After much delay and even more controversy, The Flash has arrived, and the consensus is, this is a movie made from parts of several other movies. The box office returns for The Flash have fallen short of expectations and some of the early positive buzz for the film has largely fizzled out. And yet, like it or not The Flash is, sorta, kinda, the beginning of a new direction for DC superhero movies. But, now that the movie is actually out, the question most rational people have is this: Is DC really going to start a whole new shared universe with the least popular Batman at the center? Spoilers ahead.
Calling The Flash an ouroboros is a massive understatement, simply because this would require the original snake who ate its own to have its tail digitally recreated. There are countless CGI/deep fake cameos in this movie, which is neat when you read the list and less thrilling when it happens on screen. That said, the strangest Flash cameo is flesh-and-blood. At the very end of the movie, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) is confronted with a third version of Bruce Wayne. It’s not Ben Affleck, and it’s not Michael Keaton, but instead...it’s George Clooney! Nothing in the film explains why the timeline has been changed to reboot Clooney’s Batman from 1997, and at this moment, it’s unclear if the new slate of DC movies — under the guidance of James Gunn — are totally serious about bringing back Clooney semi-permanently. Is this just a gag ending? Or, will a future DC Batman movie star George Clooney?
Either way, right now, the ending of The Flash features the resurrection of the least popular Batman of them all. Back in 1997, Clooney played Batman/Bruce Wayne in the Joel Schumacher film Batman and Robin, which is universally considered to be one of the worst superhero movies of all time. Unlike the previous Schumacher-directed bat-flick, 1995’s Batman Forever, even ‘90s nostalgia hasn’t rehabilitated the reputation of Batman and Robin. George Clooney has also repeatedly apologized for Batman and Robin, and has made it pretty clear many times that he would likely never return to the role.
So, what’s going on with his cameo at the end of The Flash? Why is Clooney back as Bruce Wayne? For most, the answer is: it’s a joke. The Flash features several gratuitous CGI cameos of famous DC heroes, including (but not limited to) Christopher Reeve and Helen Slater as Superman and Supergirl, Adam West as Batman, and even Nicholas Cage as an unrealized version of Superman from the 1990s. Bafflingly, The Flash does not feature a cameo from living Superman actors Brandon Routh, Henry Cavill, Tom Welling, or Tyler Hoechlin. The movie also fails to feature any cameos from living Flash actors either. Grant Gustin, the star of CW’s TV series The Flash is nowhere in sight, nor is John Wesley Shipp, the Flash from the 1990s series.
So, why did the DC powers-that-be and Flash director Andy Muschietti bring back Clooney? Again, right now, there’s no clear answer. However, as pointed out by Colton Ogburn on Screencrush, the original ending of The Flash did not feature George Clooney. When the movie was screened for the press at CinemaCon in April 2023, the film simply stopped before revealing Bruce Wayne’s face. But, in an ending that was never screened for the public (not even the press), Michael Keaton would have reappeared. In another ending, which was reportedly never even shot, Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill would have appeared.
As of now, it seems that the new ending, with George Clooney as Bruce Wayne, was the ending that James Gunn wanted. This leads us back to the big question. Because Gunn is now resetting the entire DC movie universe, and there’s a new Batman movie — The Brave and the Bold — coming sometime after 2025, does that mean Batman in that movie will be...George Clooney?
Most pundits say no. The George Clooney ending was a joke, and a one-off, and Clooney will likely not be Batman in The Brave and the Bold. And yet, Colton Ogburn makes a pretty convincing case on Screencrush (watch the video above!) that James Gunn sticking Clooney in the movie seems pointed and intentional. Why bother to change the ending with a different Batman unless you’re going to use him in another movie? Furthermore, because The Brave and the Bold is set to tell a father-son Batman story, wouldn’t Clooney be perfect for that? On top of that, the director of The Brave and the Bold will be Andy Muschietti, the same guy who directed The Flash.
As with nearly all things related to the DC superhero movies post-2013, all of this is very confusing. Even comic book experts and critics who write about this stuff constantly are confused by the ending of The Flash. Is it a bold step in a new direction, or a last-minute joke, from an underbaked mishmash of a movie? Stay tuned for...awhile. We may know the answer in a bat-year or two.
The Flash is out in theaters now.
*Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated Batman and Robin was released in 1998 instead of the correct year, 1997. We deeply regret this error, but our regret is not as deep as how much Uma Thruman enjoyed wearing rubber suits.
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