Caped Crusader Cinema: Batman Forever (1995)

I don't know how many of you actually enjoy reading these posts, but I enjoy writing them, and its our blog, so there. When I initially came up with the idea for this series, I intended to have all the posts finished by the time The Dark Knight came out. Well that didn't quite pan out. Have I have seen The Dark Knight? Yes, we went Friday afternoon. And how was it, you ask? Uncompromising. Scary. Challenging. Brilliant. I hope to write a more in-depth review as soon as I can muster more than one word sentences. For now, its on with Batman Forever.

In Retrospect

As I was almost finished braving the travails of junior high, word gradually started to seep out concerning the next bat sequel, Batman Forever. I was disappointed to learn that Michael Keaton's days as the Dark Knight were over, but was excited for the movie nonetheless.

After school one day, I happened to be watching Extra, and it was announced that they would be playing the new Batman Forever trailer during the show. I should mention this was before the days of movie trailers being widely available on the internet, so this was a pretty big deal. I should also mention this was back when I considered shows like Extra, Entertainment Tonight, and Access Hollywood to be "the news," but I digress. I grabbed a spare VHS tape and recorded the trailer so I could watch it over and over again. Which I did.

The week prior to its release, I was attending Scout Camp. One of our leaders had a copy of USA Today which had an extensive feature on the movie. This was really the first time I became aware of the Batman Returns backlash. In the article, the filmmakers seemed to be tripping over themselves to let the world know that "Hey, we're not doing another Batman Returns! This one will be fun and bright, with no mysterious black bile whatsoever!" I may have paraphrased that a little. I even became semi-convinced that, yeah, I guess Batman Returns was kind of dark and dreary, I hope this new one isn't like that. Lousy manipulative hype machine! On our way home from camp, we stopped at McDonald's for lunch. I got a collectible glass Riddler mug, and continued to work myself into a fevered frenzy.

I saw Batman Forever twice over the next few weeks. For a recently turned 15-year-old such as myself, this movie had it all. Loads of action, generous helpings of humor, "cutting edge" special effects, and the innocent sex appeal of Nicole Kidman. I added the glass Robin mug to my suddenly blossoming collection of drinkware. Sadly, the Batman and Two-Face mugs were all sold out, so I was unable to complete the series.

Critical Analysis

Herein lies the problem with Batman Forever. In case you hadn't noticed, I am no longer 15. Now a cynical 28 year old movie snob, the film leaves me somewhat wanting. The real tragedy is that the script had the potential to be something weightier. However, first time bat director Joel Schumacher chose to jettison some of the more complex aspects of the story in favor of the garish spectacle, and the wacky antics of Jim Carrey.

One of the key subplots of the movie involves Bruce's flashbacks of a red leather book—his father's journal—and the implication of guilt in his parent's death. But the resolution, which features Bruce Wayne confronting his childhood demons and reconciling his life as both Bruce Wayne and Batman (as well as the very reason behind the title of the film), ended up on the cutting room floor. A director's cut that would restore some of these scenes was rumored for years, but will likely never come to fruition.

Schumacher all but buries Tim Burton's subtlety and symbolism for hokey theatrics. As Edward Nigma unveils his brain-wave-sucking "Box" to consumers, a satire of television and the media is hinted at, but is quickly cast aside to make way for more zany one-liners and implausible escapes (The Batmobile driving up the wall, anyone?). Two-Face, one of Batman's most tragic and psychologically rich characters, is reduced to merely being the means to deliver such punny lines as "you could say we are of two minds on the subject." And consider the following exchange, featuring Dr. Chase Meridian's unique brand of flirtatious psycho-babble:
Dr. Chase Meridian: Well I wish I could say that my interest in you was... purely professional.
Batman: Trying to get under my cape, doctor?
Dr. Chase Meridian: A girl can't live by psychoses alone.
Batman: It's the car, right? Chicks love the car.
Dr. Chase Meridian: What is it about the wrong kind of man? In grade school it was guys with earrings. College? Motorcycles, leather jackets. Now? *Oh* black rubber.
Batman: Try firemen, less to take off.
Dr. Chase Meridian: I don't mind the work. Pity I can't see behind the mask.
Batman: We all wear masks.
Dr. Chase Meridian: My life's an open book. You read?
Batman: I don't blend in at a family picnic.
Dr. Chase Meridian: Oh, we could give it a try. I'll bring the wine, you bring your scarred psyche.
AHHH! Make it stop!

The film does have a few good things going for it. It manages to one-up its predecessors in how the public persona of Bruce Wayne is portrayed. While Batman Returns went as far as to show him at Wayne Manor, just waiting in the dark for the bat signal to come on, Bruce Wayne of Batman Forever is much more the instantly recognizable public figure of the comics. The inclusion of Robin is handled rather well, considering how lame it could have been (like in the next movie). Plus there is a great U2 song, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," that plays over the closing credits. Just be sure to hit stop before Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" takes over.

Batman Forever is such a product of its time (the mid '90s), which is ultimately what makes it so disposable. Here we have a completely unrestrained Jim Carrey, cartoony, in-your-face CG effects, and lines from Batman like "the bat signal is not a beeper." However, my favorite '90s moment has to be when Two-Face crashes the NygmaTech party and demands that people hand over their "cash, jewelry, and cellular telephones." Oooh cellular telephones! Those are only for the super rich. What a glamorous party!

Still, for all its problems, Batman Forever does hold a certain amount of nostalgic value for me. A few years ago, thanks to the wonders of eBay, I was able to acquire those long pined after Batman and Two-Face mugs that I had missed out on back in the day. The 15-year-old in me sees to it that I use them all the time.

Grade: C-


Team Ritz! said...

I LOVE Eddie's new picture! (And WHERE did he get that FABULOUS onesie?)

Ben said...

My favorite memories from "Batman Forever":

• "Holy rusted metal, Batman!" Because the metal was all rusty, you know...with holes in it. I thought that was so funny when I heard it the first time.

• The "Chris O'Donnell" haircut.
Which I really think was just the George Clooney Caesar cut, only shorter. And yes, I went out and had my hair cut like him that summer.

• Jim Carrey in tights.
No, wait...that would be one of my LEAST favorite memories...

• Sorry, Dave, but I was a Seal fan...and not even the oversaturation of "Kiss From A Rose" that summer will ruin his music for me. Becky is somewhere reading this and cringing.

Overall, I think I'm with Dave. This movie rocked my world when it came out...but I was 16 then. Now? Um, I'll take Stormin' Mormon Aaron Eckhart over Tommy Lee as Two-Face any day.

Krissy said...

Well since we're reminiscing...

When Batman Forever came out, I was 11. This was also the year that I went to middle school and met my good friend Mindi and we both developed a pretty serious crush on both Val Kilmer and Chris O'Donnell. Thinking back on that now just makes me laugh. My favorite scene of the movie is when Dick (aka Robin) does his laundry. I like it because that is how I do laundry.

I must agree with Ben... Jim Carrey in tights is no good. And I'm cringing right along with Becky.

Becky said...