Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever sits at a weird place on the scale of Batman movie quality. Sporting the early signs of the neon cartoon madness that would turn Schumacher’s later Batman And Robin into a frequently cited cinematic whipping boy, the film is somewhat validated by a strong performance from Val Kilmer, following in Michael Keaton’s footsteps as an obviously damaged Bruce Wayne. Of course, those footsteps were only free to be followed in because Keaton turned the film down, choosing to end his tenure as The Dark Knight with Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.
Keaton was apparently unenthused by the script he was shown (penned by Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, and the inescapable Akiva Goldsman). But the final straw was new director Schumacher asking, “Why does everything have to be so dark?,” a clear rejection of the Frank Miller-inspired style of Keaton and Burton’s Batman films. Still, even if Schumacher’s colorful obsessions meant we missed out on seeing Keaton trade growls with Tommy Lee Jones, or punch a preening, spandex-clad Jim Carrey in the face, at least we can presume that some of the actor’s frustrations with the role helped fuel 2014’s Birdman—and its Oscar-winning resurrection of Keaton’s career.