Following the death of filmmaker Joel Schumacher last month, “Star Trek: Picard” writer Marc Bernardin ignited buzz on social media after tweeting about the potential existence of a 170-minute director’s cut of Schumacher’s 1995 comic book movie “Batman Forever.” The film was Schumacher’s first Batman movie and starred Val Kilmer as the Caped Crusader opposite Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face and Jim Carrey’s Riddler. Variety has now confirmed that a longer cut of “Batman Forever” does exist and includes more Carrey, a darker tone, and the inclusion of a bat the size of a human.
According to Variety’s report on the extended “Batman Forever” cut: “This version opens with a sequence involving the villain Two-Face escaping from Arkham Asylum and features extended scenes with the Riddler when he invades the Batcave and uses his signature cane as a weapon. The bulk of this version’s runtime focuses on the emotional and psychological issues that led Bruce Wayne to decide to become Batman, including a sequence of Wayne facing down a giant, human-sized bat.”
The cut of “Batman Forever” that hit theaters in 1995 ran 129 minutes, which means a good 40 minutes or so of material was left on the cutting room floor from Schumacher’s extended cut. The theatrical cut introduced Chris O’Donnell as Dick Grayson, aka Robin, but the extended cut reportedly deals less with this storyline and more with Bruce Wayne’s emotional issues as explored in his relationship with psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). A Warner Bros. spokesperson told Variety there’s no plan to a release a “Batman Forever” extended cut, nor is the studio certain all of the footage is still intact.
Schumacher was brought on to helm “Batman Forever” after Tim Burton stepped away from the franchise following “Batman” and “Batman Returns.” Warner Bros. wanted to take the film series in a lighter direction, hence Schumacher’s over-the-top theatrics and campier take on the material. Given the studio did not want another Batman film mired in the darkness of Burton’s vision, it makes sense that Schumacher would’ve had to cut out the darker elements of the extended cut.
In an interview with IndieWire last month, “Batman Forever” co-writer Akiva Goldsman described the first version of the 1995 movie as “a very, very intricate story of guilt” in which Bruce discovers a journal from his father that reads: “Martha and I, we want to stay home tonight, but Bruce wants to see a movie.” As Goldsman explained, “Bruce has repressed the fact that he holds himself responsible for his parents’ death. We shot it, it was tested, audiences were not interested in the psychology.”
While not a critical favorite, “Batman Forever” was the top-grossing film of 1995 with $184 million at the domestic box office (that’s just under $400 million when adjusted for inflation). Schumacher would return to the director’s chair for the critically panned 1998 sequel, “Batman and Robin.”