Batman Forever Review

Springing to mind immediately are the immortal words of Tommy Lee Jones, uttered in disgust to cast member Jim Carrey. “I will not sanction your buffoonery”. If Jones does not have to sanction it, then why must audiences? Comical stuff. But that is Batman Forever, a feature that cannot take itself seriously because director Joel Schumacher dared to touch close to the Adam West influences. Icarus he is not. Flying too close to that line means there is a rift between what Schumacher wants to try out as a comical feature and what newcomer to the Caped Crusader series Val Kilmer wants to do with a performance that, if handled right, could offer much depth.

Neither wins this tug of useless war. But if it were down to Jones and clear star Jim Carrey as The Riddler, then it is hard to figure out what Schumacher had planned. A very generic feature of ruthlessly bland criminals, made that way by the director on hand and the cast members that portray them. Big names do not equate to big results. Nicole Kidman and Val Kilmer may be superb performers, but together as Bruce Wayne and Doctor Chase Meridian, they are truly wasted and superficial. There is sincere chaos, a pathetic one, but sincere nonetheless, to how Batman Forever brings its villains together and their reasoning. Jones’ Two-Face shows up at opportune moments and thanks to the wonders of television, connects with The Riddler. The anger shown by Dent in his first encounter with The Riddler is surely genuine anger from Jones having to see Carrey steal the show with a nonsense performance outshining the other.  

Their happenstance conclusion of desires rumbles forward and gives little for an audience to care for. Kilmer is an exciting shot at Batman and brings a bit of charm to the role but is one of many to take on the vision of the Caped Crusader, failing to do much with it. Schumacher adds many new characters and exciting avenues for the third feature to follow up on. Still, little makes sense in a feature that feels more like a sensory overload than a reasoned follow-up to the work Tim Burton had created. Gotham feels booth cartoonish and claustrophobic, with the lighter tones not levelling out with either an interesting script or strong supporting performers. Chris O’Donnell makes for all the useless bits of snarky humour that come from the Batman and Robin pairing. Schumacher seemed to like it enough to follow up on in the sequel.

Objectively terrible, but quite fun. Jones’ unhinged state as a destructive, one-liner fuelled bastardisation of a classic comic book character is magnificent. Crossed wires and fumbling character arcs make Batman Forever a certain mess of a feature, a surprising problem that seems to arise from Schumacher having too much to do and not enough time to explore it. Panicking is no problem, but when it turns interesting characters into one-note slogs, there is many issues to be had with those that fail to adapt the light script, as well as those writing it. There is an empty hole in Batman Forever that needs to be filled with a commitment to either the West-era of zany fun or the reboot that was just around the corner.

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