Batman Forever Movie Review
Gone is the dark and gothic atmosphere from Tim Burton, replaced by a more comedic and child-friendly tone, including lots of costumes and flashy neon lights.
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris O'Donnell, Nicole Kidman, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, Pat Hinge & Michael Gough
Run Time: 121 min.
US Release: 16 June 1995
UK Release: 14 July 1995
German Release: 03 August 1995
Following my review for Batman Returns and Superman II, I decided to share my thoughts on Joel Schumacher’s follow-up to Tim Burton’s Dark Knight flicks. Forever holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first live-action Batman film I saw as a kid, apart from the campy 1960s series. Well knowing the flaws the plot contains, I can’t help but to enjoy it when it comes on TV, or when I pop the disc in the player every now and then - this is one of my ultimate guilty pleasures!
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
Former D.A. Harvey Dent, who is known now as the criminal Two-Face after mob boss Sal Maroni sprayed his face with acid, is on the loose and causing chaos on the streets of Gotham. The vigilante Batman keeps trying to stop him, but Two-Face always manages to slip through his fingers. When a psychiatrist is sent to Gotham, to help the police and Batman stop Harvey, all havoc breaks loose as Two-Face causes the death of a circus family, leaving only their youngest son alive. Batman, guild ridden, takes in Dick Greyson under his public persona Burce Wayne.
While mean, a former employee of Wyne takes an unhealthy interest in him, trying to suck out his secrets, through one of his inventions - a mind controlling apparatus. He teams up with Two-Face, naming himself TheRiddler. It is up to Batman and his new partner, Robin, to stop the criminal duo.
From the get-go, even though it’s supposed to be a sequel to Batman Returns, the plot sets up a completely different atmosphere, compared to the grim and dark Tim Burton flicks. Instead of a city enveloped in a gothic look, we obtain a futuristic cyberpunk setting drenched in neon-lighting. This is also made immediately apparent during the opening scenes, when the first images the audience obtains are of the new suit, the gadgets and the new bat-car. It instantaneously feels as if it is aimed at kids, rather than adults.
The tone nearly feels like it’s taken back to the times of the 60s TV series, it’s goofy, over the top and extremely silly. In fact, some consider this and the sequel, Batman & Robin, to be the true heirs of Adam West’s Batman era and not successors of the Burton pictures. That can’t be fully supported, however, as it seems the makers are also unclear who to pitch this movie to; containing dream sequences that are dark and a several highly sexy nightgown scene, with Nicole Kidman’s character, trying to seduce Batman with her body.
Talking about those nightmare scenes, they hinted at a deeper psychological trauma concerning the character of Bruce Wayne and a possible family secret he repressed in his memories. The psychological pain and scars left by his parent’s murder that are resurfacing, when Dick Greyson’s family gets murdered, would have made for a far more interesting story, than that what we obtained. A deeper exploration into Edward Nygma's dangerous obsession with Bruce Wayne, seeing himself as a spiritual brother to Gotham’s golden boy, would also have been beneficial to the narrative.
The dialogues are very Jokey! More humour and one-liners were added to underline the silliness, and at times the delivery is right-out horrible and too over-the-top! Finally, there is a lot of noticeable ADR used across the blockbuster's runtime.
Val Kilmer played Bruce Wayne / Batman, and made a better Bruce than Batman. Then again, under all the crazy goofiness, this was more a movie about Bruce Wayne and his past demons coming back to haunt him. The Dark Knight himself came a little short and was portrayed very thin by Kilmer, who also didn’t have the jawline to suit the cowl. Nevertheless, he still gave Batman an edge that inspired intrigue. It is a shame he did not have specific chemistry with anyone. It seems he was in a completely different film, playing this down to earth businessman, while everybody else was either over sexualized or excessive.
Maybe the one person he had the most chemistry with is Chris O’Donnell, who portrayed Dick Greyson, the first Robin. These moments, however, came too short! I would have wished for a more heart-to-heart between Wayne and Greyson, discussing grief and vengeance, as well as more of a role-model and protégé sequence between the two. As for Chris O’Donnell, he was very mediocre in his portrayal of Dick, not to say too old. The whole warden dialogue between Bruce and Commissioner Gordon makes no sense, knowing that the character is supposed to be in his late teenage years / early twenties.
Jim Carrey as Edward Nigma a.k.a. The Riddler, was cast due to Carrey’s rise in fame and contained the comedian's typical over-the-top humour and physical comedy, which was what he was known best for at that time. Although being just the secondary villain, Carrey quickly outshines Jones’ Two-Face. Personally, I love his silly and exaggerated portrayal of the Riddler!
Tommy Lee Jones was miscast as Harvey “Two_Face” Dent. He is supposed to struggle with his double identity, yet comes off more like a cheap Joker villain. The make-up was supposed to mimic the character from the animated series, but it looked cheap and foolish.
Nicole Kidman played the third iteration of a blonde love interest for Bruce Wayne. Instead of portraying an established character of the comics, they made up her persona of Chase Meridian, a psychologist. She doesn’t do much except looking sexy in ridiculous short, silky nightdresses, tight skirt suits or even tighter workout attire. Michael Gough reprises his role as Alfred, from the previous two films, and he is the only one bringing some warmness to the character, as well as some credibility and chemistry with other casting members.
The cinematography was all over the place. From butt shots of the Dark Knight, to extreme dutch angles when the villains are on camera, or 80s TV style surveillance and telephone footage, which captures everything from unrealistic angles. Forever contains some of the worst camera work I have seen, but then turns it around with some interesting shots, like the dream sequence. The design of the suits, however, was unforgivable! The introduction of Bat-nipples with the first Batsuit and the Robin suit, is as of today inexplicable. The make-up and suit design of Harvey Dent / Two-Face was also pretty horrible.
The computer effects are severely outdated and look bad. There is heavy usage of CGI and it stands out like a sore thumb! Even the coin, when Two-Face flips it into the air, is computer animated, and it looks horrible. The city of Gotham itself was also graphically rendered, as the city was designed so crazy and futuristic, they were unable to take any real city as a model and one can tell when it pops up on screen, because it looks like it was taken from an N64 game.
The musical score, composed by Elliot Goldenthal, was also reinvented for this version of the winged crusader. It is epic, powerful and memorable, one of the few positives this comic book blockbuster has.
Verdict: This sequel to Batman and Batman Returns, is completely different in feeling. Schumacher and the studio did not take the mythos, or any of the characters seriously, and it shows! While there are underlying hints to a mature and richer narrative, the producers chose to focus on comedy and flashy scenes. Add to that the campy dialogue and one-liners, as well as a serious miscast Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and you get a horrible end product that would have failed at all levels, would it not have been for the comedic genius of Jim Carrey and the caring performance of Michael Gough. The Cinematography and effects are terrible but the music is strong. All in all, Batman Forever is simply mediocre at best, yet one of my absolute guilty pleasures to watch. I bestow it with a 5.0 out of 10.
What is your take on Batman Forever? Did you grow up with it? Is it one of your favourite renditions of the caped crusader? Do you hate it or simply don’t care for it? Next up is Batman & Robin… look out for that review!