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Batman: Why 2022 could be the year of the Bat

Four different iterations of the character played by different actors are set to appear on both the big screen and small screen in 2022

Ryan Gomez
Dec 30, 2021
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The James Bond of superheroes would be the apt description of DC’s most iconic comic book character, The Batman. In fact, the casting rumours and the fanfare surrounding the news is equivalent, if not greater, to that of a James Bond announcement. The rise of social media over the last decade has significantly altered the landscape in how these announcements are received. Ben Affleck’s casting announcement as the caped crusader was met with significant backlash after the actor sent out just a single tweet confirming the news. However, he has since endeared himself to large sections of the fan base, despite criticisms on how his character was written for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This wasn’t the first time a Batman casting announcement has been met with uproar. Back in the late 80s, the casting of Michael Keaton for Tim Burton’s Batman did not go down well with the fans. Despite the negative reception both of Tim Burton’s films, Batman and Batman Returns, did find great success and Michael Keaton’s iteration has become one the most revered. However, George Clooney and Val Kilmer in Joel Schumacher’s films in the 90s were unable to replicate Keaton and Burton’s success. Schumacher’s films did more damage to the Batman mythos than anyone could have conceived.

Warner Bros. were quite understandably reluctant to take a risk with its most prized IP (Intellectual Property). Another debacle like Schumacher’s films could damage Batman’s marketability beyond repair. It wasn’t until a certain Christopher Nolan stepped in and completely reimagined the character in the 2003 film Batman Begins. Gone were the days when Batman needed ‘shark-repellent sprays’ or the infamous ‘bat nipples’ in his costume. Christian Bale essayed the best version of Bruce Wayne/Batman in history, supported by a star-studded ensemble of Michael Cain, Liam Nesson, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer, Tom Wilkinson, and Katie Holmes. The film’s critical acclaim and commercial success were bettered by its sequels The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. In fact, The Dark Knight has become immortalised as not only the best superhero adaptation to date but also one of the best films ever made. Heath Ledger’s performance as the ‘Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker, earned him an Academy Award posthumously.

The Dark Knight trilogy’s grounded realism and gritty political themes would have struggled to look convincing in an expanded DC universe storyline featuring aliens and superpowered beings. So Christian Bale was recast for a new iteration of the Batman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ben Affleck was to portray an older, angrier, and more brutal version of the dark knight. The film was critically bombed but has since gained a cult following, with several critics admitting that they were wrong about the film. Despite Ben Affleck bringing a near-perfect adaptation from Frank Miller’s comics and Bruce Timm’s animated series, the fact that Batman kills criminals in this version was a hard pill to swallow for many. Simply because Batman’s most defining quality was the fact that he did not kill. Snyder fans have defended the narrative arc of the film because it gives hints as to why this particular version of Batman broke his most sacred code. And the outrage can almost be considered hypocritical considering the fan-favourite version of Michael Keaton killed with a smile on his face.

The 2021 version of Justice League titled, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, redeemed both Snyder and Affleck. There have been calls for the cancelled solo-Batman directed by Affleck himself to be released on HBO Max, but there have been no announcements for the same. Because Affleck’s much-publicised departure from the role in 2019 meant that he might never return as Batman. The monumental success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League appears to have started the rumour-mill again with a potential return. He is confirmed to return in the 2022 film, The Flash. It is likely to be a cameo appearance in a multiverse storyline, and he will be joined by Michael Keaton’s version of Batman. The film stars Ezra Miller in the lead as Barry Allen/The Flash and is helmed by It director Andy Muschietti. Fan theories suggest that it could be WB's idea of giving a fitting farewell to ‘Batfleck’ as Michael Keaton returns to take over the mantle. There could likely be a ‘flashpoint’ event in the story that alters the timeline. The more recent news of Michael Keaton joining the cast of Batgirl has further substantiated these claims.

The most anticipated Batman is however not Affleck nor Keaton. It is the rebooted version from Matt Reeves’ upcoming film The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson in the titular role. Zoe Kravitz will appear as Selina Kyle Catwoman, with Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth, Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, and Paul Dano as the Riddler. It is also one of the most anticipated films of 2022 and will focus on the less explored detective aspect of Batman stories from the comic books. The trailer and the details released about the film hints at storylines being adopted from graphic novels such as Jeph Loeb’s Batman: The Long Halloween and Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Robert Pattinson is set to portray a younger version of Batman, who is yet to reach the peak of his powers.

Regardless of how these films will be received, 2022 will have plenty of Batman content for the fans, with up to four live-action versions set to appear on screen - Micheal Keaton and Ben Affleck in The Flash, Robert Pattinson in The Batman, and Iain Glen in Titans. The animated versions of Batman are also in play in DC’s new animated universe with Jensen Ackles donning the cape and cowl, and Bruce Greenwood in Young Justice. One of the several reasons why 2022 could be the year of the Bat.


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