The DC Extended Universe never seems to have any shortage of drama both on and off screen and, as the blockbuster film franchise once again lit up social media this week, its future was called into question.
This time the conversation centres on arguably the most popular character in DC's stable, Batman, amid reports that no less than three actors are set to portray the vigilante in live-action at the same time.
Robert Pattinson is locked into a much-anticipated new trilogy, Ben Affleck is returning in 2022's The Flash, while Michael Keaton has also been unexpectedly brought back into the fold.
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So how will these disparate Batmen interact with each other? And who will be the Batman for Warner Bros moving forward? Here's your full rundown on the situation as it currently stands.
Is Ben Affleck returning as Batman?
Yes! Although it seemed for a time that Affleck had permanently hung up his cape and cowl following the underperformance of 2017's Justice League, it has since been announced the Academy Award winner will return to the role once more.
Fans can expect to see his Dark Knight in 2022's The Flash movie, starring Ezra Miller, which is said to be adapting the popular Flashpoint storyline from DC's comic book universe.
The major event saw Barry Allen use his super speed to travel back in time and prevent the death of his mother but, in doing so, cause the entire universe to change in radical and unexpected ways.
Despite his initial casting coming under fire, a large proportion of the DC fandom went on to embrace Affleck's interpretation of Bruce Wayne and so will naturally be thrilled by this news – but here's where things get complicated.
Is Michael Keaton replacing Ben Affleck as Batman?
Over the festive period, an article in the New York Times spread like wildfire when it appeared to imply Ben Affleck would leave the DC Extended Universe after The Flash to be replaced by Michael Keaton.
Keaton originally portrayed the character in 1989's Batman, directed by Tim Burton, and returned for its sequel, but has been absent from the role for almost 30 years.
This caused confusion among fans who wondered how a much older incarnation of the Caped Crusader would fit in the DC Extended Universe, with some suggesting the franchise could take cues from the Batman Beyond stories.
Those comic books see an elderly Bruce Wayne mentoring a new Batman, Gotham City resident Terry McGinnis, after retiring from his crime-fighting duties.
Reception of this idea was divided and stirred up some furious social media chatter, but it now seems this furore was all for nothing and the article in question was misinterpreted.
Writer Brooks Barnes said: "Been offline (moving apartments) and return to see this Michael Keaton craziness. I was referring to the *one film* that Keaton has been announced as being in, not a set of his own Batman films. If I had info on him beyond 'The Flash,' I would have obviously put it in my article."
So where does that leave us? Well, it appears no final decision has been made on the future of Batman in the DC Extended Universe, with talks likely ongoing between Warner Bros, Affleck and Keaton.
How does Robert Pattinson's Batman fit in?
Largely protected from all this controversy is Robert Pattinson's version of Batman, who is set to make his debut in 2022 with a moody new blockbuster from Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves.
It has previously been made clear that The Batman is set outside of the DCEU continuity, a point which was reiterated in Brooks Barnes aforementioned New York Times piece.
As a result, Pattinson's Bruce Wayne is unavailable to take over as the Justice League's resident bat-themed superhero, making either Affleck or Keaton the more likely candidates.
Expect a clearer picture to emerge on this situation over the course of this year, as The Flash is due to start shooting in April and new details could come to light from the set.
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