- Movie Rating -

Batman Forever (1995)

| June 23, 1995 | 0 Comments

“Batman Forever” is sound and fury signifying nothing.  There is a lot of noise and a lot of music but the result is a movie that doesn’t mean much while you’re watching it and doesn’t mean any more when it’s over.  If I complained that the recent Batman pictures have been gloomy and sad, then this lighter approach is actually worse.  It had me covering my ears – and checking my watch.

This is the second sequel to “Batman,” and – believe it or not – was meant to be an improvement.  Tim Burton’s world proved too dark and gloomy for Warner Brothers, so they hatched the idea of pulling in a director who could give the series a lighter tone (Burton stays on as producer).  Enter Joel Schumacher, a kowtowing Hollywood director who is successful at making films profitable but hasn’t yet figured out how to make them any good.  He’s the brainchild behind such half-wit nonsense as “St. Elmo’s Fire”, “Falling Down”, “Dying Young”, and that crappy Mr. T vehicle “D.C. Cab.”  You should know that I hated ALL of these movies.  Schumacher takes the P.T. Barnum approach by attempting to approximate his movie toward the marketing department.  You can see every piece of this movie hanging on a shelf at a toy store.

All of the attempts by Tim Burton to pull the series away from the campy 60s TV series in his two previous films are undone here.  Schumacher is determined to go for a hokey jokey kind of entertainment by giving us, among other things, sexual innuendo and dialogue that can easily be quoted in a TV ad.  Burton’s production team attempted to turn Gotham City into a real place, but Schumacher’s film makes it look like a hideous all-night dance club with neon lights, pink lasers and Dutch tilts.  It’s like a variety show that you can’t turn off.

Yet, among the many crimes that Schumacher commits in “Batman Forever,” the worst is moving The Caped Crusader into the realm of fetishism.  It’s unnerving.  The rubber suits worn by Batman and Robin are supplied with close-ups of their capes, masks, gloves, butts and little nipples on the batsuit.  This, it seems, is in place of having any kind of real character psychology to deal with.  That psychology is dealt with around the film’s edges by a psychiatrist called Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) who is suppose to delve into Bruce’s darkest heart, but seems at all times to be aiming at his codpiece.  The relationship is a tease.  There dialogue is made up almost exclusively of sexual innuendo, and seems to have only been provided to assure us that the homoeroticism is only skin deep.

The story, this time, is a generic Batman plot in which The Caped Crusader finds himself under the gun of two nefarious villains who want to drain Gotham City’s collective I.Q. with a silly device hooked to to the television sets of the entire population.  On one side is Two-Face, a half-scarred former lawyer played by Tommy Lee Jones.  On the other is Jim Carrey as The Riddler in a role that keeps him talking and talking and talking and talking for nearly two hours.

Batman, this time, is played by Val Kilmer who does a serviceable job in a role that is difficult to play, especially with this script.  Yet, there’s something stagnant in his performance.  He’s all wrong for Batman.  In his earlier career, Kilmer proved himself to be an adept comedian in films like “Top Secret” and “Real Genius.”  That makes me think that he might have been better equipped to play one of Batman’s villains, The Riddler, perhaps.

Alas, that role is given to Jim Carrey who might have made a better Joker.  Carrey, at his best, is a brilliant comedian, a physical performer whose best work is a marvel of comic timing so natural that it seems to land on him like an afterthought.  The Riddler is not one of his great performances; in fact it’s Carrey at his worst.  Cut loose with a flimsy script, Carrey is given free reign over his performance and that’s exactly the wrong approach.  It didn’t work in the Ace Venture movies and it doesn’t work here.  He needs a script, a character, a plot, and some rules to contain his comedy.  The Riddler is a consummate schemer who uses his clever puzzle games to keep Batman guessing.  Carrey plays him like a monkey on steroids.  A little of  his act goes a long LONG way.

Carrey’s act is far from the worst thing about “Batman Forever.”  I am simply dismayed by the how bland and generic the whole enterprise is.  Batman is the most interesting of all the comic book superheroes.  He’s the deepest, the darkest and the most mysterious.  The comic book writers, and the writers of the excellent Animated Series, know how to explore that darkness because they understand the character.  Schumacher’s film is an effort to sell toys, Happy Meals, soundtracks and action figures.  It is a movie that is as bland and meaningless as its title.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.