When film director Joel Schumacher died in late June, there was a reappraisal of a number of his sometimes contentious films. Chief among those were his two goes with the Batman franchise in the mid-’90s. At the time — and especially coming off of Tim Burton’s more brooding entries starring Michael Keaton — both Batman Forever and Batman and Robin were considered a bit too campy, even if the first, at least, proved a monster hit. But since their helmsman’s death, both have inspired renewed (or at least long-concealed) appreciation, with some making the case for them worthy of recognition, especially as queer texts made by an openly gay filmmaker.
But it turns out at least Batman Forever wasn’t always supposed to be pure neon-drenched silliness. Variety confirmed through Warner Bros. that there was once a much longer, and fairly different version of the 1995 blockbuster, which ran 170 minutes — that’s six minutes longer than the quite epic The Dark Knight Rises — and which was described by one source as a “much darker, more serious’ version of the film.”
What were some of the things lost to the cutting room floor? As per Variety:
This version opens with a sequence involving the villain Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) escaping from Arkham Asylum, and features extended scenes with the Riddler (Jim Carrey) 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 (Val Kilmer) to decide to become Batman, including a sequence of Wayne facing down a giant, human-sized bat.
The version that hit theaters 25 years ago was a relatively more modest 129 minutes, and though it bares traces of some of these snipped sections — including some brief flashes of Wayne’s dreams and childhood — its tone could safely be described as non-serious, and not terribly dark.
Will you ever see this bleaker Batman Forever? Who knows! Warner says they’re not even sure if all the footage from this longer version exists, and even if so, Schumacher’s no longer around to patch it back together. (Some of the footage is available as deleted scenes.) As of now, there are no plans to release a patched-together director’s cut, but never say never. After all, the same studio recently made plans to cobble together than long-demanded “Snyder Cut” of Justice League.