Revisiting the Reviled — ‘Batman Forever’ is the Worst Bat-Movie Ever

GameStop, Inc.

batman-forever-002

Over the past 25 years, Batman has become cinema’s new James Bond. A number of actors and directors have rotated their interpretation of the Caped Crusader created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. This month alone we are expecting the eighth Batman movie since Tim Burton’s 1989 movie, with Ben Affleck being the fifth actor to take up the cape and cowl. For fans of Batman, there is typically no worse representation than Joel Schumacher’s 1999 camp fiasco Batman & Robin. Say what you will about Batman & Robin, at least it has a consistent tone. That could not be said about 1995’s Batman Forever, Schumacher’s first attempt to further pull Batman from the shadows of darkness and into the candy-colored neon lights. Just because it’s not as in your face as Batman & Robin doesn’t mean that Batman Forever is the better film. In fact, Batman Forever is the worst Batman movie ever made.

In order to understand how Schumacher came to transform the character of Batman following two successful films by Burton, look no further than the controversy that followed Burton’s sequel Batman Returns. Parents groups thought the film was too dark in its portrayal of Gotham City, with Danny DeVito’s repellant take on the Penguin causing viewers to squirm. Meanwhile, McDonald’s was dissatisfied with the darker turn on Batman, fearing that the film’s subject matter would negatively affect Happy Meal sales. Batman Forever opens with a mea culpa aimed at the fast food giant, as Val Kilmer’s first line as the Dark Knight is tailor made for an advertisement – “I’ll get drive-thru.”

But Batman Forever isn’t the worst Batman film because it openly panders to its corporate overlords before it even starts, it’s the worst Batman film because of its conflicted tone, alternating between camp and stern seriousness. This is a movie that follows the formula of Batman Returns, with one of its two villains terrorizing the citizens of Gotham in the opening scene and the other being formed following some late night malfeasance at a corporate office. Also like Returns, Forever presents us with the origin of villain while the other exists before the movie starts, though it shows the origins of the wrong character for reasons unknown. But Batman Forever even goes even further in its awfulness by rendering its female lead Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), a capable professional, with a streak of fetishism for the Caped Crusader. All of this adds up to a film with its own fractured personality.

So Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) has been terrorizing Gotham with the intention of destroying Batman, who left the former district attorney scarred physically and emotionally. At the scene of his latest rampage, Batman comes swooping in amid neon lights and fanfare to the bombastic score by Elliot Goldsmith. Waiting beside Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) is Dr. Chase Meridian. After complimenting Batman on a “hot entrance,” the esteemed psychologist is all but fawning over the hero with all the subtlety available in a Joel Schumacher film.

Meanwhile at Wayne Enterprises, Edward Nygma (Jim Carey) is obsessed with Bruce Wayne in his own right, his cubicle lined with images of the billionaire. He’s devised a new television device that will project images directly into the minds of viewers, but Wayne finds the invention morally problematic and orders it shut down. Nygma, though, refuses to take no for an answer and kills his boss before taking up the mantle of The Riddler. Before long, The Riddler and Two-Face join forces in order to line their pockets with stolen money and carry out the task of killing the Batman.

batman-forever-001

Because this was the third Batman movie, Schumacher and writers Akiva Goldsman and Lee & Janet Scott Batchler shoehorned Robin (Chris O’Donnell) into the story, because the absence of the Boy Wonder is what has been holding back these movies. So we’re forced to witness the death of poor Dick Grayson’s family at the hands of Two-Face. This leads the young acrobat on his own quest for vengeance, one that mirrors the family issues that Batman goes through on a daily basis since the murder of his own parents – you know, the same old tired aspect of the Batman. (Darkness. No parents.) Perhaps none of this is remotely interesting because there’s no real difference between Batman or Robin – they’re both orphans driven into a lives masquerading as vigilantes. They should look each other in the eyes and proclaim in unison, “We’re the same, but different.” The only true difference between the two is the fact that Robin is younger than his counterpart, carrying himself with much more energy than Kilmer’s borderline sedated Batman. Perhaps the only thing that could explain Kilmer’s performance is supposing that the years of violence have taken its toll on Bruce Wayne, and the billionaire playboy liberally ingests a cocktail of painkillers multiple times a day. Kilmer is by far the worst actor to ever don the cowl.

The same way there’s seemingly no difference between Batman and Robin, there’s little to differentiate The Riddler and Two-Face. Both Jim Carey and Tommy Lee Jones were extremely hot at the time. Jones had just won an Oscar for his performance in The Fugitive and Carey was coming off a record-setting year at the box office in 1994. Casting these two actors was not the problem. The problem lies in the fact that each actor is playing their roles to 11, hooting and hollering in equally campy and loud performances. For the life of me I can’t figure out why Joel Schumacher would include the origin story of The Riddler over Two-Face, whose origin is much more crucial to the character. The two actors playing villains didn’t get along on set either, with Tommy Lee Jones reportedly saying to Carey, “I cannot sanction your buffoonery.” Sadly for Jones and everyone watching, Batman Forever requires buffoonery from everyone involved.

batman-forever-003

Director Joel Schumacher tried to have it both ways with Batman Forever, delving into the dark psychological aspects of the character while employing the high camp of the great ’66 series. Those two interpretations are wildly divergent, not exactly jibing well together. It is possible to blend camp and pathos, but Schumacher doesn’t have that deft touch. He’s loud and bombastic in all that he does, and it shows loud and clear throughout Batman Forever. But Batman & Robin is the easy target for the detractors of Schumacher’s Bat-films, pointing the Batman credit card and the cheeseball one-liners spewed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Batman Forever is even more cringe-worthy than its successor, featuring Robin performing a unique brand of action laundry and steals the Batmobile to fight a group of neon-colored Misfits fans.

