“Batman Forever,” the third installment in the live-action “Batman” franchise, is generally considered (and quite rightly so) as the beginning of the end of “Batman” as a viable superhero franchise. Not content to doom Batman and Bruce Wayne’s fate with this travesty of a movie, the suits at Warner Brothers made “Batman and Robin” two years later, once again directed by Joel Schumacher. While “Forever” starred charmless Val Kilmer as Batman, “Robin” starred smirking George Clooney, who at that time was still trying to get over the whole smirking-as-acting thing.
“Batman Forever” teams Batman with Robin, aka Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell), a circus performer whose family is killed when villain Two-Face stops by the circus to terrorize the patrons, Bruce Wayne among them. Now orphaned, Dick is accepted into the care of Bruce Wayne, himself an orphan. It isn’t long before the would-be boy wonder learns of Wayne’s secret and insinuates himself into the superhero biz in order to get revenge on Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones, in probably the most embarrassing performance of his life). In-between the silliness, bright primary colors and goofy hijinks courtesy of a blabbering Riddler (Jim Carrey), hottie Nicole Kidman turns up as a shrink and Batman’s love interest. Oh, and they’ve given Batman fake plastic nipples. (Dear God, shoot me now.)
It probably goes without saying that I look at “Batman Forever” as an abomination. It is as far “in left field” from Tim Burton’s first two “Batman” movies as one can get. In an effort to show the world that he is no Tim Burton, director Joel Schumacher seems intent to turn the proceedings into a joke rather than an actual movie. Besides two clumsy and goofball villains that irritates to the core, Bruce Wayne has stopped being complex, and is now just plain…bland. Even the addition of the lovely Nicole Kidman adds nothing; besides that, Kidman gives one of her worst performances as a shrink horned up for some Batman lovin’.
Batman’s Rogues Gallery has always been more colorful than most superheroes, always more kooky than dangerous. Superman has Lex Luthor and Brainiac, but Batman has to deal with the Joker and a rhyming Riddler. No wonder Batman wears a mask. With villains like these, I wouldn’t show my real face in public, either. (Can you imagine the jokes Batman hears when the superheroes get together?)
“Batman Forever” villain Tommy Lee Jones nowadays probably cringes at the mere mention of his involvement in this movie, seeing as how he will never (if he’s smart, anyway) allow himself to go this “low” ever again as an actor. The phrase Laughing Idiot is the only thing necessary to describe Two-Face. He’s not frightening or menacing, he’s just, well, a laughing idiot. Jim Carrey, still in his plastic face era, steps into the Riddler costume and show us a bulging crotch and not much else. Apparently the Riddler has invented a machine that can read people’s thoughts, which allows him to read Bruce Wayne’s mind and discover that the playboy millionaire is really…
Ah, who cares.
The only thing of note about “Batman Forever” is the title. Since the film introduces Robin into the fray, I am at a lost as to why the film wasn’t called “Batman and Robin,” and save the title “Batman Forever” for the fourth movie. Wouldn’t that make more sense? If Batman 4 was called “Batman Forever,” there is a play on words there — Four with “Forever.” Even more odd, “Batman and Robin” also stars Batgirl, and hence the film isn’t just about Batman and Robin.
Get it? Apparently the suits at Warner Brothers didn’t, and we have this oddly named second (and eventually third sequel) as a result. Actually if you think about it, ever since Tim Burton abandoned the cowled crusader for greener pastures, no one involved with the “Batman” franchise has “gotten it.”
Now, five years after the last “Batman” movie, the franchise is still dead, plastic nipples and all.
Joel Schumacher (director) / Akiva Goldsmith (screenplay)
CAST: Val Kilmer …. Batman/Bruce Wayne
Tommy Lee Jones …. Harvey Two-Face/Harvey Dent
Jim Carrey …. Riddler/Edward Nygma
Nicole Kidman …. Dr. Chase Meridian
Chris O’Donnell …. Robin/Dick Grayson