Tim Burton Accuses Warner Bros. Of Cultural Appropriation For Depiction Of Michael Keaton’s Batman In ‘The Flash,’ Says He Is In “Quiet Revolt”

Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, and Ezra Miller (again) as The Flash, Batman, and The Flash (again) in Andy Muschietti's, "The Flash."

For those who haven’t seen it – or maybe don’t have social media – The Flash is notable for legacy cameos of several versions of Superman and Batman. Two of those were adaptations guided by the mind of Tim Burton. Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman is the most prominent example, but Nicolas Cage’s unrealized iteration of Superman also turned up for a cameo.

Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton) is ready to get nuts in The Flash (2023), Warner Bros. Pictures

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Warner Bros. may have thought they were paying tribute to Burton’s work made and unmade, but he didn’t see it that way. He told the British Film Institute recently that he takes issue with the “cultural appropriation” of characters he takes ownership of. Due to that, the director is railing against the studios in his own way, but quietly.

“But also it goes into another AI thing, and this is why I think I’m over it with the studio. They can take what you did, Batman or whatever, and culturally misappropriate it, or whatever you want to call it,” Burton said. “Even though you’re a slave of Disney or Warner Brothers, they can do whatever they want.”

Continuing, the director explained, “So in my latter years of life, I’m in quiet revolt against all this.“

Dark Flash in Flash

Dark Flash in the Chronobowl of The Flash (2023), Warner Bros. Entertainment

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Not too long ago, Burton railed against bat nipples and the direction Warner went with Batman Forever, which couldn’t have been further from his vision in 1989 and in Returns. Still, his replacement, the late Joel Schumacher, held onto some of the sensuality via his femme fatales.

Even so, Burton was willing to give Warner and DC another chance with Superman Lives, largely because Kevin Smith accidentally talked himself out of a job. All parties, including star Nic Cage, devoted years of pre-production and costume tests that went nowhere. For many, this was earth-shattering, but they never let go of what could have been.

Tim Burton walks among the dead at Guanajuato’s Museum of the Mummies of Guanajuato. Burton attended Expresion en Corto’s horror film screening among Guanajuato’s graveyards and mausoleums. Photo Credit: Expresioncorto, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Neither did Tim Burton, who told BFI he has no regrets over the experience. “I will say this: when you work that long on a project and it doesn’t happen, it affects you for the rest of your life. Because you get passionate about things, and each thing is an unknown journey, and it wasn’t there yet,” he reflected.

Burton added, “But it’s one of those experiences that never leaves you, a little bit.”

The experience of making Superman Lives – stalled and however brief – is one he recounted in the documentary The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened along with Smith and the polarizing producer Jon Peters. Clips of Cage were used to get facets of his perspective, but he didn’t directly participate.

2023-Cage as Superman in Flash

Nicolas Cage as Superman in The Flash (2023), Warner Bros. Entertainment

The quirky actor succeeded in showing up to mo-cap his Flash cameo, though. It is too bad the VFX team CG-washed his performance with a rubbery cartoon of him.

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