In 1995, Warner Bros. Pictures released the big budget action-adventure movie, Batman Forever. The film – the third entry in the Batman Anthology – starred Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and featured a supporting cast which included Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, and Chris O’Donnell.
Directed by Joel Schumacher, Batman Forever was a big hit with audiences during summer ’95, as it delivered lots of action, plenty of laughs, and some very memorable performances. All-in-all, a strong popcorn movie, perfect for the blockbuster season.
Since Batman Forever‘s release, the film’s popularity has wavered a little, with some still adoring it, but others finding it a little too garish and frothy for their tastes. There are also some who wish they could see an alternate cut of the movie – one that does exist, but has never quite seen the light of day.
The cut I am referring to is The Schumacher Cut, or as some people call it, The Red Book Cut. This is a version of Batman Forever than many fans (myself included) would love to watch, if only Warner Bros. Pictures would release it.
But what is The Schumacher Cut? Why do Bat-fans want to see it? And why is everyone talking about it?
Read on for details.
What is The Schumacher Cut?
The Schumacher Cut (aka The Red Book Edition) is an alternate cut of Batman Forever. This version of the film has a longer running time and includes material that was trimmed from the theatrical release of Batman Forever.
The title The Schumacher Cut is in reference to Batman Forever‘s director, Joel Schumacher. The cut is considered to be the film Joel Schumacher originally intended audiences to see and is effectively a director’s cut.
This version of the movie is also referred to as The Red Book Edition, as it includes material relating to a key plot point in the movie – a mysterious red journal. The journal features quite prominently in Batman Forever.
How do we know The Schumacher Cut exists?
The existence of The Schumacher Cut has been in discussion ever since Batman Forever was released. But does it exist?
When Batman Forever initially hit cinema screens, it was quite evident that the film was missing scenes/material that wasn’t included in the theatrical cut. The tie-in novelisation, the comic book adaptation, the U2 music video, the trailer, and even the sticker album, all included extra scenes which were not present in the movie.
Then in 2005, when the Batman Anthology was released on Special Edition DVD (and subsequently on Blu-ray in 2008), a number of Batman Forever‘s deleted scenes were included as bonus material. These scenes not only confirmed the long-held belief that additional material had been shot, but also offered fans a better understanding of what they were missing out on.
But even though the material exists, that doesn’t mean another cut of the film exists, right? It could just be a bunch of unused scenes and that’s it.
Well yes, and no. The material that has surfaced suggests it was originally part of a much longer cut that was altered/trimmed down. And I’m looking at the alternate opening sequence to confirm this.
One of the deleted scenes included on the DVD release was an alternate opening, set at Arkham Asylum. This scene – which you can watch in full on the DVD – includes on-screen credits for the cast and director.
The credits suggest that this scene was intended to appear in the movie. The post-production team would not go to the trouble of adding credits to a piece of film that was not being included in the finished picture, so it must have been in the original cut.
Likewise, there is a scene cut from the end of Batman Forever which feeds straight into the credits. Once again, the way this scene is presented suggests it was included in the original cut, but was snipped out.
Either way, the debate about the existence of The Schumacher Cut ran on for years, until July 2020 when various outlets, including Variety, confirmed that The Schumacher Cut DOES EXIST.
According to the reports, Warner Bros. Pictures has The Schumacher Cut in its vault, but the studio has purposefully sat on the movie because it is unsure if there is a big enough demand for its release.
As a card-carrying Bat-fan, and someone who reads a lot of online comments, I think it’s fair to say there is a LOT of interest from fans.
What material is in The Schumacher Cut that isn’t in the theatrical cut?
The theatrical cut of Batman Forever has a running time of 129 minutes. The Schumacher Cut is believed to have a running time of 170 minutes. So, in terms of material, that is an additional 41 minutes of footage.
Of this 41 minutes, the deleted scenes convey a big portion of this material including a darker alternate opening; an interaction between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne; and a news report condemning Batman’s actions in Gotham.
Additional material includes a tweaked ending; a scene in which the Riddler and Two-Face lead Batman on a wild goose chase around Gotham City; and a number of extended/alternate takes on existing scenes.
