Michael Keaton Explains Why He Declined Batman Forever

Michael Keaton Batman

Back in 1995, both Michael Keaton and Tim Burton stepped away from the Batman franchise after 1992’s darker, grittier sequel Batman Returns. Val Kilmer replaced Keaton while Joel Schumacher filled Burton’s director’s chair for the mediocre Batman Forever, but it was never made clear why exactly Keaton left. That is, until now.

In an interview with THR promoting The Founder, Keaton explained that the third film didn’t quite sit right with him, and decided that it would be best to hang up the cape and cowl.

It [the script] sucked. I knew it was in trouble when he [Joel Schumacher] said ‘Why does everything have to be so dark?’

Keaton was also asked about his time spent working with Burton and called the director “an artist and a visionary.” Further in the interview, he described the feeling of risk that surrounded the 1989 film, which felt like it could either sink or swim under their watch.

If it [the movie] went down, we were going down in a big way.

In the risk-aversion age of superhero films we live in today, that seems almost quaint, doesn’t it? Of course, Keaton isn’t necessarily one to sit back and mull upon the glory days. He’s set to play the Vulture in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, so he’s still a part of the system.

Still, there was a sense of danger and brooding in Burton’s films that was ultimately lost in Schumacher’s take on the material, for better or worse. Jim Carrey was fun as the Riddler — and how can you forget Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose?” — but it certainly lacked that sense of menace and grit, replaced instead by camp and silliness in the late ’90s films before Christopher Nolan steered the Batman ship back on track with his Dark Knight trilogy.