– by Joseph Jammer Medina

For some (young) folks, the Batman they grew up with was Christian Bale, and for an older group, Adam West has that honor. However, for those ‘80s and ‘90s kids, our Batman was the one and only Michael Keaton.

The man donned the cowl for two dark, twisted films directed by Tim Burton, Batman and Batman Returns. In sharp contrast to Adam West’s campy portrayal of the Caped Crusader, Michael Keaton’s was very much closer to the darker vision that permeated comics in that time period.

While Batman and Batman Returns didn’t necessarily alienate the younger audience, it didn’t bother trying to talk down to them. It told the story it wanted to tell, and the studio allowed Burton all his dark quirks along the way.

RELATED: The Batman – New Report Gives Us Another Reason To Doubt Ben Affleck Returning To Play Caped Crusader

However, a big change came with the third film. Rather than stick with Burton, the studio turned to Joel Schumacher for what would become Batman Forever. Leaving with Burton went Keaton, and in his place, Val Kilmer donned the cowl. But why did Keaton leave? Was he sick of playing the character, or was it something else? Speaking with The Guardian, Keaton was blunt about his reasons for leaving.

“[The film] just wasn’t any good, man. 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. 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. There are a whole load of people who ran things that are long gone.”

While I would argue that Batman Forever was a passable, albeit large step down from Burton’s films, Keaton certainly has a point regarding the strange taste of the era. After Forever, things skewed harder towards the camp, and we’ll never forget the product that was Batman and Robin.

The franchise went on to prove what NOT to do, and while it was painful at the time, it did ultimately bring us Batman Begins.

However, if there’s another silver lining apart from that, it’s the fun story that Keaton has with George Clooney, who played Batman in Batman and Robin. When asked if he and Clooney shared stories, Keaton responded that they didn’t, but Clooney did say something that he didn’t understand for the longest time.

“He used to shout at me, ‘Hey, the brotherhood!’ And I’d go, ‘Hey!’ But I had no idea what he meant. Swear to God! And he did it a bunch of times: ‘Brotherhood!’ And then someone explained it to me and I was like, ‘Ohhhhh!’ I mean, I think I’d forgotten he was in [Batman].”

Great stuff. Kind of awkward, but hilarious.

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SOURCE: The Guardian

  • J’Accuse

    No, it’s not passable. Batman Forever is complete shit. Tommy Lee Jones completely embarrassed himself. Keaton escaped.

    • Joseph Jammer Medina

      The thing is, I say that, but I cannot disagree with any grievances you have.

      • J’Accuse

        I will grant that Chris O’Donnell was good, under the circumstances. and Kidman was kind of hot.

        • Jerry Nice

          “Holy rusted metal Batman!…The ground, it’s full of holes, you know, holy…”

          • Nattown

            Classic line.

    • axebox

      And yet Jim Carrey was amazing in it. Probably the only thing that redeems the film, unlike Batman & Robin.

      • Nattown

        During the Nolan Batman era I was extremely sad that Jim played The Riddler then and not The Riddler now. That “Riddle me this….Riddle me that…Who’s afraid of the big black bat” was so good.

        • Kindofabigdeal

          I enjoyed Kiss From A Bat but it was a step down as far as quality. For me it felt more like how a comic book movie should feel. Burtons felt like it’s own thing. It definitely wanted to emulate the Adam West days of Batman with the “holy rusted metal batman” line. Carrey did a good job, Tommy seemed like he took Ritalin during production. Would have made a great villain that wasn’t Two-Face, as he always seemed more of a gangster who is just a little off. That is what made the character work in Dark Knight in my opinion.

      • Mort Guffman

        I don’t know if Carrey was “amazing” in it. I felt that he was way too over-the-top, like he was doing a poor Frank Gorshin impersonation. There was times when he should’ve been reigned in, but wasn’t, which I blame on Joel Schumacher as the director.

      • Weresmurf

        Amazing? He just played a poor version of the Joker trying to be the Riddler.

      • Meatwad

        Jim Carrey was playing Jim Carrey for that Riddler role.

    • Victor Roa

      I had an old friend who would always argue with me on how it was better as we watched Bruce Timm Batman series together.

    • Great stuff. Kind of awkward, but hilarious.

    • Great stuff. Kind of awkward, but hilarious…

  • tet0r

    Nope. My Batman will always be Kevin Conroy.

    • Kindofabigdeal

      He’s the voice, not the face of my Batman.

  • Moby85

    Keaton certainly landed on his feet. I guess his career did take a dip in the late 90’s but that could have been by choice to raise his kids or something. The silver lining is that now, not only is he making great films (Birdman, The Founder) that get him Oscar buzz but he’s back in the MCU as a pretty good villain. And in Spider-Man this was a guy who did not mail it in with a paint by numbers gig either, he brought menace and humanity to Vulture.

    • Kindofabigdeal

      Just watched The Founder last night. I always love Keaton but it was kind of hard watching him swindle Ron Swanson out of his McDollars.

      • Ryan Fink

        Cuz Keaton brought his A game to that Kroc!

      • Moby85

        Ron was fantastic in that movie lol.


      I’m a little surprised that a guy like Tarantino didn’t use him more…only one movie? For some reason Keaton comes across as a Tarantino type of actor to me.

  • CoolHandJuke

    In that picture, why is Bruce Wayne dressed like Batman?

    • Kindofabigdeal

      “Because he is Batman, you moron.” – Elvira Catlady

      • Ryan Fink

        I need to to watch some tiny toons now!

  • Victor Roa

    What’s interesting, the original Sam Hamm script is there’s a big chase scene on horse back…. and you know what all this scene is fun sense of humor of Batman trying to pretend to be a “normal man” especially the distant look Keaton gives “He kisses someone away.”
    So yeah, blah blah blah, original Batman script was this amazing thing, no it was always keaton’s manic 80s yuppie american psycho performance

    • noahwayne0

      OH WOW – that tiny toons clip- I haven’t seen that in decades!

