Batman Forever (1995)
Release Date: June 16th, 1995 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Joel Schumacher Actors: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle
t least, “Batman Forever” uses the same theme music (from Danny Elfman, now reworked by Elliot Goldenthal). But everything else that Tim Burton established with the first two Batman films has been tossed out the window to make room for colorful neon lights and grossly comical character designs. As if it wasn’t already difficult enough to get in the mindset of believing in the robustious hijinks of a masked avenger, “Batman Forever” proceeds to make it even more impossible.
Harvey “Two-Face” Dent (Tommy Lee Jones) blames Batman (Val Kilmer) for an accident that left him horribly disfigured – and suffering from schizophrenia and psychosis. In his grand scheme to destroy the Dark Knight, Two-Face robs banks and creates catastrophe for Gotham City, which is helpless without their superhero guardian. Adding to Batman’s troubles is Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey), an obsessed man who idolizes the rich and powerful alter ego of Bruce Wayne. Having created a device that can extract knowledge directly from people’s minds, Nygma dons the disguise of the “Riddler,” an energetic maniac who delights in unremitting puzzles and intricate mayhem. He eventually joins Two-Face to bring down Batman once and for all.
At the same time, Bruce Wayne must deal with Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell), a young circus performer who loses his parents during an ordeal with the demented Dent. When Grayson accidentally learns of Wayne’s big secret, he begs to become his partner. And as Wayne tries to dissuade Dick from following his own path of vengeance, Bruce woos the beautiful Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), a gal with an infatuation for the mysterious Batman.
Gotham City has become more glaringly colorful, with fluorescent lights and bright neon signs on every corner (like the utopian version of “Blade Runner’s” environment). Despite the ominous smoke and murky, glistening streets, the sets appear comical – not comic-book-like – in their design. The once scarily grandiose streets of Gotham have been sacrificed for vivid goofiness and gangs of glow-rod-toting ruffians. The buildings and structures are still enormous and unique, but the seriousness of Batman fighting amongst the rainbow-colored monstrosities has deteriorated into constant laughableness.
Instantly cheesy dialogue similarly doesn’t help reinvent the dark style and tone Tim Burton previously established. While many criticized his disturbingly morbid visions of the characters, their designs were undeniably sincere. With this particular take on Two-Face, who curiously appears with little more than a TV clip backstory, the plot turns quickly nonsensical. And Jim Carrey’s Riddler is not so much a villain as he is merely Jim Carrey – whose extreme over-the-top acting is enough of a predicament for the caped crusader. The antagonists are great maniacs, but unfortunately they’re horribly phony bad guys. If that weren’t bad enough, Batman always seems to have some cool new gadget that allows him to escape every harrowing situation – which means he can be foolishly daring and impulsively suicidal without any consideration for realism.
Schumacher’s Batman is flashier, more picturesque, and far less fun. The weapons, vehicles, action scenes, deathtraps, bat-nipples, Robin’s earring, stunts, and riddles are all of the most piteous nature, while the plot itself is anything but genuine. This isn’t Batman anymore – it’s a live-action cartoon. Gravitating to the Adam West serials that made the awe-inspiring image of Batman a laughingstock in the first place, “Batman Forever” seems to be focused more on increasing the opportunity for merchandising than impressing audiences. Batman may be forever, but this movie’s ending couldn’t come soon enough.
– Mike Massie