Batman Forever (1995)
Batman is back and this time he’s brought some new friends with him. In this third instalment of the Burton-verse Batman saga are, obviously, new villains and a new love interest for the Caped Crusader and his alter ego, but there are also new faces in front of and behind the camera. A new composer (ALWAYS a point of interest and/or contention for me), Batman boy wonder buddy Robin makes his big screen debut, a new director establishes his new vision on Gotham and its denizens, and a new actor dons the cape and cowl. All these new elements make up what we know as Batman Forever, but is this movie a shining example that lives up to its title??
As the film opens, it maintains the same air of darkness as its predecessors but now, there is a new score that serves as the theme for the world of Batman. The theme is both grand and heroic while keeping true to the brooding character of the Batman. Then comes the suit up montage. This, for me, just doesn’t work. While it is interesting to see the process of how super heroes prep for their adventures, this one just comes across as cheesy, especially when it includes crotch and butt shots. While some made find the Batman sexy, this is an unnecessary and unwarranted addition to the character and franchise. Then Gotham city is shown; it is clear from this moment on that the makers of this picture opted to lighten the mood established if the first two Batman flicks. It looks like an unholy union between New York and Tokyo; nothing against those cities themselves, but bright, huge, and unnecessary lights are not what I look for in my depiction of Gotham. As characters are introduced and more people begin to speak, it’s also made painfully clear that the more make-believe comic book elements, from the source material, are being severely pushed to the fore in setting the new tone for the franchise.
The choice of actors for the movie is decent enough, however their performances seem too be pushed a bit too far in an effort to lighten the tone of the picture. Pat Hingle returns as Commissioner Gordon but by this point is, sadly, rendered useless. He’s basically there to tell Batman what the situation is before he, Batman, goes in to handle it as Gordon stands in awe and watches. Nicole Kidman is Dr. Chase Meridian really only serves the purpose of being something nice to look at and to give Batman a love interest. Kidman does her job well, but her character has very little dimension to it. And there are a few scenes between her and Batman that just feel damn awkward. Val Kilmer pulls off the preoccupied, constant grieving aspect of Bruce Wayne well enough, but just doesn’t feel believable as the Batman. The fact that he’s made to spew a few bad one-liners as Batman doesn’t help at all. Robin, as played by Chris O’Donnell, is a decent choice. He definitely plays the angry young man role well enough that his transition to Robin doesn’t seem strange. Tommy Lee Jones plays Two-Face and has some shining moments but, unfortunately, he (either by choice or direction) is trying to match the energy of Jim Carrey and it just is not a fit for him or for his character. Carrey, playing the Riddler, is without question a funny guy but, for me, is too funny for the part. He was allowed free rein with the character which, I think, doesn’t do justice to the inharent intelligence of the Riddler. It would have been far more interesting to see him have a go at the Joker.
Seeing the attempt to lighten things up after two consecutively darker turns at the Caped Crusader, Batman Forever tragically falls short of a fully immersive Batman experience. This tale of Batman is mired with bad one-liners, unnecessary levity, and more cheese than a box of Cheeze-Its. Attempting to breathe a new and different life into the franchise was certainly a good idea, but in light of what it followed, this flick flipped a bit too much on its ear. As best you can, tread lightly around this one because,
- when it comes to Batman Forever, “It’s a trap!”
You win a free box of Admiral Ackbar cereal if you understand BOTH references to that quote and that rating. If not see: RAMARS!!!