One of the great superhero mysteries of all time is why Tim Burton’s Batman 3 fell apart. Fortunately, we have a detailed article on exactly that right here if you’re interested. But more murky than the details of Burton’s departure (which are fairly straightforward) is why Michael Keaton stepped away from his role as Batman.
Burton left in part because the studio was hoping for a more commercial affair than the disturbing Batman Returns. Keaton, however, didn’t leave when Tim Burton did. In fact, he was still attached to Batman Forever as the Joel Schumacher era dawned. What drove him away? Batman Forever‘s awful script, of course.
“[The film] just wasn’t any good, man,” Keaton said in a wonderful new interview with The Guardian. “I tried to be patient, but after a certain point, I was like, I can’t take this any more, this is going to be horrible. But, look, there was some really horrible taste in the ’90s, and I probably contributed to that, unfortunately,” Keaton admitted. “It was a time of nouveau riche excess – everyone was known for their jets and their stuff. And I thought, I’m in this job for the long run, I don’t want this. And the truth is, I’m not boasting, but I was correct.”
No, don’t worry, Mr. Keaton. You aren’t boasting. Batman Forever is a shrill nightmare of a movie, and reducing its problems to cute buzzwords like “neon” or “bat nipples” is a disservice to how truly nonsensical its script is, not to mention the impossibly irritating performances by its two key villains. Val Kilmer did the best he could as Bruce Wayne, but it’s unlikely that even Michael Keaton could have made enough of a difference in this one.