Riddle me this, riddle me that. What was the movie that felt flat as a mat? The answer would be Batman Forever. It was meant to be the summer blockbuster after patiently waiting three years to see one of the greatest DC Comics superheroes ever on the big screen again. This is a movie I don’t remember a ton about since I only watched it once, and truth be told, it surely falls over the side of forgettable superhero movies to come from the 1990s, unfortunately.
What’s the Story: Batman (Val Kilmer) faces off against two foes: the schizophrenic, horribly scarred former District Attorney Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), and the Riddler (Jim Carrey), a disgruntled ex-Wayne Enterprises inventor seeking revenge against his former employer by unleashing his brain-sucking weapon on Gotham City’s residents. As the caped crusader also deals with tortured memories of his parents’ murder, he has a new romance, with psychologist Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman).
After the success of 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns, Tim Burton didn’t come back to direct the third installment this time around, which might be due to the backlash of his sequel being too dark for kids. So, Warner Bros. replaced him with Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Falling Down) in trying to make Batman Forever a more family-friendly direction, while Burton still stayed on as a producer. For me, I didn’t grow up with this installment since I was born a year later after it came out, but those who have must’ve thought this was an awesome movie with Batman. Knowing this was the second highest-grossing movie of 1995 isn’t a major shock to everyone, but does that mean it’s great? No, it doesn’t. Those thoughts would have drastically changed decades later since it isn’t a wonderful superhero movie, like, at all.
Schumacher’s direction doesn’t hold a candle to what Burton brought to the series. I liked that the previous films were given a more serious take on the character with a few funny moments sprinkled in there for levity. Batman Forever just had no idea what kind of superhero it wanted to be since it went to the campy side of all things that didn’t for me, as well as everyone else who endured this. Maybe he was trying his hardest to copy the 1960s series with its colorful production design. If that’s the case, it didn’t work. Was the decision to include “Bat Nipples” a genius idea to put on the suits? Absolutely not. If this is trying to make it more kid-friendly by making it more colorful was the idea, it succeeded, yet it didn’t feel like the same world Batman would live in. I’m actually pretty baffled this got an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, only there wasn’t anything about the look of Gotham City that cried out in amazement. Even the CGI look of Gotham looked more dated back in 1995.
Kilmer was an interesting choice to replace Michael Keaton (my favorite actor to play Batman). He’s usually a superb actor when a good script is handed to him. And to be fair, he does a fine job portraying the Dark Knight here. The problem was he wasn’t given anything noteworthy to work, but he was trying his best. He’s a better Bruce Wayne than Batman if that means something. If you didn’t know already, Kilmer is well known to not be the best person working on a film with. There were reports he fought with some crewman and didn’t speak to Schumacher for two weeks during production, which is probably the reason he didn’t return to the next installment. Lucky for him for dodging the bullet.
Robin is a character from the comics I never particularly hated, so including him in here with Chris O’Donnell didn’t make the movie skyrocket down to oblivion, but I never saw a point of him in this. I get the fact that he has no one else after his family died at the circus, but what was the reason for him to live at Wayne Manor when he looks like an adult than a teenager? Who knows? Bruce offering to take in Dick makes him have repressed memories of when his parents died. That was an element to the story that should’ve been the most interesting part, but including this in an already scattered movie felt pointless when most of us already know the pain he felt when they died, leading to what made him become Batman.
Then you come across the main villains in here in Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Dent/ Two-Face and Jim Carrey as Edward Nygma/ The Riddler, and they aren’t good in any part of Batman Forever. Let’s start with Jones’ performance as Two-Face because he was very distracting in every scene he’s in when he was such a cartoon level of fake, ruining what made Two-Face a great villain from the comics or animated cartoon. Where was Billy Dee Williams in all of this? I hated his performance, which is what I’m trying to say. And Carrey was at the height of his career when this came to theaters as he had three comedy hits the previous year (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber). The idea of him playing a villain, let alone The Riddler sounded too good to be true. What we got was a terrible performance that just let Carrey be over-the-top, which wasn’t a good thing. It was like both of their motivations were just to be manically crazy, for no rhyme or reason. What’s more interesting is that while filming, supposedly, Jones hated working with Carrey on-set with him stating this to him, “I hate you. I really don’t like you … I cannot sanction your buffoonery.”
But the addition of Nicole Kidman as psychiatrist Dr. Chase Meridian was a wasted opportunity for her because she’s just horny for Batman was stupid, to say the least. She’s totally beautiful in here, but all she does throughout, besides being captured in the third act, was to look hot and try to flirt with Batman whenever she can. The chemistry between her and Kilmer wasn’t anything to buy over, and she’s not the kind of love interest worth talking about when we still have Vicki Vale, another girl in the series we never saw again.
This is one of the few times where I can easily say a Batman movie was boring. The main plot of The Riddler and Two-Face teaming up when the former invents this brainwave device to steal information from people’s minds is ridiculous. When you’re viewing this from an adult’s perspective, you can’t pinpoint anything worth calling entertaining.
Just in the first ten minutes alone, there’s this sneaky suspicion it’s not gonna have the most memorable dialogue in the world (“It’s the car, right? Chicks love the car.” or “Could I persuade you to take along a sandwich, sir?” Alfred pleads. “I’ll get drive-through,” replies Batman.). There was nothing about all the action set pieces that were impressive when the story needed to be exciting at a certain point. For instance, there’s no way the Batmobile would be that strong to ride alongside a building.
If there were any positives to come out of this, it’s always a pleasure seeing Michael Gough as Alfred again, Elliot Goldenthal’s score wasn’t too bad with replacing Danny Elfman, and this is one of the few times where the soundtrack is leagues better than the movie itself. The two songs that were huge standouts came from U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” and Seal’s Grammy-winning song “Kiss from a Rose,” which were played during the end credits.
Batman Forever was the start of the downfall of the series when it came out. I will never understand how those who weren’t fans of Batman Returns can enjoy this more. That’s crazy to think that. There’s a better movie somewhere if Burton was still attached, but what fans were offered was a cheesy ride riddled with a weak script and a less than talented director handling all these stars in a dismal superhero sequel. Even though it’s bad, the worst was about to come later on down the road.
Overall Grade: D+