Arguably the most significant sequence cut from the theatrical release of Batman Forever is a scene in which Bruce Wayne addresses the trauma of his parents’ death (as depicted in Batman ’89). This sequence, involves the aforementioned red journal.
In the theatrical cut of Batman Forever, Bruce agonises about this journal, but can’t recall why. Eventually, he remembers the significance of the book and explains that it was his father’s journal.
The trauma here is the idea that Bruce feels sadness over the book, knowing that his father will never write in it again. In The Schumacher Cut, the journal has a much greater significance.
I will use an excerpt from the Batman Forever novelisation by Peter David, to better explain the significance. In essence, this passage is describing what would be seen in The Schumacher Cut.
‘He turned the pages to the last entry. And there it was, just as he had remembered. “Bruce insists on seeing a movie tonight…”
‘He paused and then noticed that the page was stuck back-to-back with the next one. Moisture had done it. Moisture from the cave? From the tears spilled long ago that he had forgotten about? Carefully he separated the pages and turned them…
‘…and found more writing.
‘”But Martha and I have our hearts set on Zorro, so Bruce’s cartoon will have to wait until next week.”
‘He stared at the book in disbelief. “Not my fault,” he whispered. “It wasn’t my fault.”
The Schumacher Cut (as highlighted with this passage from the tie-in novel) makes better use of the journal than the theatrical cut does. Instead of it being just a book that Bruce’s father will never get to write in, here it is the key to relieving Bruce of the guilt he has felt since he was 8-years’ old.
Bruce had always believed he was responsible for his parents death, by picking the movie they watched on the night of their murder. But it was Thomas and Martha who picked the movie, which unfortunately put them in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Scenes such as this one about the journal make interesting and significant alterations to the story arc in Batman Forever, but I should also mention that almost all of the exorcised material plays a huge part in re-shaping the film.
Having watched all of the deleted scenes, and having read the novelisation, I can firmly say that The Schumacher Cut is a much stronger, much darker version of the movie. Whether you like Batman Forever or not, I firmly believe – based on what I have seen and read – that Batman Forever has one of the strongest screenplays out of the four films in the Batman Anthology.
Why was material cut from Batman Forever?
There has never been an official explanation as to why material was removed from Batman Forever. It is most likely that Warner Bros. wanted a more family-friendly movie, and one that didn’t wear out its welcome.
Batman Forever‘s runtime was just over two-hours, which kept it in-line with the other Batman movies. It is unlikely that Warner Bros. was keen to push beyond this for Batman Forever, and that meant some of the material had to go.
The Schumacher Cut is also darker and puts more of a psychological focus on Bruce Wayne – something Warner Bros. arguably wanted to avoid.
Prior to the release of Batman Forever, Warner Bros. had experienced backlash over the darkness of Batman Returns (1992). With Batman Forever, the studio simply wanted a movie that could please everyone and maintain a lighter approach, so most of the dark, psychological stuff simply had to go.
Why are fans asking for The Schumacher Cut now?
In May 2020, Warner Bros. Pictures announced the release of The Snyder Cut – an alternative cut of Justice League (2017). The cut – which makes its debut on HBO Max in 2021 – is a director’s cut of Justice League, and includes material removed from the theatrical release of the film, but put back in by Justice League‘s original director, Zack Snyder.
Fans of Justice League had been campaigning for the release of The Snyder Cut ever since Justice League hit cinema screens in 2017, so when Warner Bros. finally agreed to release it, fans were very, very pleased.
A month after Warner Bros. made the announcement regarding the alternate cut of Justice League, Batman Forever director, Joel Schumacher passed away. This prompted fans to once again call on Warner Bros., but this time to consider releasing The Schumacher Cut by way of a tribute to the director.
At present, Warner Bros. has not agreed to release The Schumacher Cut of Batman Forever, however, the material exists, and the interest is there, so don’t rule it out. I would say, it is only a matter of time.
I hope this information about The Schumacher Cut has proved useful. For more posts about Batman Forever, be sure to take a look at the recommended reads below.