Say what you will about Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy or reliance on sequels but nostalgia is a powerful driving force when it comes to ticket sales. It’s as if every day an old property is being relaunched with the original players returning, much to the excitement of fans. Recently, Laura Dern, Sam Neil and Jeff Goldblum, the original trio of Jurassic Park, were revealed to be returning to the franchise for Jurassic World: Dominion. Banking on nostalgia absolutely works, especially on a character as storied (and varied) as Batman. The Caped Crusader’s presence in the cinematic landscape cannot be understated, with each generation having its own version of the character, who in turn is played by a brand new actor. Each Batman is equally different and unique but they’re also always Bruce Wayne. Now is the perfect time for DC to introduce the world to a different Batman and have former Bruce Wayne Michael Keaton guide him.
At the turn of the century, DC introduced us to Batman Beyond, an animated series focusing on Terry McGinnis, a young man who takes on the role of the Caped Crusader in the year 2039. While dealing with his own personal tragedy, the young McGinnis is trained by an old, battered Bruce Wayne who also supplies him with copious amounts of tech that is required (and expected) from the Dark Knight. The show, which became a critical darling, was a spin-off of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, which in turn was inspired by Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film starring Michael Keaton. With studios now more than ever interested in reinstating old properties, DC should seriously consider bringing Michael Keaton back into the role of Bruce Wayne for a Batman Beyond movie. This would allow the actor to embody the role once again as a mentor to Terry McGinnis, and DC can play up the nostalgia factor. After all, it has been almost 30 years since we last saw him step into the role.
Ever since Batman Beyond hit television screens in 1999, fans have been hoping to see a live-action take on Terry McGinnis. At the time of the show’s release, live-action superhero fare was relegated to the most mainstream of heroes like the X-Men, Batman or the then soon-to-be-released Spider-Man. A live-action remake of a futuristic superhero just didn’t make sense at the time, even if it had the character of Batman stapled onto it. 21 years later, the superhero genre has become a cultural beast, quite literally becoming the driving factor for folks to go and see movies. If there ever was a time to make a live-action Batman Beyond film, now’s the perfect moment as it perfectly matches up with the timeline set up in the animated series. What’s even better is that audiences are now willing to accept different iterations and takes on some of DC’s greatest characters. Examples include last year’s Joker and the recently-announced Zack Snyder cut of Justice League.
It’s important to understand that one of the key reasons Batman Beyond was able to excel was because of its ties to Batman: The Animated Series. Beyond saw Bruce Wayne in his old age, carrying around a legacy that didn’t amount to much. In the futuristic series, all of Wayne’s allies and foes had either died or retired, leaving him alone in an increasingly corrupt world. Wayne, in his mid 50s, gets a heart attack during Beyond‘s pilot and has no choice but to use a gun to scare his foes. After breaking one of his most coveted and sacred rules, Wayne leaves the Batman moniker behind, coming to terms not only with his lack of relevancy but also his ailing physique. It’s a devastating look for one of DC’s most pivotal characters as he quite literally comes to terms with his humanity. Years later, he runs into Terry McGinnis, who becomes a viable successor. Together, McGinnis and Wayne take on the scum that has ravaged Gotham city.
Michael Keaton, currently in his late 60s, is at the perfect age to play an old Bruce Wayne who just can’t keep up with younger, more agile criminals. Just like in the show, a hypothetical live-action film would involve him stepping into the role of being a mentor to the young and brash Terry McGinnis. In fact, Keaton’s Wayne would essentially become McGinnis’ Alfred Pennyworth, giving the guidance and leadership the young, arrogant man needs. It would be the perfect opportunity to pass on the torch of the Batman moniker, seeing another generation utilize it in a familiar but reinvented way. This project would even let fans know what has come of Keaton’s Bruce Wayne, who we haven’t seen since 1992. The brand new filmmakers could even play around with the world that Tim Burton and DC originally created in Batman, making it perfectly fit into that universe.
In the past few years, Michael Keaton has had a renaissance of sorts, finding a happy medium with his craft. Not only has he starred in Academy Award winning films like Birdman, but he’s also continued with his comic-book roots by starring in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Since 1989, the character of Batman has only gotten more popular and his original role is responsible for starting the ’90s wave of superhero movies. Having him return in a project like Batman Beyond would not only honor the original films he was in but also show that he’s not done with the character, even at an age where some would deem him “not capable.” We’ve never seen Bruce Wayne entirely helpless as he was in Batman Beyond. The character has always had names like “World’s Greatest Detective” thrown at him and it’s almost laughable how prepared Batman can be, to the point where he could take on the entire Justice League with enough prep time. For a character who seems to always be one step ahead of the curve, he can’t take on the malady that plagues us all: old age.
A live-action Batman Beyond film isn’t an obscure idea by any means, as fans have been rallying for it since Neo-Gotham was introduced in 1999. If Warner Bros. and DC were to adapt the animated series into a live-action film, it would definitely be a hit as it would be something moviegoers have never seen. Audiences have never seen a Batman that isn’t Bruce Wayne and this would be the perfect introduction to a whole other side of the Batuniverse that most just aren’t aware of. Having Michael Keaton return as the iconic Bruce Wayne to train and mentor Terry McGinnis would mean that the character’s legacy could still shine, all the while embracing something new.
Bruce Wayne is set to return to the big screen in The Batman. Directed by Matt Reeves from a script he co-wrote with Mattson Tomlin, The Batman will star Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner James Gordon, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, Peter Sarsgaard as Gil Colson, Jayme Lawson as Bella Reál, with Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth, and Colin Farrell as the Penguin. The film is currently scheduled to hit theaters on October 1, 2021.
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