Releasing “new” versions of superhero films closer to a director’s original vision is all the rage. First, there was Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, then the massive campaign that resulted in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and there are even calls now for an official release of the Super Mario Bros Extended Cut.
However, none of these campaigns may have as much impact on the final movie as the one behind Batman Forever: The Schumacher Cut. Batman fans have known for a long time that a significant amount of material was cut from 1995’s Batman Forever, directed by Joel Schumacher. At the time, Warner Bros. and DC wanted to move away from the darker and more gothic tone of the previous two Tim Burton Batman movies, Batman and Batman Returns, guaranteeing a box office hit and plenty of merchandising opportunities. All told, a staggering 120 minutes were cut.
Batman Forever was a troubled production from the start, with Jim Carrey (The Riddler) and Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face) famously not getting along. “I hate you,” Jones told Carrey. “I really don’t like you… I cannot sanction your buffoonery.” Schumacher also clashed with Batman actor Val Kilmer to the point that the actor refused to speak to him for two weeks. The director later called his star “psychotic” in an interview with Vulture.
[Tommy Lee Jones] was fabulous on The Client. But he was not kind to Jim Carrey when we were making Batman Forever. And I didn’t say Val [Kilmer] was difficult to work with on Batman Forever. I said he was psychotic.
While the film was an entertaining popcorn movie, Batman Forever lacked the depth and gravitas of the previous two films, and fans have long hoped that access to the original Schumacher footage might shift the tone. Now, after the success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, hopes are again being raised that we may finally get to see the footage restored in some form, with fans campaigning for the release on Twitter under the hashtag #ReleaseTheSchumacherCut.
There were rumors that some of the lost material would be released on DVD for the film’s 10th anniversary back in 2005. However, while all four movies were rereleased alongside Batman Begins as special editions and some deleted scenes were added to Batman Forever, none of the original footage was restored.
Schumacher said at the time that he welcomed the release of an extended edition even though he had been happy with the original theatrical cut. The movie grossed $336 million worldwide, surpassing the haul of Batman Returns and paving the way for 1997’s Batman & Robin to lean even harder into the goofy tone.
Rumors that Warner and DC would be releasing the lost Batman Forever footage started again after the death of Schumacher last year, with around 50 minutes of footage said to be on the table and writer Marc Bernardin tweeting that the original cut still existed. Still, DC was unsure if “there’s any hunger” for the footage among the fans.
Warner Bros. subsequently confirmed to Variety that the edit existed but denied that they intended to release it, unsure even what footage remained. But these claims were contradicted by Batman Forever‘s screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who said he has seen the so-called Schumacher Cut, or “Preview Cut: One.”
Speaking on the Fatman Beyond podcast with director Kevin Smith, Bernardin said that any potential release of The Schumacher Cut would be far more straightforward than the work that went into Zack Snyder’s Justice League. However, while nowhere near as much expensive visual effects work is needed, the footage needs sound mixing, color grading, and scoring. Also, Schumacher can no longer give his input, potentially creating an ethical dilemma for a new director wishing to interpret his vision.
What is The Schumacher Cut of Batman Forever?
What exactly is in the Schumacher Cut? That’s been a mystery ever since 1995, with some saying an entirely different opening and ending exists, plus a fight scene with a human-sized bat.
Firstly, let talk about what The Schumacher Cut isn’t. While many fans perhaps hope that the new version completely realigns Batman Forever with the style of the Tim Burton films, it doesn’t. The original cut is darker and grittier than what was released in theaters, but it retains its lighter and campier moments, remaining a transitional movie between the Burton era and the over-the-top Batman & Robin.
What remains is what Goldsman describes as a “pretty psychological exploration of guilt and shame,” with scenes including Bruce Wayne brooding on the nature of being Batman and concluding that the famous cape has been his enemy all along. This theme runs throughout the deleted footage, with Batman ridden with guilt over his failures to save his own parents and those of Dick Grayson. Finally, a despondent Batman retires from crime-fighting to dedicate himself to caring for his new young ward, entering a period of reflection symbolized as a Man-Bat.
One of the critical scenes cut from the theatrical version is Batman’s discovery of his father’s “red diary,” which lays out the events leading up to his parents’ murder. The finding absolves him of the lifelong guilt of believing that he asked his parents to visit the cinema that night.
Beyond these entirely new scenes, there are extensions to conversations with Bruce Wayne and Alfred, additional footage of Jim Carrey as The Riddler, extended action shots, and much more we don’t know anything about.
While The Schumacher Cut would undoubtedly add new depth to the film, it’s important not to assume that any new version would suddenly turn Batman Forever into a masterpiece. Additionally, while some will point out that Schumacher said he was happy with the final version, others will say he was open to an extended version, meaning there’s no easy answer about whether he’d have supported the project as Richard Donner and Zack Snyder did.
What do you think? Should we get to see The Schumacher Cut? Or is it something best left in the past?