After this movie, Schumacher chose to take Batman further into the direction of camp with Batman & Robin, but at least that movie made up its mind about what it wanted to be. Batman Forever features the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder ruminating on the deaths of their families while the villains prance about in colorful garb spewing one-liners in what has to be one of the most schizophrenic superhero movies ever constructed. This is a fiasco that somehow wound up being the second highest grossing movie of 1995. Obviously, the film rode the momentum of its stars and the success of the prior entries to a wave of unenthusiastic financial success.

Neon and rubber nipples represented a fundamental shift in the public’s demand for Batman. Actually, it should be argued that Schumacher’s Batman films did more harm to the genre, forcing a demand for the darker characters even when the stories didn’t call for it. With Batman Forever Joel Schumacher laid the ground work to kill off any campy iteration of Batman on celluloid forever. The high camp of Schumacher’s sequels created a demand for the darkened edges of Batman that Christopher Nolan would bring to the screen. It’s quite apparent that Batman will be a part of cinema for the rest of our lives, rotating actors and directors like the never-ending Bond carousel. Yesterday it was Joel Schumacher. Today it’s Zack Snyder. We may not know who’s next in line, but they’ll have a hard time reaching the flashy depths of darkness that is Batman Forever.

Anytime Costumes

One Response

  1. Michael Colbert Michael Colbert March 21, 2016 Reply

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Alex Ardenti Documents Dietary Supplement in ‘Supps: The Movie’

Italian fitness photographer, filmmaker and bodybuilding expert, Alex Ardenti has taken...

UFC Hall of Famer Turned Actor, Chuck Liddell Stars in ‘Acceleration’

Former Light Heavyweight Champion and UFC Hall of Famer, Chuck Liddell...

Producers Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman Discuss ‘Angel Has Fallen’ and ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ (Update)

Veteran Producers Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman, founders of Campbell and...

Event News Event Reviews
Adam Rocha Celebrates the Silver Anniversary of the San Antonio Film Festival

The San Antonio Film Festival (SAFilm) is celebrating 25 years of ...

Legion M President, Jeff Annison Talks about All the SDCC 2019 Festivities

Legion M is the only fan owned film studio that brings...

Viz Media SDCC 2019: Seis Manos and more!

Announced earlier this year (click here), Seis Manos is an upcoming...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Legendary Duelists Magical Hero Will Open 2020

Dark Magicians are getting new tricks in Legendary Duelists Magical Hero coming...

John Wick Hex
Create the Legend of John Wick in John Wick Hex

Create the Legend of John Wix and be John Wix before...

Battle for the Grid Season 2
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Season 2 Now Available on Consoles

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Season 2 now available on...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
David Dastmalchian Teams Up with Dark Horse for ‘Count Crowley’ – Interview

Actor David Dastmalchian is the embodiment of turning one’s life around....

Neon Future Interview with Founder & Writer

A few months ago at WonderCon 2019, I had the honor...

Blue Bastion
Help Bring the World of Blue Bastion to Life

Live now on Indiegogo, help bring the rich and wondrous world...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Sparkling Ice +Caffeine
The Ultimate Hydration for Gamers – Sparkling Ice +Caffeine Review

Sparkling Ice +Caffeine is the perfect blend of taste, hydration, and...

Blue Yeti Nano Microphone Review

We have been playing with the Blue Yeti Nano for a...

Wrestle Crate Pre-Christmas Unboxing

    Welcome to our first unboxing of Wrestle Crate, this...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Ken Shamrock Shows His ‘Valor’ With VBK 1 This Fall

The Most Dangerous Man in the World, Ken Shamrock is a...

‘Pitbull’ vs. Archuleta and Machida vs. Mousasi Headline Bellator’s Return to L.A. on Sept. 28

  LOS ANGELES – The opening round of the Bellator Featherweight World...

UFC Featherweight Contender, Brian Ortega Talks about Health and Recovery

Brian Ortega is one of the baddest fighters in the UFC....

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: After the Aftermath!

The search for a defense against the dark arts teacher begins...

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Emissary of Death: Aftermath – The final chapter…I think.

Wizards use UBER

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Emissary of Death: Aftermath! Almost the final cut!

Voldemort doesn't get it.

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 34: Chris Prynoski

Whitney Grace is digging through her queue of old new stock...

Episode 33: Jerry Beck

Join Whitney Grace in this blast down memory lane with an...

Episode 32: Mathew Klickstein

I’m back and done explaining about the current state of my...

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Comedy Duo Ben Giroux and Jensen Reed Take Us, ‘Back To The 80s’

Two of the funniest men in show business, Ben Giroux (Hart...

James Maslow ‘Rush’es the Stage to Perform at Super Girl Surf Pro on Sunday

James Maslow is an American singer, actor and songwriter best known as the star of...

Jason Lazarus Talks about Composing the Music for ‘Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans’

Jason Lazarus is a Los Angeles based composer for film, television, and...