Pick a day in the summer, and the odds aren't half bad that some comic book or superhero movie has been released on it in the course of the last twenty years. That wasn't the case when Batman Forever hit theaters in June of 1995, back when the only comic book movies you were likely to see on the big screen were the ones inspired by Tim Burton's Batman. Joel Schumacher took over from Burton, and from the get-go, his movies were lambasted. In the intervening years, there has been a fair amount of talk about how fair or unfair it was to blast Schumacher's vision for the character of Batman, and with the recent revelation that a more complex, director-driven version of Batman Forever might be locked away in the Warner Bros. vault, it's time to see what he might have done with less interference.
There's HBO Max, of course, where the current WB management regime is essentially rebuking decisions made by their predecessors by spending millions to release Zack Snyder's Justice League, but DC Universe might be an even better home for Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever. The fan-friendly portal would give the people most likely to care about a "director's cut" of a decades-old movie first crack at it, and since Forever, unlike Justice League, was a big box office hit and has had more than twenty years of lucrative home video, rental, and streaming revenue to make it an even bigger profit center, it would have significantly fewer costs to recoup.
Tim Burton had redefined the character of Batman for a new generation of casual fans, who hadn't seen the Dark Knight since Adam West's campy 1960s TV series, and didn't realize that they had missed out on Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, and others. That, combined with the widespread perception that Schumacher was brought in to "tone down" the movies to sell more toys, kids' clothes, and Trapper Keepers, frustrated some fans, and the bright, noisy, campy Bat-films that Schmacher delivered didn't do much to dispel that idea.
Batman Forever made a bunch of money, sold a bunch of merch, and spurred a sequel that was even more poorly-received. While it was still a commercial hit, it seemed the franchise was on the wane, and Warners shelved it for almost a decade before bringing it back with filmmaker Christopher Nolan.
Of course, one thing you might notice there is that both Burton and Nolan started from scratch and had studio backing to make films they believed in that spoke to their individual styles and strengths as filmmakers, whereas Schumacher came in and was understood to be essentially following studio mandates, saddled with the then-recent memory of the Burton films's success and apparently ties to those films' continuity.
That is not to say that Schumacher made assembly-line films, or that his voice didn't poke through them. Clearly it did, and the movies have many of the same strengths and weaknesses of his other movies. But latter day reappraisals of the films have often speculated about what Schumacher might have made if left to his own devices. Interviews, commentary tracks, and industry rumors had long suggested that a different take -- particularly on Forever -- was originally in the cards. Now, it seems, we have some degree of confirmation on that, as well as the suggestion that the movie exists in some form in Warner Bros.' archives.
It seems like they have virtually nothing to lose by letting fans get a sense of what it was all about.
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