Caped Crusader Reviews: Batman Forever (1995)
Batman Forever is a very different movie to the first two. Almost everything about it has changed; new director, new cast (for the most part) and a Gotham City that looks like someone turned on too many neon lights. So, with these new changes, how does it fare? Well, keep reading my review and you’ll find out.
As usual, I’ll begin with the story. It’s pretty much what we’ve come to expect with this franchise, Batman has to stop the villains, the Riddler and Two-Face, who decide to team up and take over the world, while at the same time, Bruce is dealing with his own personal demons. On top of that, recently orphaned Dick Grayson is taken under the wing (no pun intended) of Mr Wayne and becomes Robin, finally forging the dynamic duo that we all know from the TV show. The story is certainly formulaic and predictable, but for the most part it works. Robin’s backstory is done very well, and this plot thread helps Batman to grow as a character, learning that working alone is not always the most practical approach to a situation. Riddler’s origin is particularly entertaining, showing off Jim Carrey’s typical humorous antics, whereas unfortunately, we don’t really get much on Two-Face. Harvey Dent was introduced in the ’89 film, but the villain concept was never fully developed and not explained much in Forever, apart from a fleeting reference. The biggest problem with the story for me was to do with Bruce Wayne and his personal struggle. It just didn’t seem necessary to go back to the origin with his parent’s death, and it just felt like a forced plot to give Nicole Kidman’s character something to do beyond seducing Batman.
With this sequel comes an almost entirely new cast. Batman/Bruce Wayne is now played by Val Kilmer, and while he doesn’t really have the same intimidating presence as Keaton, he does a good job at portraying the caped crusader without making him look silly. Chris O’Donnell is good as Dick Grayson/Robin, his motivations feel real and there is emotion in his scenes, although sometimes he just seems like a whiny little kid (that only gets worse in Batman and Robin). Nicole Kidman plays a psychiatrist of sorts named Chase Meridian, who is made into the token love interest for both of Kilmer’s identities. She too fits the role well, but her character isn’t as fleshed out as she could have been, and again, she’s the damsel in distress by the end. Jim Carrey, like Nicholson as the Joker, is a fantastic Riddler, and when he’s on screen, he steals the show. From the Baseball pitch bomb throw, to his crazy laugh, he’s a funny sight and makes for a fun villain. Two-Face though, was a disappointment. I think that the way Tommy Lee Jones played him was too over-the-top for this character; with Riddler, it’s acceptable, that’s the way he is, but Two-Face is a truly tortured character who’s always at a dilemma with his moral decisions, and Jones doesn’t really deliver that to the extent that he could have. Michael Gough is back as Alfred, still by his master’s side, there’s not much to say about him that I haven’t said before in my previous Batman reviews, it’s a consistent performance. Of course, Pat Hingle is still playing Gordon, and he’s even more bumbling than before, in fact, one of his first lines in the film is “didn’t see this one coming”, yep, that’s him in a nutshell, but I think it’s even worse when he stumbles in front of Batman in a dressing gown and slippers wondering “what’s going on” when the bat signal is lit, it’s painful to watch.
Now, for the sets. Gotham city, in this film, looks like a glowstick nightmare. This is one of the goofiest looking sets I’ve ever seen (apart from Batman and Robin’s set, which looks even worse),there’s just too much eye candy and not enough gothic architecture like the last two films, you can’t associate this disco party appearance with Batman, it just doesn’t work. I swear, I saw purple and red lights on in the windows of buildings, it’s about as non-realistic as you could get, and even for a comic book film, they’re pushing it here.
Music is still pretty good, although sometimes it gets a little tiring to here remixes of the theme tune being played over the most of the scenes (the theme is new to this film and the score is not done by Danny Elfman this time around), no real variety. For the most part, it makes the film seem even more campy, they might as well have just played the “nananana” of the 60′s show over some scenes.
So, what did I think of Batman Forever? It’s not great, certainly not very faithful to the comics, nor should it belong in the same universe as Tim Burton’s adaptations. The sets feel cheap and campy, the music has no real variety, and the story is relatively lackluster. On the plus side, the acting is good from most characters, so I guess that’s something. I’ll give it a 5/10.