Batman Forever has surprisingly entered the extended cut conversation recently fueled by HBO Max’s upcoming release of director Zack Snyder’s originally-envisioned version of 2017’s Justice League, a.k.a. The Snyder Cut. Yet, while the theatrical version of the 1995 third film in the Batman franchise—unlike Justice League—did reflect the vision of its director, the recently-departed Joel Schumacher, it seems that a darker and much (much) longer version exists.
Citing a source close to the movie, Variety has confirmed the existence of a mega-sized 170-minute cut of Schumacher’s Batman Forever, which starkly contrasts with the standard theatrical version we all know, which runs at 121 minutes. The 1995 film stands as Val Kilmer’s lone onscreen tenure in the cape and cowl (enhanced by a nipples-laden bat-suit), joined by Chris O’Donnell as Robin and Nicole Kidman as love interest Chase Meridian, opposite an ostentatious rogues gallery of Jim Carrey’s Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face. Thusly, the report reveals that the extra 49 minutes notably expands screen time for the two villains. According to the description:
“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 difference is immediately clear, since Batman Forever normally starts with Batman in a hostage situation with an already-escaped (and fully-realized) supervillain in Two-Face, whose presence is designed to accommodate the tragic origin story of O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson/Robin, and provide a wacky foil for Carrey’s disturbed and disregarded Wayne Enterprises researcher, Edward Nygma, in his rapid transformation into the Riddler. Thus, like the theatrical version, the Extended Cut is dominated by the Riddler, who—played in exuberantly-animated hooting-and-hollering form by a white-hot Ace Ventura/Dumb and Dumber-fresh Carrey—was clearly designed to be the film’s main draw, even more so than Kilmer’s title role. Yet, Schumacher’s extended cut seems designed to focus on the parallel arcs of Riddler and Batman in a more dramatic fashion.
Indeed, the report further indicates that much of the extra footage is devoted to further exploration of Bruce Wayne’s emotional issues, which, as we saw in the film, is what draws him into the orbit of Kidman’s Batman-obsessed psychologist, Chase Meridian, to whom he eventually reveals his secret vigilante identity. Thus, the cited sequence of Bruce facing down a human-sized bat might point to a vision that’s possibly discussed with Chase, and not—as many of comic fans might enthusiastically conjecture—a cameo by the famous monstrous comic villain, Man-Bat. Pertinent to the idea of parallel arcs, the end of the theatrical version shows Chase treating an Arkham Asylum-committed Riddler, who, after a movie-climactic disaster with his brainwave vacuum, is left under the delusion that he himself is Batman.
That brings us to the question at hand. With the Snyder Cut having primed the pump, will Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever Extended Cut somehow see a release? Well, that’s where things get complicated. After all, on the surface, the film was a certified hit that topped the box office on a busy June 16-18 opening weekend in 1995, going on to gross $336.56 million worldwide. However, the film was a radical departure from the Gothic aesthetic and sensibilities of its two predecessors by director Tim Burton, and rubbed a good portion of the fandom the wrong way. Indeed, the Batman tenure of Schumacher—despite bringing enormous applicable genre credibility from films like The Lost Boys and Flatliners—would be defined by the kind of campiness that Burton’s 1989 film famously shed. Moreover, Schumacher would double down on that aspect with his infamous George Clooney-headlined 1997 follow-up, Batman & Robin, which we’re not getting into here.
However, writer Marc Bernardin (Castle Rock, Star Trek: Picard), who initially teased the Batman Forever Extended Cut rumor on Twitter last week, posted a poll with results that seemingly suggests audience interest in such a comprehensive cut. While one might attribute such a desire to morbid curiosity, masochism or even COVID-era lockdown psychoses, it might just stem from good old-fashioned nostalgia. After all, this film franchise’s first Caped Crusader, Michael Keaton, is reportedly in talks to reprise the role in the modern DC Extended Universe for a Flash film.
Nevertheless, the likelihood of the Batman Forever Extended Cut’s release likely depends on the performance (or, in the very least, bankable publicity,) of the HBO Max release of the Justice League Snyder Cut, which still doesn’t have a release window. Yet, its technical feasibility would not be an obstacle for a green light, since—unlike the Snyder Cut—such an endeavor would not involve the investment of a reported $30 million cost to shoot and digitally-construct the extra scenes. Thus, it will be interesting to see where this goes—if it goes anywhere at all, that is.