Title: Batman Forever.
Director: Joel Schumacher.
Writer(s): Lee Batchler & Janet Scott Batchler.
Screenplay: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler & Akiva Goldsman.
Release Date: 1995.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure.
Cast: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, and many more!
Budget: $35 million (estimated).
My Overall Rating:
Previously in the Batman series:
Batman Returns (1992).
Where does one go when the studio heads are unsatisfied in their constant hunt for money as they notice that Batman Returns was too somber for the world, reducing their opportunities for profit and partnerships that target less mature audiences? While Warner Bros. constant conniving and interference in countless creative and original projects is no novel matter to this day, it has led one of the most iconic DC Comics superhero franchises to embrace a brand new direction that could only ever mark the beginning of the end. Looking to tone down on the grim and dark atmosphere of the previous two movies, director Joel Schumacher gets ahold of the reins and kicks the franchise’s behind to deliver a less-than-memorable sequel to Tim Burton’s Batman with Val Kilmer taking over the mantle of the Dark Knight. Despite being a box office success, its reputation remains forever stained, marred by internal conflicts among actors and with the director, as well as a story that leaves you in awe at its wild and messy vision of Batman’s world.
What is Batman Forever (1995) about? Set after the events of Batman Returns (1992), the story follows Batman (Val Kilmer) trying to put an end to the schemes of the Riddler (Jim Carrey) who works alongside Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) in an effort to build a device that will allow them to extract knowledge through brainwaves and become smarter than any man could ever envision in this dark and depressive world. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne develops a relationship with criminal psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) who, on the other hand, fantasizes about Batman. He also witnesses the tragedy that will scar acrobat Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell) for life at the hands of Two-Face and send him down a path for vengeance while adopting his new identity as Robin. As Batman tries to juggle these numerous conflicts in his life, his journey leads him to reflect on his activities of vigilantism and the purpose behind them all.
The best way to make a dramatic tonal shift in a sequel to a Tim Burton duology is to revert to comedy in hopes to drive the darkness away. Director Joel Schumacher doesn’t shy away from keeping Burton’s design for Gotham City but also cranks up the amount of neon and ridicule to give this new chapter in Batman’s life an edgier and ludicrous dose of comic book nonsense. While using a flashback to quickly summarize district attorney Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face and identify his source of hatred for the bat-dressed vigilante, the movie, however, takes the time to build up researcher Edward Nygma’s own love-turned-to-hatred relationship with Bruce Wayne and his transformation into the zany Riddler. With the former, the writers fail to properly capture the complex and multi-faceted villain, rather portraying him as a loose canon obsessed with his dual-faced coin, with the latter they might in fact have found the only reason the movie is able to stand on two feet, as Jim Carrey, being himself, unloads a goofy and outright lunatic iteration of the Riddler that oftentimes simply steals the show, if one can even call this clownfest a show.
Tying into this mess is also Robin’s own origin story, poorly developed, as his own vengeful quest is undermined by the outlandish brainwashing scheme at play. In the end, there’s nothing like another costumed madman to remind us of this Gotham City’s frivolous ecosystem. While there’s nothing remotely clever that happens throughout the movie, which might as well be director Joel Schumacher’s objective, which is to bring back some of the Adam West-era campy humour, it is his desire to infuse all his characters with an unfulfilled sexual tension that makes this even more sadly hilarious. The most capital example of this sex-deprived characterization lies in Nicole Kidman’s character and her pursuit of sexual conquest with her eyes set on Batman (yes, with the costume). I guess it helps to cast her in the role in hopes of leaving the audience mesmerized by her charms rather than the non-existent logic and rationale behind this narrative thread. At least once you start to give in to Schumacher’s twisted and dopey world, everything is entertaining enough to keep you going until the end.
Aside from all the sexual innuendos, cringeworthy humour, and unconvincing relationships, it didn’t help that Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough) continues to be such a careless butler, making grave mistakes and inadvertently showing around the Batcave to countless more people. It makes you wonder how Bruce Wayne’s secret isn’t the headline already. Oh, and there’s also the whole story behind Bat-nipples. How can annoying ever see any relevance to having those on your Batsuit? Some questions are just better left unanswered. Thankfully, the movie is still a visual treat, not only for all the aforementioned neon overload but also for the kooky cosplay. It’s quite the transformation that you’ll witness the Riddler go through from start to finish, as his wardrobe gets worse and worse (or is better and better?). Unfortunately, the score couldn’t save this movie either, leaving behind Danny Elfman’s iconic composition to use an unmemorable one by Elliot Goldenthal. You’d think things couldn’t get worse but they do. Just wait and see with Batman & Robin (1997).
Batman Forever (1995) is a neon-infused, pain-repressed, and all-out goofy adventure dealing with costumed freaks and heroes of Gotham and their obsessive pursuit of emotional gratification and peace of mind.