Confirmed: Michael Keaton’s Batman Will Finally Return in Direct Sequel to 1989 Film

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Michael Keaton standing in front of the Bat-signal in 'Batman Returns'

Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

He might not be the only one, but a fan-favorite Batman is making an epic comeback.

After 32 years, Michael Keaton’s Batman is returning in an official canon sequel to the original Tim Burton movie. It will also see the return of several characters from the two films.

Michael Keaton‘s Batman remains the most favorite silver-screen iteration of the iconic DC character. Though many have followed in his footsteps — Val Kilmer (Batman Forever), George Clooney (Batman & Robin), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight trilogy), Ben Affleck (DC Universe), and Robert Pattinson (The Batman) — the Burton-Verse’s Bat of Gotham wields an inexplicable charm (as well as grapple-hooks and smoke-bombs) and continues to be revered by fans.

Batman (Michael Keaton) holding The Joker (Jack Nicholson) by the collar on a rooftop in 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Related: ‘Batman’ Goes Full R-Rated Horror in Brand-New Installment

Why Is Michael Keaton’s Batman so Popular?

Everyone has their favorite version of Bruce Wayne/Batman, whether in live action (Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, etc), or in animation and video games (the late Kevin Conroy). But there’s something about Michael Keaton’s portrayal that’s so magnetic. His version of the beloved DC character is adored by fans, but that wasn’t always the case — you might be surprised to know that Keaton’s casting in the 1989 film was controversial at the time. Now, he’s considered one of the best. But why?

Perhaps it’s that his Batman walks a fine line between serious and camp, a perfect halfway point between Adam West’s incredibly cheesy (albeit lovable) portrayal of “The World’s Greatest Detective” from the ’60s television show and 1966 movie of the same name, and the bleak and brooding undertone later seen in adaptations such as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy (2005 — 2012) and Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022).

And while Keaton’s incarnation may operate in a fantastical world, his Bruce Wayne/Batman is entirely believable in his stature; he isn’t a beef-cake or a trained ninja like Christian Bale’s portrayal, or a seasoned and shredded hulking menace like Ben Affleck’s.

Ben Affleck as Batman in 'Batman v Superman'
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

That said, Keaton is no less menacing as the alleyway-stalking vigilante. Burton’s quasi-gothic 1989 superhero flick might be a love letter to Adam West’s tenure as Gotham’s protector — despite being a far more monstrous successor, Jack Nicholson’s Joker alone is channeling some serious Cesar Romero vibes — but Batman (1989) is the first time the character went from friendly neighborhood Caped Crusader to Dark Knight (on the big screen, at least — Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns had already broken that mold three years prior).

It’s also worth noting that Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and its sequel Batman Returns (1992) are widely recognized for paving the way for those darker iterations of the character in film — The Dark Knight trilogy and The Batman. While those films differ vastly from Burton’s in style and tone, opting for far more grounded depictions of the character, you could argue that they owe everything to the 1989 film — the first dark superhero movie.

Keaton reprised his role as the brooding bachelor-turned-bat in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, this time facing off against Danny DeVito’s Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman. But in the decades since, his version of Bruce Wayne/Batman has been continually pushed further into the past by several reboots.

While Burton’s two films did technically get sequels — Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997) — the beloved Beetlejuice (1988) star retreated into the shadows after his 1992 outing, hanging up his cape and cowl so that another actor could take up the mantle of the superhero he had transformed forever on the big screen. He gave the Batmobile keys to Val Kilmer, who was followed by George Clooney after just one film.

Since then, we’ve had several Batman movies: Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and The Batman, along with many other entries that have featured the superhero as a supporting character, such as Suicide Squad (2021), Justice League (2017) Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021), and The Flash (2023). While Keaton reprised his role in the latter film, it’s hardly considered a proper sequel to the Burton-Verse installments.

Robert Pattinson on a rooftop in 'The Batman'
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Related: The Batman Finally Returns in Gritty New Trailer

Michael Keaton’s Batman Finally Returns

Now, io9/Gizmodo has revealed that an official sequel featuring Michael Keaton’s Batman is in development, as Star Wars novelist John Jackson Miller is currently penning Batman: Resurrection (2024) with Penguin Random House.

“There are dream projects, and then there are projects you never dreamt were possible. This is the latter,” Miller told io9/Gizmodo. “People always ask what world I wanted to get the chance to write in; I never named [Tim] Burton’s take on Batman because I never imagined it could happen. But [PRH] editor Tom Hoeler found a way.”

Batman: Resurrection will see the return of Keaton’s Gotham Knight from the Tim Burton movies Batman (1989) and Batman Returns. However, it will follow on directly after the events of the 1989 film in the aftermath of Jack Napier/Joker’s death.

Jack Nicholson's Joker from 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

But the upcoming novel isn’t the only follow-up to Burton’s “Bat-flicks” — that honor goes to the popular Batman ’89 graphic novel series from DC Comics, which takes place after Batman Returns. Batman ‘89 features the likeness of Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne/Batman and that of many other characters from the films, such as Michelle Pfeiffer (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), Billy Dee Williams (Harvey Dent), Jerry Hall (Alicia Hunt, Joker’s girlfriend), and Commissioner James Gordon (Pat Hingle).

