Batman Forever (1995) Review
*** Out of 5
Tagline- Courage Now. Truth Always
Release Date- June 16th, 1995
Running Time- 121-Minutes
Screenplay- Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler & Akiva Goldsman
Director- Joel Schumacher
Starring- Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell
Released in 1995 Batman Forever mostly draws reviews where the film is cited as average or horrible and the follow up Batman and Robin by most is considered terrible. Both films were directed by Joel Schumacher and its quite unfortunate these two films sort of define him. He gets the wrath of angry Batman films, but Schumacher actually made some very good films. The Lost Boys is a classic and one of the greatest vampire films and some of his other work such as St. Elmo’s Fire, Flatliners and A Time to Kill are very good films and he’s a proven filmmaker, but while Lost Boys is seen as a classic people still trash him due to his Batman films, which again is unfortunate since at one point he was a good filmmaker, but with that said its easy to see why so many people bash him, but citing him as one of the worst filmmakers of all time due to two films is a bit silly. Tim Burton with Batman and than Batman Returns successfully brought back the caped crusader and took it in a darker tone. As I said in my review for Batman and Batman Returns I really don’t think the films were dark while it has a gothic look I think people see it as dark since the 60s TV show and 1966 film were camp value to the max. However with Batman Forever, Joel Schumacher took a much campier direction and while it never gets as silly as the 60s version it does sort of come close at times. Batman Forever came out at a time before comic related films were taken seriously. While there were films that got positive reviews and are seen as classics (Superman & Batman) most of the films were very high on camp value and weren’t really respected. That changed when Christopher Nolan made his Dark Knight trilogy, but prior these films were often known for camp value and in the case of Batman, Tim Burton found a way to sort of toe the line. Too bad Joel Schumacher didn’t follow suit.
I think part of the problem is Joel Schumacher I don’t think was the right choice for Batman Forever though I guess some could also say Tim Burton or even Nolan wasn’t a likely choice for Batman. But based off Schumacher’s directing credits I’m not sure he was the right choice, but with that said Lost Boys is very much a comic themed film so in a sense he was sort of a good choice, but I think there were other directors better suited. Like I said at the time of Batman Forever was released comic themed films were more known for camp value and this is very much a comic book film. Some of the Batman comics had a dark tone such as A Death in the Family (though there was a little camp), but I suppose by nature people will think camp even if they’ve never read a Batman comic or any comic for that matter. Batman Forever doesn’t get quite as campy as the 60s version, but at times it isn’t far behind. Like I said in general Batman Forever draws average reviews or poor reviews with a few positive every so often. I’m not here to defend the film, but I will say its not as poor as some reviews make it seem and if anything the average reviews are spot on.
Besides taking a more campy approach other changes are Michael Keaton is out and Val Kilmer is in as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Also Gotham City, which had a more gothic look under Tim Burton has a brighter look and almost in some ways a futuristic look as well. Dick Grayson/Robin (O’Donnell) makes his debut and the villains this time are the Riddler (Carrey) and Two-Face (Lee Jones). The biggest controversy though is the bat suit with addition of nipples. I really don’t know what made Joel Schumacher want to add that, but it really isn’t as big a deal as its made out to be either.
The screenplay by Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler & Akiva Goldsman is fairly decent. Batman Forever isn’t meant to be high quality cinema. The script aims to be fun and while not always successful it does work at times. In the first two Keaton’s Bruce Wayne was a bit mysterious and had a certain tragic quality to him. We never fully get to know how complex he is and here Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne is quite different. Rather than dark and mysterious he’s much more of the charming playboy with a hint of tragedy. Though like Keaton’s Bruce Wayne, even Kilmer’s lacks a little depth and again the villains sort of take center stage. The script while never great does have its moments and while the characters could have used a bit more depth, but when all is said and done the script serves its purpose.
Like I said Joel Schumacher gets a lot of heat for his Batman films more so Batman & Robin, but even Forever gets a lot of negative feedback. The pacing of the film is a bit mixed and after a strong start the pace can get a bit sluggish in spots, but overall Schumacher does make a semi-entertaining film. Schumacher never attempts at making a serious film and everything you see is intentional. The more dramatic scenes though do lack the emotional depth, which is a mixture of not just the directing, but the writing. Joel Schumacher delivers a fun, but heavily flawed film and its quite easy to see why so many Batman films disliked his take. Though with that said a lot of the negative feedback for Batman Forever does stem from Batman & Robin, which really isn’t fair. Again its easy to understand any Schumacher gets heat for his takes on Batman, but here with Batman Forever he doesn’t do such a bad job and while the film isn’t great by any means it can though be fun if in the right mood.
Of all the Batman villains the Joker would be my favorite and that may be a cliche, but Joker is my favorite regardless if he’s the campy Joker or more serious Joker. But of all the villains Two-Face is the one I find most interesting. In Batman he’s still Harvey Dent, but Billy Dee Williams was just sort of there and didn’t really impact the story. In Batman Forever when Harvey Dent is introduced he’s already Two-Face with a quick mention how he became a villain and the character just isn’t as interesting. Some people complained how in the Dark Knight when Harvey becomes Two-Face it wasn’t enough screen time and while I sort of agree I loved how Harvey Dent played such a huge part and in many ways he’s sort of like Batman he just goes about it differently, which made it all the more powerful when he became Two-Face. That’s why I find Harvey Dent so interesting since he was once a good guy. I’m not going to compare Aaron Eckhart and Tommy Lee Jones since Eckhart only had a few scenes as Two-Face and Eckhart’s take was a much darker one. But in Batman Forever Two-Face just wasn’t as interesting, but that wasn’t the only problem. Apparently rumor has it Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones didn’t really get along and they attempted to upstage each other and Tommy Lee Jones basically hams it up. While it worked well for Carrey as the Riddler (Frank Gorshin is still the best) it doesn’t work as well for Jones. I also don’t wanna turn this into a comparison of Nolan’s trilogy and the past series, but Two-Face while fun lacks everything I find so interesting about the character and The Dark Knight for me nailed it.
Overall Batman Forever really isn’t such a bad film and I can’t help but feel much of the hate is due to Batman & Robin. By no means is this a great film as its average at best, but it is fairly entertaining. It’s nowhere near as good as Burton’s Batman or Nolan’s trilogy, but I actually liked this almost as much as Batman Returns. Joel Schumacher gets a but too much heat, which once again is unfortunate since he’s made some very good films and while the heat he gets for Batman & Robin is deserving I don’t think it is with Batman Forever. Again this is by no means a great film at all, but it never tries to be anything more than it is.