Now that we've had plenty of time to take in The Flash (2023) trailer without being blinded by sheer excitement, it's time to ask that question again: Will Christian Bale return in The Flash? Eagled-eyed fans think they spotted the Dark Knight tearing through Gotham in the trailer, but turns out it's just Ben Affleck's Batfleck. But even so, it's still possible Bale's Batman is back.
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There are two versions of Bruce Wayne/Batman who show up in The Flash trailer without question - Michael Keaton from the two Tim Burton-directed films Batman (1989) and Batman Returns, and Ben Affleck's from the DC Universe's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League (2017), and Justice League: Snyder Cut (2021).
Will the film draw the line with these two caped crusaders, both of whom are loved by fans, or will it also introduce Christian Bale's equally beloved Bruce Wayne/Batman from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, which consists of Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)? Well, we don't have any answers, but there are plenty of clues.
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The first clue is that The Flash is a DC Multiverse movie. With co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran now running DC Studios, the film will officially, as revealed by Gunn, "reset" the DC Universe, giving them the opportunity for a complete and much-needed do-over. So, The Flash will meddle with the Multiverse, which is the only way Bale's Dark Knight could appear.
His appearance in the film would make sense, because Marvel's Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), a huge box office hit and a critical success, did the exact same thing with the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. While the Christopher Nolan films are very grounded - at least by superhero standards - why is Bale appearing any different?
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The second clue is the couple of scenes in The Flash trailer that led to speculation that Bale had returned in the first place. The scenes in question show what is now clearly Ben Affleck's Batman riding a Bat-cycle that looks suspiciously like Christian Bale's Batpod through the streets of Gotham. Coincidence, or deliberate baiting? We'll just have to wait and see.
Thirdly, while Christian Bale said many years ago that he wouldn't reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, we know that things can change. More recently, he returned to the superhero genre as Gorr the God Butcher in Marvel's Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), so he's certainly not above comic book movies, and we know how much he loves Christopher Nolan's Batman films.
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It remains entirely possible that we'll see Christian Bale show up in The Flash. In fact, it's a whole lot more possible than seeing Robert Pattinson's Bruce Wayne/Batman from The Batman (2022) make an appearance, as that film, alongside Joker (2019) and other stand-alone DC films, has been confirmed to be a part of DC's Elseworlds.
It's more than like that The Dark Knight films also form part of this off-shoot of DC films, however, the difference between those films and The Batman series is that they aren't ongoing, and enough time has passed now for Bale's version of the character to have become a legacy Batman.
Check out the official trailer for The Flash below:
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The Flash releases in theaters on June 16. As per Wikipedia, here's the synopsis for the film:
Barry Allen/The Flash travels back in time to prevent his mother's murder, which traps him in an alternate reality without metahumans. He enlists the help of Batman and the Kryptonian castaway Supergirl from alternate realities in order to save this world from the restored General Zod and return to his universe.
The Flash stars Ezra Miller (Barry Allen/The Flash), Sasha Calle (Kara Zor-El/Supergirl), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Ron Livingston (Henry Allen), Michael Keaton (Bruce Wayne/Batman), and Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman).
Check out the official Warner Bros. The Flash hub here.