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. Avatar photo Michael Colbert March 21, 2016 Reply

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Paul Crowder and ‘Boss’ Wooldridge Talk ‘The Blue Angels’ Doc – Interview

Director, Paul Crowder and Flying Ace, Greg “Boss” Woolridge talk about...

Eric Bana Talks ‘Force of Nature: The Dry 2’ – Interview

Eric Bana Returns for the sequel to ‘The Dry‘ in ‘Force...

Letitia Wright’s Talks about her Latest Film ‘Aisha’ – Interview

Letitia Wright’s latest film, ‘Aisha‘, a story about immigration, resilience, friendship...

Event News Event Reviews
Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Takes You to A Whole New World at Segerstrom – Review

Disney’s Aladdin takes the audience on a thrilling chase and a wonderous place...

Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach on The Queen Mary this Halloween

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach for the...

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice’ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the Arts – Review

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice‘ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

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: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part something: Hermione and the Mini-gun pt 2

Have a lead salad instead!

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part ?: Hermione and the mini-gun pt 1

It can't fire more than 6,000 per minute!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse: Kurt v Sid – HASTA!

Hasta La Vista Baby!

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

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
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

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
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...