Batman Forever reveals that Batman may not live forever
Batman Forever is the first sign that Batman may not be the long lasting series that we all expected. While Batman 5 has already been approved, the degradation of these films could lead to the inevitable conclusion of the Batman franchise. Its two predecessors have shown great strength and they both had the perfect look and feel for this comic book hero. Unfortunately, the director who gave those films that look, Tim Burton, left after Batman Returns. He gave up the directing chair to producer, Joel Schumacher, who then altered the mood completely.
This colorful and bright mood may prove to be the downfall of Batman. The comic books and the animated series both have the dark, gloomy Gotham City (I mean, it is supposed to by Gothic, right?). Schumacher seems to have a different vision in mind, and I'm sure the only reason that this Batman will make it big at the box office is because of its two villains. Audience members will soon learn that Burton's Gothic version is much more appropriate, especially when trying to deal with Batman's dual lifestyle. But when I think of how much more effective the Riddler's awesome green colors would have been set against Gotham City's darkness, I know that Schumacher made a big mistake.
Thankfully, though, Schumacher was smart enough of casting two brilliant actors (one comedic, and one dramatic) as the villains. Jim Carrey appears to be the star of the film, and he makes this movie his. The Riddler is one of the best villains of the series, and Carrey pulls him off perfectly. Tommy Lee Jones is left to do little, but his performance is very good. I feel that his character was overpowered by Carrey's manic Riddler. D.A. Harvey "Two-Face" Dent is a very complex character, but he isn't fully allowed to show both sides of his personality. Tommy Lee Jones seemed to handle it well, even though he was told to perform this character as a total villain, which Two-Face is not. Because of his two faces, Two-Face has split personalities, but we never see both of them. We only see the evil personality. In fact, his character could have been a solo villain in a movie by himself without competition from other villains.
For some odd reason, the villains in the Batman series are now wanting revenge on Batman, which I think is quite uninteresting. In Batman, the Joker wanted to kill many people in Gotham with his cosmetics. In Batman Returns, the Penguin wanted to become Mayor in order to turn Gotham City into his own ice land. Along with this, Catwoman just wanted to get revenge on Batman because he was a man. However, this time both the Riddler and Two-Face want revenge on the Dark Knight. This actually makes it less interesting because we know that Batman will win. The Riddler was formed after he was fired from Wayne Enterprises and decides to show Bruce Wayne what real superiority is. Two-Face blames Batman because he was unable to stop a criminal from throwing acid into his face which burned away half of it. Perhaps the reason the Riddler is so interesting is that he also has a higher purpose in mind: he wants to take everyone's brain power and put it into his own.
In the middle of all this mayhem are actually two very interesting subplots involving a circus performer and a psychologist. Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) falls in love with Batman, while Bruce Wayne becomes interested in the doctor. Meridian finds Wayne boring, but she decides to accept an offer to go see the circus (who in their right mind would take someone like her to the circus on their first date?). At the circus, Two-Face shows up, threatening to blow up the entire tent if Batman doesn't show up. Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell), one of the circus performers, is able to get the bomb out of the tent, but his family isn't so lucky, as they are shot down by Two-Face. Wayne, being the ever-so-caring guy that he is, decides to take Grayson into his home. This all leads up to the formation of Robin as he stumbles upon the bat cave.
The cast of Batman Forever is what makes it better than what it should be. Val Kilmer takes over Michael Keaton's role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Overall he does a mediocre performance, and he makes Batman seem a little to smug for what he is. As I have said in all the reviews of the Batman series, Keaton is the only one to play this hero. Actually, Kilmer isn't that bad when he is in the bat suit, but once he is Bruce Wayne, he seems a little too selfish. Chris O'Donnell is very good as Grayson/Robin. Nicole Kidman is okay, but her part is just a recycled rehash of several other psychologists. Michael Gough is Alfred again, and he is still just as good as always. And a surprisingly good performance comes from Drew Barrymore who has a small role as Sugar (funny, I figured her more as Spice myself). But the real treats are Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones. Jones is very fun to watch, and Carrey is extremely energetic with wonderful costumes. I hope they make a Batman film where Batman is actually the most interesting character.
Batman Forever is rated PG-13 for strong, stylized action as well as some language. While clearly not as good as the first two films, Batman Forever does have some interesting things, as well as some pretty cool visuals. The colors are impressive once you get used to them, and the final showdown in the Riddler's castle is a must-see. Unfortunately, it lacks the strength that it could have had, and it is getting too late in the series for them to focus on Batman himself.
**1/2 out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie