Batman Forever

Posted: November 11, 2016 in Movies
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Back in 1995 Batman Forever’s release was a massive event, the toys were hitting the shelves, you had the excellent Batman: The Animated Series on TV and the comics of course. Batman was everywhere that summer. Even the music charts with both U2 and Seal having contributed two massive songs to the Batman Forever soundtrack. The film was a gamble and fans held their breaths as the third film in the Bat-series had not only lost visionary director Tim Burton but the star of the previous two films in the form of Michael Keaton.

Warner Brothers went with Joel Schumacher to direct and Val Kilmer as their new Bruce Wayne/Batman. Schumacher had many hits (The Lost Boys, Falling Down, The Client) already under his belt by the time he took on Batman. Like Burton, Schumacher had made a name for his unique visual style. Kilmer was making a name for himself as a character actor able to vanish into roles similar to Keaton. The studio brought in two heavy hitters for the villains with Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and 90’s breakout super star Jim Carrey as The Riddler with Chris O’Donnell on board as Robin and Nicole Kidman as Chase rounding out the main cast. It seemed like a win win movie with a exciting director and a stacked cast bursting with name talent.

What we got was a fun if problematic Batman movie. I like this film but it’s at times a bit too camp for it’s own good. Often the film feels like a feature attempt of the 1960’s TV show. Based on your taste that’s either a fun call back or a total tonal disaster after coming off the Burton/Keaton gothic and darkly comic previous films. Jone’s Two Face is more over the top villain than serious character portrait and that is a shame when you think of what Jones would have been capable of if given the chance. Carrey is totally off the crazy leash as Riddler but he’s so committed to it that I found myself loving him in this movie. I think Carrey’s The Riddler is one of the main reasons I like the film as much as I do.

On the hero side Kilmer does not fare as well as Keaton. Kilmer is a talented guy but he was probably not the right fit for the cape and cowl. O’Donnell’s Robin is good, one thing that bugged me was he’s not really given that much to do until the film’s last act and his reveal as Robin didn’t feel earned. He’s just like “Here I am!” it’s SO throw away but this was the 90’s so…we kind of all went with it. The standout is Kidman as Chase because she manages to inject charisma and depth to what could have been a throw away ‘love interest’ role. The fact Chase is a psychologist means she has tons of fun interacting with both Bruce and Batman and she even fights her own battles when up against some goons.

Action wise there’s a few cool set pieces. The opening of the film, when I first saw it twenty one years ago, was really good but the CGI doesn’t hold up. It’s cool seeing Batman trapped in the acid vault as Two Face hauls it through the skies of Gotham via chopper. Back then that sort of thing was impressive. Same applies to a random car chase, it’s cool seeing the Batmobile go vertically up the side of a building and I can dig those touches. I’d have liked to have saw more well thought out hand to hand fights but that’s probably just because I’m used to stuff like The Raid (I know right haha, not a fair comparison) and Civil War.

Should state the other star of the movie is Schumacher’s neo noir style before it went even crazier and more NEO!!! in the next film in the series. Gotham is a vibrant, neo-gothic city that manages to keep in step with what went before but show evolution in it’s style and scale. It’s a shame the script, considering how many people had a hand in it, provided an as not stable template than what came before. It’s not horrendous no, but it’s just a bit too comic book like with a lot of WOW and big villain schemes both of which would probably have worked better in the 1960’s than in 1995. Too harsh? Depends on what mood you’re in. Sometimes I can loose myself in Batman Forever and appreciate it for the camp-tastic comic book fun it attempts but at others I have to question if the studio was focusing more on bigger and better and how many toys they could spin off from this movie.


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