Batman Forever [retro review]

“Joygasm!”

The Scoop: 1995 PG-13, directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman

Tagline: Courage now, truth always…

Summary Capsule: A new generation of Batman is not necessarily a better generation of Batman, as the pointy-eared one fights the Riddler and Two-Face and his dignity.

Justin’s Rating: Ugh, tone it DOWN to about a 3, please.

Justin’s Review: It was the summer of love: fall 1995. The new Batman movie had come to our college’s tiny second-run theater, and a visit was called for. After the incredibly dark and violent Batman and the much better yet still gloomy Batman Returns, my friends and I were looking forward to this new installment of a man who lacks a proper animal role model, but kicks criminal butt to compensate. We need not have bothered.

This lavish production crosses the line deep into gaudy territory, as the sleek art deco look of Tim Burton’s Batman was transformed into the “Let’s put lights, fins, neon, futuristic buildings, and primary colors EVERYWHERE” school of film design under the tutelage of Joel Schumacher. Schumacher wasn’t interested in genuinely exploring the Batman mythos; he merely wanted to make a highly marketable, straight-to-video-game movie that was out to dazzle the audience before they realized they dined on pure, uncut crap for two hours. This was the end of the good era of Batman films, and the beginning of one of the most notorious streaks of laughably bad superhero movies.

I walked away from the theater feeling merely bored after my initial outing, but as wicked fate would have it, I got roped into seeing Batman Forever not once, but twice more by some other friends and a cute girl. By the end of my third viewing of BF in the same week, I had to grip the armrests very tightly, otherwise my hands would leap to my face like the alien facehugger and start clawing my eyes out of their burning sockets. It’s just not a movie that any non-serial killing human should be exposed to repeatedly as punishment.

With the departure of the Tim Burton-Danny Elfman-Michael Keaton team, the Batman franchise was freed to grow in new directions. Unfortunately, this new void sucked in a vapid Val Kilmer, a generic composer, and a director whose biggest contribution to the Batman legacy is plastering nipples onto every outfit he can get his hands on. Now, I’ve seen Batman Forever defended by a number of friends, usually along the lines of “Well, it’s not as bad as Batman & Robin. That sure bit the big one!” And while this is true — the Batman series had yet to hit its lowest point on the crapometer — it’s like saying that the electric chair isn’t so bad when you compare it to being burned alive at the stake.

The problem is that there isn’t just one problem to shoulder the blame here. Batman Forever is riddled (gah, I swear I wasn’t trying to make a pun when I wrote that) with questionable decisions and outright stupid moves.

I don’t have a big beef with Kilmer, other than the fact that his lips are far too pouting in the Batman costume, but we can file the other characters under “Big Waste o’ Time”. Tommy Lee Jones hams it up as the cackling Two-Face, Jim Carrey puts goofiness in overdrive for a stint as the Riddler, Nicole Kidman plays more of a prostitute in this film than she did in Moulin Rouge, Chris O’Donnell leaps into the regrettable position of Robin and wears a sparkly earring to draw in the teen market… and none of these roles or storylines are even remotely interesting. Like the sets, they’re just exercises in flashy excess, roles that got them star billing in a big summer spectacle that would quickly be forgotten.

Hey, Drew Barrymore’s in this flick… huh. I didn’t remember that.

The story has to do with Two-Face teaming up with the Riddler to steal everyone’s brainwaves so that they’ll forevermore enjoy Joel Schumacher films. The first couple levels are mindless fun, but after that you’ll just be using Batman to kick-punch combo his way to the Riddler’s hideout, and the final boss is nothing to get worked up over. Besides, it’s been scientifically proven that small children who watch the rubber bondage gear found in this flick grow up to be members of the Village People, and that’s one fad we don’t need to resurrect.

Oh, I'm sorry. Could you give us a bit more cleavage, please?

Intermission!

  • Dick Grayson suggests “Nightwing” for a hero name; this is an in-joke for comic fans, where Dick Grayson retired/was fired as Robin in the early ’80s and took on the identity of Nightwing, which he still uses today.
  • The Robin costume weighed 41 lbs.
  • In Canada, the French version of the Riddler’s name is Le Sphinx.

Groovy Quotes:

Riddler: Joygasm!

Riddler: Riddle me this, riddle me that, who’s afraid of the big, black bat?

Batman: You called me here for this? The Batsignal is not a beeper.

Dick Grayson: I need a name! Batboy, Nightwing, I dunno. What’s a good sidekick name?
Bruce Wayne: How about Dick Grayson, college student?
Dick Grayson: Screw you!

Robin: Holey rusted metal, Batman!
Batman: Huh?
Robin: The ground, it’s all metal. It’s full of holes. You know, holey.
Batman: Oh.

Dr. Meridian: Well, let’s just say that I could write a hell of a paper on a grown man who dresses like a flying rodent.
Batman: Bats aren’t rodents, Dr. Meridian.

Riddler [to Two-Face after Batman shows up]: Your entrance was good… his was better. What’s the difference? Showmanship.

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7 Comments

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  2. True die hard Bat fans sang the praises of “The Dark Knight” after this and the next Batman, in comparison that was the one that resurrected the franchise, but for me that movie is just above average because it riffed off the best Batman comics like “Batman the Long Halloween” and “The Dark Knight Returns”

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