Recently, I rewatched Batman Forever to wallow in some old nostalgia. This is, after all, the movie I was totally obsessed with the summer of 1995. I had the action figures, I had the video game, I had the school folders, I had the storybook… didn’t go as far as the bedsheets though (that would be too far). I saw the movie at least three times in the theater, particularly reveling in Jim Carrey’s performance (I was also big on Ace Ventura at the time). For an eight year old, the bright colors, campy acting and rousing action scenes kept my attention while critics and older filmgoers were decrying the lack of quality and tone that Tim Burton had brought with his films. I was concerned with none of that because the movie was a blast.
So it came as a surprise when I popped the DVD in to see just how bad Batman Forever had aged that not only has it not aged terribly but the story and filmmaking were… pretty good?
“Really?” you, random internet goer, must be thinking. “Batman Forever? That Joel Schumacher travesty? With the nipples on the Batsuit? No way that’s good. It’s so bad that I wouldn’t bother watching it again.”
But you should. You should watch it again. And I hope this essay will convince you to give it a second look.
After rewatching the amazingly-not-crappy Batman Forever, I began reading about the film via Wikipedia and it’s IMDB trivia page. Quickly, I was tuned in to the fact that there were several changes made to the film in the editing room. What could those changes be? Some further investigation coupled with a read of a 1994 draft of Akiva Goldman’s screenplay led to some wild discoveries which will be detailed throughout. I’ve also included some excerpts of Goldman’s script here and there.
I started making some notes about visuals and little things that I remembered from the film and there seemed to be discernible patterns and themes emerging. Imagine that – themes! How much of this was really intentional can be debated, I suppose. In the Behind the Scenes featurette, Joel Schumacher talked about how there was no deep meaning in anything they did. They were just trying to have fun. BUT! That doesn’t mean he set out to make a bad movie or tell a stupid story. Just because he wasn’t going for any “deep meaning” doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying to make the strongest film he could.
This essay is an organized collection of observations and visuals detailing some of those themes and generally highlighting the amount of thought and work put into Batman Forever.
But first, I would like to talk about some of those “changes” that were made to the film during the editing process, which involved removing a large part of Bruce Wayne’s emotional arc.
As well as a giant bat.