Val Kilmer replaced Michaeal Keaton in the series' third installment in 1995. Kilmer caught director Joel Schumacher, who was taking over for Tim Burton, with his portrayal of Doc Holiday in TOMBSTONE. It was this same film that Val caught my eye as really standing out. I had seen him in TOP GUN, but besides that, he really never overwhelmed me as an actor. When I first heard that Kilmer had taken over for Michael Keaton in '94, I first thought "What the hell?!" You see, I too had had grown fond of Keaton as the Bat--even though I disliked BATMAN RETURNS--and really couldn't imagine anyone else in the role.
But, when I saw BATMAN FOREVER, I was really impressed with his performance. I thought he was more physically suited for the role of Batman than Keaton.
He was more believable. Although frankly, there was not much difference in their performances. Val looked good in the Bat-suit--which I thought was the best of all the movies--and nailed the voice. But was he doing Batman, or doing Keaton doing Batman? Regardless, I thought Kilmer's believability in the role worked for me. Any complaints regarding lack of depth or emotion can be attributed to the script and Schumacher's direction.
As far as his portrayal of Bruce Wayne, again, I thought he was more physically suited to the role. But I think the script--the shooting script--paired with Schumacher's direction, limited what Kilmer could do. Hell, Val is a good actor. I think he really could have been a better Wayne if the original script was shot. He seemed a bit stiff and unemotional. But a "deep" Bruce Wayne was not wanted in this picture. When Val was given a bit to work with, he shined. The scenes with his "reoccurring dreams;" and, when Dick found out Bruce was Batman, worked well. However, there were too few of those.
Overall, I became a big fan of Kilmer because of his turn as the Bat. I thought he did a really good job with what he was given. I looked forward to him continuing in the role in future Bat-films. Of course we know that was not going to be. I know I will get hammered for this, but I liked Val better than Keaton. Not that Kilmer just kicked ass--which he did at times--but because I found him to be just more believable.