ByDavid Opie, writer at
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David Opie

Kids the world over would sacrifice both parents just to live for a day as Batman — yet the first actor to take on that iconic role in Hollywood left the franchise after starring in just two movies.

Fans have long speculated as to why hung up the cowl after production wrapped on 's Batman Returns in 1992. After all, Keaton's turn as the Dark Knight was hugely popular with both critics and audiences alike, which is particularly impressive when you bear in mind that movies back then were hardly the guaranteed money-makers that they've become today.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Keaton finally revealed why he gave up the role of a lifetime after filming just two instalments. To put it bluntly: it seems that the blame can be directed almost solely at a script approved by director Joel Schumacher, who took over the directorial reigns for Batman Forever:

“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?'”

Batman [Credit; Warner Bros.]
Batman [Credit; Warner Bros.]

While Schumacher's question bizarrely echoes one held by many fans after Snyder's take on the Dark Knight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the general consensus is that Keaton made a smart move abandoning the franchise when he did. After Burton and Keaton worked hard to create a gothic and psychologically intriguing version of the Caped Crusader, Schumacher plunged the franchise into a camp travesty of punny proportions, complete with plastic nipples and cartoony villains. Michael Keaton clearly made the right decision to leave the franchise at this point... or did he?

Batman Forever Was Better Than You Remember

Batman Forever [Credit; Warner Bros.]
Batman Forever [Credit; Warner Bros.]

It's easy to look back on Batman Forever with cynicism, but upon re-watching, it becomes clear that the first film without Keaton in the Bat-suit isn't half as bad as you recall. Sure, Schumacher's vision represents a clear drop in quality following the departure of Tim Burton, but at least it feels like the actors are actually in on the joke here, gleefully throwing out puns faster than a thousand batarangs.

In contrast, the actors unfortunate enough to have signed up for Batman & Robin were in for a world of hurt, tackling ridiculous scenarios and dialogue that would have even seemed out of place even in the original Batman TV show from the '60s.

Could you imagine Michael Keaton starring in Batman Forever?:

The legacy left behind by the far inferior Batman & Robin has tainted the memory of Batman Forever for many, to the point where fans now overlook some of the film's better qualities, including a pitch-perfect performance from Jim Carrey as The Riddler and a portrayal of Bruce Wayne that hewed far closer to the original source material, exploring the playboy aspects of his personality.

Michael Keaton's Career Flopped In The Aftermath Of This Decision

Batman [Credit; Warner Bros.]
Batman [Credit; Warner Bros.]

Michael Keaton was already successful long before he took on the role of Batman, so it must have come as quite a surprise when his star began to fall in the aftermath of his departure from the franchise.

Flops like Jack Frost and Multiplicity began to tarnish a career previously held in high regard, and it wasn't until he took award-winning roles in recent hits such as Birdman and Spotlight that Keaton returned to... well, the spotlight that he so clearly deserved.

It took over two decades for Keaton's career to eventually get back on track, so it's hard not to wonder what could have happened if he had remained with the Batman franchise after Schumacher took over. In some ways, it's easy to see how the rumored $15 million Keaton was offered to stay could have helped keep him afloat, although there's a chance that sticking with the Dark Knight might have only briefly delayed his career lull.

Batman [Credit; Warner Bros.]
Batman [Credit; Warner Bros.]

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Moreover, if Michael Keaton had stuck with the Caped Crusader through Batman Forever and beyond, there's a chance that he may have never enjoyed the recent resurgence of his career — one which led to an Oscar nomination and a key role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whether Keaton should have left the franchise when he did or not is neither here nor there today, as the former Bruce Wayne's star now shines brighter than a thousand Bat-Signals ever could.


Did Michael Keaton make the right choice when he left the Batman franchise?

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)


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