Batman Forever (1995)

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Batman Forever (1995)

Post  BoG on Sun Nov 23, 2014 12:30 am

2nd sequel to Batman (1989): I was really looking forward to this one back in '95 and so were, apparently, a lot of other people - this was one of the biggest movies of the year at the box office and even surpassed the 1st sequel, Batman Returns, in terms of tickets sold. The reasons for the great anticipation and the crowds were easy to determine: Tommy Lee Jones could do no wrong as an actor at that point; Jim Carrey was the hottest new comic actor; Nicole Kidman looked absolutely stunning in previews and marketing; and though I wasn't as sure about Val Kilmer taking over the central heroic role, he had won high marks with me as Doc Holiday in Tombstone (93) and seemed a more obvious choice for Bruce Wayne than the slightly goofy Michael Keaton. This followed the template of Batman Returns, giving Batman two foes to tangle with - Two-Face (Jones) and The Riddler (Carrey) - and both actors seemed ideal for the roles beforehand.
But, my disappointment was apparent  as the film neared its conclusion way back then; Jones over-acted shamelessly and was almost embarrassing, reduced to fits of giggling as if he was copying Nicholson's Joker; Kilmer was boring, as was Kidman; Carrey fared best and had that one great scene ("For if knowledge is power, then a god... am.. I.i.i.i.i.i..."), though his role was mostly for laughs. I had neglected to consider one thing - there was a new director, replacing Tim Burton, by the name of Joel Schumacher.  Even so, Schumacher's Falling Down in 1993 wasn't too bad and I figured that, though he would bring a different spin to this franchise, it wouldn't be bad either.  But, it was.  Batman Forever probably epitomizes the flash-over-substance style of film-making which has dominated the film industry in the nineties and the past decade. The filmmaker just throws a lot of flashy visuals at the audience without any regard for story or even half-realized characters. Schumacher's intent was to emulate the comic book panels and color, but what works in comics really doesn't on the movie screens. This wasn't as bad as the follow-up, Schumacher's Batman & Robin (97), since the introduction of Robin (Chris O'Donnell) was rooted in tragedy and a drive for vengeance, but it was all subsumed by garish sets and over-the-top acting; everyone was either too loud or just cardboard.

The drawbacks to this 3rd Batman film were evident in the first scene: it begins well and in a no-nonsense manner, showing us the hero's paraphernalia as he dresses for combat; suddenly, Alfred (Michael Gough again) asks a silly question and Batman (Kilmer) answers in just as silly a manner. It quickly becomes clear that Schumacher is also emulating the camp factor of the sixties TV show, something most fans dreaded since the 1989 film, which managed to avoid most of that. This pattern is maintained throughout the film - a scene begins well and then degenerates into silliness, usually via the silly dialog. For the plot, Two-Face spends most of the film trying to kill Batman, since he hates the hero, blaming him for his scarring (also garish, like everything else). The other villain starts out as E. Nygma (Carrey), an odd, goofy and very needy employee of Bruce Wayne Enterprises who tries to briefly convince Wayne (Kilmer) that the future rests with his brain-altering gizmo; Wayne rebuffs him and so Nygma also seeks revenge, becoming the Riddler. Kidman as a gorgeous psychiatrist has the hots for Batman, but soon realizes she needs to grow up and focus on Bruce Wayne. Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell) comes to stay at Wayne Manor after his family are killed and quickly makes a pest of himself, first with a bad attitude and then snooping about to discover Batman's secrets. It's all directed at the 10-year-old crowd, if that. BoG's Score: 5 out of 10

Bat Trivia: this set a new opening weekend record in 1995, at $52.7 million, beating out the previous record-holder Jurassic Park, which opened to $47 million in 1993; however, Jurassic Park's sequel, The Lost World, established a new opening weekend record a couple of years later in '97, at $72 million. Schumacher returned to direct the final sequel, Batman & Robin (97), but Kilmer did not reprise his Bruce Wayne role and was replaced by George Clooney.
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