Batman Forever

  • Year:  1995
  • Director:  Joel Schumacher
  • Series Rank:  #9
  • Year Rank:  #138
  • Oscar Nominations:  Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Batman Villains:  Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Jim Carrey (The Riddler)
  • Love Interest:  Nicole Kidman (Chase Meridian)
  • Batman Allies:  Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Michael Gough (Alfred), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon)

We’re a little over halfway through the film and young (but not young enough) Dick Grayson has just taken the Batmobile out for a spin and kicked the crap out of same bad guys (and would have gotten a severe beating for his troubles had Batman not shown up).  Now he’s back and arguing with Bruce about whether or not they can be partners.  This should be a terrible scene, especially considering that Dick had no reason to ever be taken in by Bruce since he’s clearly in his late teens at earliest and there would have been no need for the supposed social services that were claimed earlier.  We’ve got one actor who was never really all that talented and one whose ego and inability to get along with anyone usually rode roughshod over his talent.  Yet, somehow these scenes, with the girl who was rescued (thinking Dick is Batman because he claimed to be) claiming “Doesn’t Batman ever kiss the girl?” and Dick arguing that he’s gonna be Bruce’s partner whether he likes it or not are among the best scenes in this film.  Too bad that this film was already beyond saving long before we ever got to the scene.

Let’s begin with the opening sequence of the film.  First, there’s the ridiculous fetishizing of Batman putting on his outfit.  Then there’s the insane over-acting of Tommy Lee Jones (Jones, like Christopher Walken and John Malkovich walks a very fine line between brilliant acting and awful mugging and Joel Schumacher is nowhere near a talented enough director to keep Jones in line) as Two-Face (called Harvey Two-Face for some reason) and he’s already not looking too good with the straight line down the middle of his face (Veronica lamented this, saying it’s one of the first things that criticize you for on Face-Off only to then be dismayed to see Ve Neill right there in the credits).  He somehow lifts a bank vault out of a building with only a rope, manages to have acid hidden inside (the guard freaks out at that, screaming “It’s boiling acid!” and Veronica asked if he was related to someone in the film before I informed her that he was a real actor who was in the recent A Midsummer Night’s Dream we watched and had a key role in Presumed Innocent – it’s rare to have a real actor deliver lines that badly), then Batman manages to somehow have the fault freed, held with just a rope and have it fall in the exact same spot, but not until after he arrives on his rope in slow-motion (and what is it hanging from?).  And let’s not forget the ridiculous notion of an anti-theft device in a helicopter.  The entire opening sequence is so badly done that at the midnight showing on opening night (as I recall, the first midnight showing I ever attended) it completely erased all the good work Tim Burton had done to move away from the campiness of the 1960’s television show.  This was Joel Schumacher, an utterly shit director running amuck with a script co-written by Akiva Goldsman, one of the worst scriptwriters to ever descend on Hollywood (and yet he somehow has an Oscar).

What decisions were made during this film and how were any of them considered to be good ones?  The reigns for Batman were handed over to the man who had directed The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Dying Young and The Client.  It brought in Val Kilmer who could have been an interesting choice if they hadn’t hampered him with a terrible script.  They cast Jim Carrey because he was the hot rising comedic star and they let him have free reign which occasionally could bring good moments (“B-12!”  “Hit!  And my favorite vitamin I might add!”) but too often just showed that Schumacher had no directorial control of his film.  It ostensibly was a continuation of the previous two films due to the use of Michael Gough and Pat Hingle but the former is reduced to terrible jokes (“Will you be taking a sandwich?”  “I’ll get drive-thru.”) and the latter is only in a couple of scenes and is completely wasted.  Nothing else is the same, including Wayne Manor (where apparently little kids go for Halloween – now it’s true that the rich guys in big houses give out good candy as Jose Feliciano’s house always had awesome candy when I was growing up, but he didn’t live miles out of town behind a giant gate), the city (which still has no design) and the music.

Oh, the music.  This could have been the selling point for the film and indeed the soundtrack itself was a big seller thanks to the hit song “Kiss from a Rose” (which went to #1).  Unfortunately, it’s wasted in the film.  The Offspring was convinced to cover “Smash It Up” and it appears for about 20 seconds.  U2’s new song, their first in two years (and their last for two more), “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” only appears in the end credits and that’s before “Kiss from a Rose” actually makes an appearance.  They put together all this music and then didn’t have the brains to do anything with it.

I seem to downgrade this film every time I watch it.  It’s already at a low **.5 and seems like it could be sliding lower.  Much like Superman IV, it seems to be somewhat saved by the crappier film (in this case, Batman & Robin) from hitting rock bottom.  It takes two of Batman’s best villains and mostly wastes them (thank god they would eventually get Two-Face right).  It has a love interest that is completely uninteresting and didn’t even exist in the comics with the ridiculous name of Chase Meridian.  It’s astounding to realize that Nicole Kidman gave this performance the same year that she would star in To Die For, one of the great satirical performances in film history.  She’s also a damn blonde.  So far, in the film series, they’ve taken a redhead and made her blonde, taken a brunette and made her blonde and then given us a generic blonde character.  Who are the major female relationships in Bruce’s life in the comics?  Julie Madison (brunette), Vicki Vale (redhead), Kathy Kane (brunette), Silver St. Cloud (silver haired), Talia (brunette), Selina Kyle (brunette).  No blondes!

This film isn’t terribly made; it does come in 7th place at the Nighthawk Awards three times and it earned three Oscar nominations but those don’t overlap.  For me, the worthwhile things are the Visual Effects, the Makeup and “Hold Me . . .” while the Academy somehow nominated the flashy Cinematography, the over-bearing Sound and the Sound Editing.

There is an amusing moment towards the end of the film that I think highlights what is wrong with this film and what it could have been.  Batman and Robin have landed on Riddler’s island (how much time takes place in this film?  He built an entire villain complex island in that time?) and Robin says “Holy rusted metal, Batman.”  When Batman says “What?”, Robin explains that all the rusted metal has holes.  Now, it’s a nice nod to the way Casey Kasem used to play Robin and that makes it pretty funny.  But then they have to explain it.  The film seems like it wants to be a bit cheesy, but also witty in how it does it.  Unfortunately, for the most of the film, we get the cheese without the wit and this cheese definitely doesn’t stand alone.