Batman Forever (1995)

In the supremely entertaining BATMAN FOREVER, director Joel Schumacher 
serves up *story*.  Five stories, actually, as if he's anxious to 
dispel the myth/truth that a BATMAN movie can only be about atmosphere.  
Working from a strong script that emphasizes the *humor* of Gotham 
City, the veteran director presents a colorful grab bag of "scarred 

There's the Riddler (Jim Carrey), a nerdy scientist who's invented a 
device to "read men's minds."  He's in cahoots with Two-Face (Tommy Lee 
Jones), the scarred ex-District Attorney who is Gotham's villain du 
jour.  Back at Stately Wayne Manor, the Big Guy (Val Kilmer, replacing 
Michael Keaton) is thinking about retiring the cape, while his ward, 
Dick Greyson (Chris O'Donnell), is itching to play dress-up.  And, 
chasing everyone listed above, is a pin-up psychologist (Nicole Kidman) 
who's on hand to diagnose dreams and reaffirm the lead character's 

Each character in BATMAN FOREVER gets their own story, which is fair 
enough.  Unfortunately, only two of those stories really work.  The 
Riddler's is the most fun, with Jim Carrey in fine form as the dis-
gruntled Wayne Enterprises employee who wants his *own* revenge.  His 
Riddler is the life of the party, though we could stand to see more 
of what his invention does.  The other fun one is Chris O'Donnell as 
Robin.  He's the human side of BATMAN FOREVER, and he brings a fresh 
vitality to a series that's always in danger of taking itself too 
seriously.  He even gets to joyride in the Batmobile, though no one 
bothers to explains why said vehicle has *two* tail fins in certain 
scenes, instead of one.

Val Kilmer makes an intriguing Caped Crusader, but he plays his part 
too straight.  There's no edge to his character-- nothing to distin-
guish the fact that *he's* Batman.  He may be sturdier than his pre-
decessor, but, frankly, he's a bit of a bore as he spends the entire 
film brooding over whether or not to be Batman.  To cowl, or not to 
cowl?  (Here is where huge chunks of the story seem to be missing.  
Bruce Wayne seeks help for his dreams, but we're never shown the scene 
where he's supposedly "cured."  We see him *after* the fact, but the 
scripted explanation involving a diary and a giant bat (!) has been 
dropped.  Why?)

There's enough energy around Kilmer to compensate for his flat Bat, 
though, even if said superhero functions more like James Bond in a cape 
than the Dark Knight detective of the comic books.  Case in point: the 
unnecessary romance between Kilmer and Kidman.  They barely have any 
screen time together!  Like most of the story, their "love triangle" 
isn't given enough room to breath.  For super-battles, quick quick is 
fine; for romance it's a bust.

Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones plays the other villain, Harvey 
"Two-Face" Dent.  He's obsessed with justice, but he raves too much for 
us to believe him.  The actor also gets quite a few good lines, though 
much of his dialogue is muted, as if someone decided that audiences 
would only laugh at Jim Carrey.  The jokes on them-- however broadly 
he's played, Two Face is still more amusing than the one-dimensional 

If this second villain seems to get lost in the shuffle, it's because 
Two-Face is introduced immediately, with no background or context for 
the audience.  The director must be counting on the viewer's presold 
knowledge of the characters; something that isn't true if you haven't 
been reading your Happy Meal.  The credits are rolled over his bank 
robbery sequence, and it's a lousy to way  to open a movie.  It's too 
abrupt. They should've kept the originally scripted opening scene of 
Two-Face's escape from Arkham Asylum.

In fact, there are several places in BATMAN FOREVER where footage seems 
to be missing.  Was Schumacher under pressure from Warner to bring the 
film in under two hours?  The movie is missing about ten to fifteen 
minutes of extra footage-- small (or not so small) pieces that could go 
a long way to explaining some of the action.  Why does Batman wear a 
special suit to the Riddler's lair, for example?  The order of some 
scenes could also be questioned. For example, the director interrupts a 
montage of Riddler robberies to show young Master Dick drying his 
clothes like Jackie Chan.  It's a great a bit, but out of place at that 
point in the film.

BATMAN FOREVER is certainly more fun than the first films, due in no 
small part to the numerous nods to the TV series.  The characters spend 
more time joking than fighting, while the director lightens nearly every 
scene with a skewered camera angle or two.  Holy homage!  There's also 
a ton of clever details, ranging from a beefcake shot of the Bat Butt to a 
creatively coifed character affectionately titled "Dr. Burton."  Catch 
some of these on the third and fourth viewing.

The technical credits are all very good.  The art direction is impec-
cable, with superb sets, costumes, and makeup.  The special effects 
are good to very good-- and rely a little too heavily on the computer-
generated sort, if you ask me.  The music is by Elliott Goldenthal, who 
replaces Danny Elfman.  He's written a fine, loud score that never once
breaks into the familiar refrain of "na na na na na na na na, BATMAN!"     

BOTTOM LINE:  The breeziest of the three movies, BATMAN FOREVER comes  
              the closest to reconciling the Dark Knight of the first 
              films with the Camped Crusader of the TV show.  It's a 
              brilliant mix, compressed way too tightly into it's 
              121-minute running time.  Recut, please, and let us see 
              the whole thing.
Grade: B+
Copyright 1995 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies

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