You have to look far and wide to find Batman fans who’ll defend Joel Schumacher’s contributions to the hero’s cinematic legacy. Normally, when Bat-fans speak of pre-Nolan times, it’s "Tim Burton This" and "Tim Burton That," while conversation drops to a whisper if anyone brings up Batman Forever or – gasp! -- Batman & Robin. Except now, a new theory has been floated that helps explain WHY Schumacher’s Batman movies are so different than any other Dark Knight story… and it’s worth exploring.
The folks over at Crave have analyzed Joel Schumacher’s two Batman films, and drew strong comparisons to the ways that Gotham is portrayed in the Burton films to the Schumacher efforts. Mainly, the city is dark and somber in Batman and Batman Returns, but lit up like a neon Christmas tree in Forever and Robin. Schumacher has said in the past that he always approached the Batman franchise as a series aimed at kids – with a nod toward selling more toys – but the Crave writers have a different suggestion.
They think that gambling has been legalized in Gotham, leading to prosperous times for the city’s citizens.
They point to tacky décor, the upswing of gaudy lighting... basically, between Batman Returns and Batman Forever, they suggest that Gotham becomes the equivalent of Las Vegas, and legalized gambling is the reason. They mention a gambling scene in Batman Returns that takes place at a charity function. In Forever, though, people are gambling out in the open – and the casino is the victim of a heist.
The site goes one step further to explain that these changes to Gotham even affected The Bat, saying that the hero has become the equivalent of the city’s "mascot," turning him into a look-at-me "public spectacle, a tourist attraction." And yes, this gets away from what we think we know about Batman, and the choices that he would make as Gotham’s protector. But often in the comics, Batman went with the changes that Gotham needed him to make in order to ultimately protect the city and its citizens. Is this a drastic shift? Indeed, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Look, this theory doesn’t make Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies any better. In fact, when it comes to Batman & Robin, Crave suggests you switch over to the Spanish-language audio track and pretend the whole thing is a bad luchador movie.
But I dig that someone went deep to try and figure out why Gotham changes so drastically from one film to the next, and this theory’s pretty cool.