DC’s Batman is Vulture from the MCU
Meanwhile, Keaton’s next superhero escapade came in 2017 with Spider-Man: Homecoming. The maiden movie attempt by Marvel Studios and Sony under their first 5 movie Spider-Man deal, it grossed $880 million worldwide. The movie sees Keaton as the antagonist Vulture.
Keaton gave Adrian Toomes (Vulture) a stylish swagger that villains were missing at the time on screen. He delivered a playfully chilling performance and his comedic talents lightened the mood of the movie. He inspired the movie makers so much that by the end of the movie, Vulture’s resolution in the movie was changed to defeated from dead!
Watch: Spider-Man: They Don’t Care – Vulture
The fans got another glimpse of him in the upcoming SPUMC’s Morbius trailer and many fans believe, based on comic book origins, that Keaton’s presence in the movie means he’s crossed over from MCU to SPUMC.
So that’s one more superpower that Keaton has – he successfully blurred the franchise Multiverse boundaries.
And now, Michael Keaton finds himself in the middle of this multi-universe, multi-franchise saga in Hollywood. He’s DC’s Batman and Marvel and Sony shared universe’s Vulture!
Michael Keaton’s Superhero Future
Apropos to Keaton’s involvement with the franchises, he’s got a couple of eventful years ahead. With his appearance in DC’s Flashpoint movie as an older Bruce Wayne, looks like the studio is moving towards the Batman Beyond storyline.
Keaton’s Batman will be an older version of himself appearing in various timelines. Similar to Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury in the MCU, who appears at various points in the timeline, it’ll be very interesting to see how WB manages two simultaneous iterations of Batman, with Matt Reeves developing the live-action movie with Robert Pattinson and a spin-off series as well.
Watch: How Keaton’s Batman Impact Robert Pattinson
Further, the renewed Marvel Sony Spider-Man deal allows the characters now to crossover in the shared universe. JK Simmons as J Jonah Jameson in the end credit scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home further cements the fact.
It amps up fans to believe that Sony is creating a Sinister Six plotline for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to face. So Vulture’s future looks promising in the universe as its comic book counterpart is responsible to bring them all together.
Keaton has a lot of interesting ground to cover in his upcoming work. It’s amusing how from mocking the genre to acting in all three of the world’s leading superhero franchises, Michael Keaton still remains the torchbearer, coming to a full circle in the literal sense.