Batman Forever (1995)

26 Jan


Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Batman Forever” is the third entry in the Batman film adaptation series, following the box-office hits “Batman” and “Batman Returns.” Those two movies were directed by Tim Burton, who certainly gave the Caped Crusader a dark edge and a really dark story in each of the movies. They weren’t necessarily aimed at smaller children, which kind of ticked some people off, since they were hoping for lighthearted family adventures to take the whole family to see. So, for the third movie, Tim Burton wasn’t the director, and made way for Joel Schumacher. The result is “Batman Forever,” which is not completely satisfying, but still the Batman movie that audiences were hoping for—an amusing, high-spirited, brighter, more colorful, fast-paced thrill ride.

There are certainly more kid-friendly jokes such as the closeups of the batsuit buttocks and batsuit nipples, which are shown right at the opening as Batman is suiting up and preparing for action. And there are some pretty cheesy lines, like—“It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car”—and—“Not every girl makes a superhero’s nightstand.” And to keep things less terrifying for the kids (I mean, compared to Danny DeVito’s repulsive Penguin in the previous film), Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey as Batman’s arch-nemeses play their roles so over-the-top that you can’t take their roles seriously. You just sit back and laugh at their goofy antics.

A lot happens in “Batman Forever.” So I’ll try to fit everything into the story description. Batman a.k.a. eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer, taking over for Michael Keaton) is still fighting crime in Gotham City, but now has two villains to conquer. The first is Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), who was the former lawyer Harvey Dent until he went insane after half of his face was badly burned. He has his own aids by his side and he’s diabolical enough, but he’s not necessarily intelligent. This is where Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) comes in. Nygma is a scientist working in Bruce Wayne’s electronics department. He has invented a machine that to beam television waves to your brain—just think of the ultimate 3-D. He tries it on himself and becomes…well, “wacko.” He hopes to ultimately humiliate Bruce since he was the one who shunned his invention, and also hopes to rule Gotham City. Getting a green suit & mask and calling himself the Riddler because he loves to create difficult riddles for his new subjects to solve, he joins up with Two-Face as they race to kill Batman.

But meanwhile, Bruce has a few problems to deal with. One is seducing a female psychiatrist named Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), who only has eyes for the Caped Crusader. (“It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car.”) But she seems to know a lot about split personalities, which everyone in this movie seems to have, so it shouldn’t take too long for her to figure out who Batman is.

Also, there’s a new boy in Wayne Manor—a young acrobat named Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell) whose parents are killed by Two-Face at their circus show, while Two-Face tries to get to Batman. Bruce feels sorry for Dick and, along with his butler Alfred (Michael Gough, reprising his role), takes him in. But the problem is Dick is a rebellious, motorcycle-riding street punk who sometimes attempts to run away. However, Bruce shows Dick his motorcycle collection and everything seems cool. And if Dick proves to be loyal enough, maybe he’ll become Batman’s sidekick, called Robin.

The storyline is overstuffed, as you may have noticed. But they do deal with some interesting developments, such as the new romance and the new father/son type relationship with Bruce and Dick. And like I said, the movie is mostly cheerful fun in its action, which is fine for those who thought “Batman Returns” was too dark and gloomy for audiences. We have many one-liners from the heroes, laughs for the villains (particularly the Riddler), and some cute visual gags that pass for neat gimmicks and some outstanding stuntwork. For example from that last one, I love how the Batmobile rolls straight up the edge of a skyscraper—it’s one of those moments that remind you of the original campy 1960s TV series “Batman.”

The movie looks good—brighter and more colorful in how it presents Gotham City, with its many towers, bridges, and expressways. There are many impressive sets along with fantastic art direction—like the villains’ lairs and laboratories. There’s a really neat visual style in “Batman Forever.”

Val Kilmer makes a nice Bruce Wayne, though a little pale in comparison to Michael Keaton’s great performance. In fact, there are times when he comes off better as the role of Batman than Bruce Wayne. Tommy Lee Jones is wonderfully over-the-top as Two-Face, but not so much as Jim Carrey, who goes beyond nutty as the Riddler. Nicole Kidman is suitably bright and feisty, and as Dick “Robin,” Chris O’Donnell is an appealing casting choice.

By the way, there’s something I should say about the portrayal of Robin. This is possibly the only thing that’s taken seriously in “Batman Forever,” if you can believe it. You can feel Dick’s plight, having losing his parents and understanding why he does what he does in the final act—suiting up as Robin. Also, while the other Robins sport suits that act as human bullseyes, this Robin’s outfit is still somewhat flashy, and yet this one looks pretty cool.

Now, even though I’ve mentioned a lot of positive things about “Batman Forever,” I can’t quite recommend the movie, mainly because I didn’t buy into the lightheartedness as a whole movie. Batman is conflicted and the other two films did terrific jobs at showing that while also have their light moments to balance out the really dark moments. This Batman movie is sort of all over the place, not really making us feel like this is the Batman we all know and admire. Even though there were things I liked about “Batman Forever,” the movie as a whole didn’t work for me.

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