      • Victor Roa

        Bruce Timm used to be on Tiny Toons with Paul Dini

  • J’Accuse

    I’m not crazy about his politics or the way he lures the elderly into a second mortgage but I’ve always respected Tommy Lee Jones as an actor. Batman Forever is the only thing I’ve ever seen him be absolutely terrible in. It’s like someone showed him Ceaser Romero as the Joker and said, just do that,

    • Kindofabigdeal

      Don’t put it past Joel Shoemaker.


      yeah same here..respect as an actor. But I thought he was just miscast.. Two-face I felt should be a younger.. a little closer to Waynes age..but more importantly someone very good looking..which is also part of the reason his dis-figuration is a bit tragic. After all, he use to be called Handsome Harvey. Also no sense of the relationship/friendship between Harvey and Bats/Bruce prior. Then you have the Shumaker factor..

      • Smerdyakov

        Plus they kept calling him “Harvey Two-Face” which was inane.

  • syambo87

    Does anyone remember Drew Barrymore was one of Two Face’s Girls?…

    i liked Arnold as Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin… his lines maybe cheesy but they were the best Adam West style Campy… i didn’t like Uma Therman… George Clooney.. the Fake Lips… and Batgirl… who she’s alfred’s Niece? Should have been Barbara Gordon man…

    • Kindofabigdeal

      Yeah, and Debi Mazar was his number two girl.


      Batman credit card.

  • syambo87

    this is a nice entry… should write more entries like this mr. J.J. Medina… the first Batman i grew up with was Batman Returns… i was scared of Penguin but he was my favorite character… i sympathesized with him… black ooze coming out of his mouth… id always tape my hands pretending i had 3 fingers like him…

    i wonder what happen to those kids who grew up watching Val Kilmer or George Clooney as their First Batman??….

  • the50sguystrikesback

    I was 25 years old when ‘Batman’ was released and I, for one, was very disappointed. While Burton’s attempt at a darker, more brooding Batman was admirable, I never liked the lead casting choice of Keaton. Michael Keaton was nowhere NEAR the look of Batman (in the comics) and Burton tried to JUSTIFY his desire to work with Keaton (again) with the rationale that a 6′,4″ actor in a bat suit would have been dull and not as interesting as a (5′,8″) Keaton playing the character with range of angst and emotion that he has. Warner Bros’ ‘Clean and Sober’ was supposed to be our look at Keaton in a serious role to prove to fans that he wasn’t JUST a comedic actor and could (actually) pull off a character like Batman (an epic FAIL in my opinion as was Kilmer AND Clooney). As far as I was concerned, Warner Bros finally got Batman RIGHT with the Nolan trilogy and even more so NOW with Ben Affleck.

    • Rolta

      Ben Affleck is a terrible Batman. He even looks as if he doesn’t want to do it.

      • Ryan Fink


    • Jeremy Alexander

      You had me until Batfleck. He isn’t the worst but he’s nothing compared to the Nolan trilogy and Bale. Maybe he’s second, but only time will tell and I’m not optimistic after BvS. That was a terrible movie, although I would guess that if we had an actual Lex Luthor instead of parody Lex Luthor, that movie may have worked better, but the guy that looks like Timmy from accounting had no menace about him whatsoever.

      • the50sguystrikesback

        OH don’t get me wrong…I loved Bale and his Batman was solid. However, Affleck (whether you like him or hate him) EMBODIES the role as far as look, build and demeanor. Affleck IS the ‘comic book’ Batman emerged right off the page and he’s the Batman I’d been waiting 27 years to see on the big screen. Also, you have to remember (though Nolan’s trilogy is separate from the DCEU) Affleck is (technically) the Batman that Bale eventually becomes after 20 years. So you have Bale (the naive idealist who believes Gotham can be saved) and then Affleck (the 20 year battle worn soldier whose lost faith in people).


      Keaton is a little taller than that.. He is 5’10. I liked Keaton as Batman..even tho he wasn’t fully ideal of what I thought the character should be. And I’m with you I liked Affleckt. I thought he was the best overall. I had issues with B vs S but he wasn’t one of them.

  • Mort Guffman

    George Clooney could’ve been a great Batman – with a completely different director, script, co-stars, etc. I can totally see him in a live-action adaption of “The Dark Knight Returns.”

    I was really disappointed in “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin.” To me, it was a step back for the character, not a continuing evolution of him. I don’t think it represented the sensibility of the times.

  • Psychotic Bitch With a Knife

    He was 100% correct. Great move Mike

  • the50sguystrikesback

    I’m glad Michael Keaton (himself) finally told all his beloved (yet blind) Gen Y followers how BAD his Batman (movies) actually were. I’d been telling fanboys for YEARS that ‘Mr Mom’ and ‘Beetlejuice’ was NO Batman, but they refused to face the truth. I mean REALLY…for you to tell ME that Keaton bouncing Nicholson off a tower bell (like it’s a damn Three Stooges movie) citing ‘I made you? You me me first’ was BETTER than Bale and Neeson having a knock down, drag out fight on a speeding commuter train…tells me you’re some kinda mental patient. LoL


      Keaton was referring to Batman Forever..not his Tim Burton movies. He saw. the script. He talked to Joel Shumaker about what he wanted to do with the character/movie and he wanted no part of it. There are other articles out there from this year that talk about this..but this site won’t let post links.. i.e ““It sucked. The script never was good… I knew it was in trouble when he
      [Joel Schumacher] said ‘Why does everything have to be so dark?'” Just do a quick Google and you’ll find the articles”/

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.