REVIEW – ‘Batman Forever’

Written by J.T. Johnson

3-12-stars

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: June 16, 1995
DIRECTOR: Joel Schumacher
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Stephen Goldblatt
WRITERS: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, Akiva Goldsman
MUSIC: Elliot Goldenthal

One of the big controversies about the first two “Batman” films was over the fact that they were darker films with parents warned not to take their kids to see them. Warner Bros. wanted to correct this with the next film in the series. Their first step was to make Tim Burton, the director of the first two films, an executive producer while they found some fresh blood for the series. To this end, the studio hired Joel Schumacher, a director known for films such as “The Lost Boys” and “Flatliners.”

With the departure of Burton as the director, Michael Keaton also made the announcement that he would not be returning to the role. Therefore, Schumacher’s first challenge was to find another actor to play the title character. In the end, he signed on Val Kilmer, an actor known for his dedication to his craft.

This time, the film would see Batman (Kilmer) facing off against Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and the Riddler (Jim Carrey). Also, once again, Batman would see himself becoming secondary to the other villains though not as badly as in the first two movies. Finally, the film would also see the introduction of Dick Grayson/Robin (Chris O’Donnell) to the series after being absent in the first two films.

The film is far from perfect and, like the first two films, suffers from brilliant production design over story and character. This time, even the villains do not have clever back stories to help set them up. Two-Face’s story is barely touched upon and he is nothing more than a simplified crime boss. The Riddler is just a disgruntled ex-employee from Wayne Enterprises who wants nothing more than to best Bruce Wayne in every endeavor.

Carrey’s performance is way too supercharged than that of his comic counterpart. One knows that a film is in trouble when the comic takes the material more seriously than the movie does. Instead of the wimpy genius that appears in the books, Carrey goes overboard in the role and, while humorous at time, the Riddler never feels like a true threat to Batman.

Also, Jones does the best that he can with Two-Face, but a bad make-up job and sloppy writing for his story make the character completely pointless. Billy Dee Williams, the actor who played Harvey Dent in the first film, had it in his contract to return to play Two-Face. Williams should be grateful that Warner Bros. decided to buy out his contract.

However, this film is nowhere near as bad as the next film in the series, “Batman & Robin”. Here, there is still enough seriousness left to keep the adults entertained as well. The action sequences are better in this film than what had been seen in the first two films. Also, Bruce Wayne does have to deal with some of his emotional problems and it was good to finally see a film that at least touches upon why Batman is Batman.

Also, this is the first film to deal with Robin. Here is a character that is hard to translate to the screen in a believable manner. While the movie does take license with the character, they successfully incorporate the character into the world and O’Donnell does a good enough job. It’s also good to see Bruce take on this kid that has gone through a tragic experience that is not unlike his own loss.

Yes, the film is imperfect and it is from the same director of “Batman & Robin”. However, with this film, it should be noted that Schumacher did a good job with this entry and, like the first two films, the performances help keep the film alive and the adults awake.

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