Why’d Bruce Wayne Quit Being Batman? ‘The Flash’ Director Reveals the Reason
It would seem that audiences did not, in fact, want to get nuts. Despite the return of Michael Keaton’s Batman, DC Studios’ The Flash wound up as one of 2023’s biggest box office disappointments. To date, the film has grossed only $107 million in the United States and $267 million worldwide. Barbie — from the same studio, Warner Bros. — just made more money than that in its opening weekend alone. And The Flash reportedly cost at least $50 million more than Barbie to produce.
We can debate the reasons why, but I think one of the big issues was that while Keaton himself was terrific reprising his role as Batman, the character within the film did not make a ton of sense. The Flash alters the timeline, which results in the Ben Affleck Batman being wiped out of existence, replaced instead by Michael Keaton’s Batman — not just a different actor, but a whole different generation of actor. The reasons why are never entirely clear.
On top of that, Keaton’s Batman has long since retired from his role as Dark Knight of Gotham City when the Flash finds him. Wayne Manor is lying in ruin. And when the Flash arrives there, Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is like a hermit; his hair is long, he’s got a beard, he’s living alone. Why? What happened?
The Flash doesn’t really explain. They mention that Gotham City is peaceful now, and apparently that left Batman without a purpose or something? Why doing a good job destroy Batman’s life? That was not made clear — and within a few scenes, Bruce is back in his old costume helping the Flash, and there’s very little time to dwell on character motivations after that.
A new featurette just released by Warner Bros. finally explains the backstory that clearly got cut at some point during the The Flash’s development process. In the video below around the 3:00 mark, The Flash director Andy Muschietti details a whole unseen, unmentioned past that was supposed to explain Batman’s retirement.
Here is what Muschietti says:
I always said something should have happened to Bruce Wayne to want to stop being Batman. And my idea was he did something that goes against his code. He killed a criminal in front of this child. Unknowingly, but he still did it. Which is an exact mirroring situation of what happened to him when his parents were killed in front of the Monarch Theater, and that created that ‘monster’ that Batman is. And so he just couldn’t cope with it, and that’s why he decided to shut off his other side, Batman.
I have no idea why this was cut from the film. Maybe they didn’t want to portray Batman as a killer. Maybe they felt the movie was too long and it needed to be shortened, and this was something that was deemed superfluous. Maybe they realized that Michael Keaton’s Batman totally killed a whole bunch of guys in Tim Burton’s Batman and he didn’t seem too choked up about it back then. (Remember how he blew up Axis Chemicals with all the Joker’s goons inside?)
Whatever the reason, none of Muschietti’s explanation for Bruce Wayne’s hermit-like existence wound up in The Flash. It wouldn’t have solved all of the movie’s problems, but it would have least explained this Batman a little bit better. It’s a shame it was cut out.
The Flash is available on Digital now; the 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD will all be available on August 29.