“Whereas the DC Batman ’89 comics are set after the Tim Burton films, I chose to make Batman: Resurrection a direct sequel novel to [the 1989 movie],” the author added, “meaning characters ranging from Vicki Vale and Alexander Knox to Max Shreck and Selina Kyle from Batman Returns can appear in the book.” In the films, Vicki Vale, Alexander Knox, Max Shreck, and Selina Kyle are played by Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Christopher Walken, and Michelle Pfeiffer, respectively.

Michael Keaton as Batman, looking at the Bat Signal from 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

What’s Batman: Resurrection About?

In this “direct sequel to Tim Burton’s iconic Batman,” Bruce Wayne/Batman faces “a mysterious new threat.”

“The Joker is dead, but not forgotten,” the official synopsis from Penguin Random House reads. “Gotham City is saved, but it is still not safe. By night, its new symbol of hope, Batman, continues his fight to protect the innocent and the powerless. By day, his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, wonders whether there may someday be a future beyond skulking the city’s rooftops or the cavernous halls of his stately manor alongside the ever-dutiful Alfred Pennyworth. But even after death, the Clown Prince of Crime’s imprint can be seen in more than just the pavement. Remnants from The Joker’s gang are leading wannabes fascinated by his bizarre mystique on a campaign of arson that threatens the city—even as it serves greedy opportunists, including millionaire Max Shreck. And survivors of exposure to The Joker’s chemical weapon Smylex continue to crowd Gotham City’s main hospital.”

The story also sees the return of Vicki Vale, Alfred Pennyworth (played by Michael Gough in the Burton/Schumacher series), Alexander Knox, and Commissioner Gordon. And, as part of the synopsis suggests, it may also see the return of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier/The Joker:

Batman [1989] shaped the writer I am,” Miller went on. “I saw it in the theater twelve times. I reviewed it for my college paper and wrote about it often in comics magazines, including an essay on Prince’s Warner Bros. Records soundtrack. Writing Batman: Resurrection has been like reuniting with old friends.”

Batman: Resurrection will hit shelves on October 15. It’s now available to pre-order from AmazonPenguin Random House, and Bookshop.

Michael Keaton's Batman in 'Batman '89' Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Will Michael Keaton’s Batman Return in Film?

Whether or not Keaton will ever return to play Batman again remains to be seen. Last year, he finally donned the cape and cowl after 31 years in the cameo-riddled Multiversal DC Universe (DCU) movie The Flash. The film also features Ben Affleck’s version of the character (affectionately nicknamed “The Batfleck” by fans), as well as a hilarious cameo from George Clooney’s Bruce Wayne.

While also not a “real” sequel to the Burton films (it’s also impossible to establish whether Michael Keaton’s Batman is even the “original” version), The Flash does acknowledge the events of those first two films while also explaining that the two Joel Schumacher entries are Multiversal variants of some sort. Music to the ears of countless fans, for sure — Batman & Robin wasn’t just a box office disappointment ($238M worldwide against a budget of $125–160M), it was hated by audiences, so much so that director Joel Schumacher and George Clooney later issued public apologies. The Flash didn’t fare any better, grossing $271.3M against its $200–220M budget and receiving mostly negative reviews from audiences and critics.

However, Keaton first reprised his role as the Gotham City crime-fighter in Batgirl, the DC Universe movie starring Leslie Grace as the titular superhero that was famously canceled by Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022. Unfortunately, with a new DC Universe now ready to be unraveled, Keaton’s return has a question mark over it so big you’d think The Riddler is somehow involved. Recently, on The Happy Sad Confused podcast, when asked if he’d ever find himself in the Batcave again, the actor said, “I don’t think about it much. Never say never, I don’t think. Everything depends upon something else.”

It’s unlikely the star will return in the new DC Universe that’s being spearheaded by DC Studios’ CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran, as another Batman reboot is in the works titled The Brave and the Bold (TBA), which will feature a new Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in 'The Flash'
Credit: DC / Warner Bros

Related: DC Announces Official Sequels to Beloved ‘Batman’ and ‘Superman’ Films

Other Upcoming Batman Media

Unsurprisingly, Batman continues to dominate cinema and beyond.

While the Dark Knight is not expected to appear in Joker: Folie à Deux (2024), the upcoming sequel that focuses on the iconic superhero’s arch nemesis is a true testament to the franchise’s unwavering popularity and versatility (the 2019 film grossed $1.079B against a budget of $55–70M).

The same can be said about the upcoming HBO series The Penguin (2024), which will see Colin Farrell reprise his role as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, as seen in The Batman. The theatrical sequel, The Batman Part II (2025), which will see Robert Pattinson return as the titular crime-fighter (or “Battinson” as he’s now commonly known by fans and the media), will hit theaters on October 2, 2025. The first film grossed $772.2 million against $185–200M.

Later this year, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton will reunite for the long-awaited sequel, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice (2024).

Are you excited to be seeing more of Michael Keaton’s Batman? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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