Classic Film Review: Batman Forever (1995)

Marvel vs. DC:

Batman Forever, 1995

Directed by: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle

 

Tim Burton is gone, Michael Keaton is gone: enter Joel Schumacher. This Batman film is certainly not in the same style as Batman or Batman Returns; the “comedy” is much closer to that from Adam West’s Batman, the “writing” is similar to Superman III; it’s not a great film (and they have quotation marks because I don’t know if it’s technically comedy, because I didn’t laugh, but I think humour was its intent). Batman/Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer, The Snowman) once again has to fend off two villains who team up, in Edward Nygma/The Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men), only this time he makes a new friend: Robin/Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell).

Easily the worst of the three Batman films to date, and that’s mainly down to its villain. A Batman film, to me, is judged on the Batman/Bruce Wayne character and its villain. If you get those things right the rest should fall into place. Batman Forever does a half-decent job at Batman/Bruce Wayne but a terrible, terrible job with the villains. Firstly, we are introduced to Two-Face in the opening scene, with a battle soon following with him escaping. I’ve watched plenty of James Bond films, and there are plenty of other films that utilise the same trick, where the hero is introduced by saving the day against a nothing-villain as a means to get the audience excited and to show off the hero’s skill. So, I never took any attention or interest in Two-Face, a villain Batman has failed to catch on multiple occasions, as he appeared immediately as this nothing-villain who will be defeated to make Batman look stronger (despite the fact that Batman hasn’t caught Two-Face despite multiple efforts). Then you have The Riddle, whose back-story and creation revolves almost around Bruce’s rejection of his idea. Bruce doesn’t like it so he becomes a psychotic killer. Because that makes total sense. So the villains aren’t that exciting, nor are they acted well enough to make them more compelling, and add that to a pretty standard performance from Val Kilmer and a pretty standard writing of him and there’s not a great amount holding its audience’s attention. Even his relationship with Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman, The Beguiled) is pretty poorly handled as he loves her, she loves Batman . . . we’ve seen that before from Batman films and Superman films.

And speaking briefly of dialogue; the opening line to this film is ‘Would you like a sandwich?’ On what planet does a superhero who knows the world is in danger ask for, and have time to wait for, a sandwich. He’s in the batmobile at this point, too, so it’s not even as if he’s on his way and can spare the time. Add to that other poor execution, such as having Chase read only one of two riddles because another character has previously read the other one, making it puzzling as to why in reality she’s only read one aloud, and the film is poor from start to finish.

For compliments . . . sometimes the visuals aren’t too bad. Although close-ups of Batman’s backside while he’s changing could have been avoided. And Robin’s story is quite nicely done; having him introduced as a circus act allows for an easy explanation for his athleticism and his arc of wanting revenge against Two-Face but not wanting the after-effects of killing a man, a lesson Bruce tries teaching him throughout, is quite nicely told. And O’Donnell’s performance is arguably one of the best as it’s one of the least over-acted performances in the film.

Joel Schumacher didn’t start his Batman tenure off the best of films; with a poorly written script (despite Akiva Goldsman’s input, the same Akiva Goldsman who would win an Oscar for a Best Screenplay in a few years time) and poorly told villains telling the worst Batman movie to date.

 

Plot: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * *

Overall Rating: * *

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