Rosie Knight

Rosie Knight

Sept. 19, 2018


Tim Burton's Batman films changed Hollywood forever. They introduced levels of mass marketing and merchandising that had been hitherto unseen. But Batman Returns, though successful, was seen as too dark by some. This included McDonald's, which was horrified by the Penguin's gruesomeness and the BDSM fetish aspects of Catwoman's costume, both which were ill-suited for Happy Meal toys. Thus Warner Bros. looked for a new kid-friendly take on the Dark Knight for the third film in what was shaping up to be the definitive blockbuster franchise of the '90s. They found it in '80s brat pack director Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever (which you can currently watch here). 


Star Michael Keaton departed due to the sequel's change in direction. So the production decided to focus on a younger Bruce Wayne. After the role was turned down by Ethan Hawke, Val Kilmer accepted the responsibility of wearing the cowl. Rene Russo had already been cast as love interest Chase Meridian, but after the casting of Kilmer she was sacked and replaced with Nicole Kidman. Fans of the original Batman film were disappointed to see Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face; half of the role had already been given to the wonderful Billy Dee Williams, who'd played Harvey Dent in the 1989 classic, and was signed on to play him  in later films. Alas, due to Schumacher's previous work with Jones on The Client, we never got to see Williams' vision for Two-Face. 




Another big change from Batman Returns was the lack of Danny Elfman and his iconic score. Elfman defined the first two modern cinematic outings of the Dark Knight with his eerie and epic soundscape, and without him the production team decided not to bother trying to ape his style. Instead, they went with composer Elliot Goldenthal, and created a blockbuster soundtrack filled with massive musical stars. Although many of the cuts from the soundtrack never even made it into the finished film, WB used their record industry muscle to find a spot for artists at the top of every hot mid-'90s genre. The song most synonymous with the threequel is easily Seal's "Kiss from a Rose," a soulful power ballad that took the charts by storm, thanks in part to a Batman-themed music video directed by Schumacher himself. The OST was a huge hit. Alongside Seal's track, it featured artists from U2 to Massive Attack, PJ Harvey to Sunny Day Real Estate, and Brandy to Method Man. It was a veritable smorgasbord that showcased just how eclectic WB's roster was at the time. 




In a way, the soundtrack was a metaphor for Batman's thematic change, as the Caped Crusader transitioned from Burton's goth sensibilities to Schumacher's pop aesthetic. Neons saturated the characters and sets, and the story began to favor a campy Batman '66 influence above any distinct comic book aesthetic. Comedy superstar Jim Carrey was brought in to deliver an absurdist take on The Riddler, replete in a skintight bright green leotard and electric orange hair. While up-and-coming Hollywood hunk Chris O'Donnell was tapped to portray an iconic role that had been cut from the scripts for both of Burton's films. -- Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin. Marlon Wayans had signed on to play the Boy Wonder in Batman Returns before the character was cut. It was expected that, much like Billy Dee Williams, Wayans would get his shot in the third installment. But Schumacher cleaned house, and the young comedian would never get the chance to wear the green, yellow, and red tights.




When Batman Forever was released, it ended up with the second biggest box office of the four Batman films. Forever took in $336.5 million, making it far more profitable than its critically acclaimed cult classic predecessor. 


Though the film received mixed reviews, the bright, bombastic, and more child-friendly vision of Gotham and its protector clicked with the audiences of 1995, making the film an undeniable smash. Focused on Carrey's outlandish Riddler and Jones' Two-Face, the film traded in huge set pieces and over-the-top... well, everything. From the extreme representation of Two-Face's duality -- including two women to go along with his two personalities -- to the narrative about wacky head blenders which connect to TVs and control people's brains, Batman Forever is a wild ride that signified a huge change in the direction of the Caped Crusader, one that resulted in an even more outrageous experience -- Schumacher's follow-up, 1997's Batman & Robin.