Batman Forever originally released in 1995. I was but three years old at the time, but I remember growing up with both the Burton films and the Schumacher films and loving them all, even the abysmal Batman and Robin. My favorite picture out of the '90's Batman films was always Batman Forever. Maybe it was because Kiss From a Rose never left the airwaves, maybe it was because of Jim Carrey's Riddler, or maybe this one had the most distracting colors that a youngster like me would get sucked right into.
So, in an effort to get nostalgic for a night, I popped in the DVD of Batman Forever to see how it holds up nearly 15 years after its initial release. The short answer is that it doesn't really, at least not for anyone whose seen Nolan's films. The plot suffers from superhero sequelitis, in that director Joel Schumacher tries too hard to juggle two iconic villains, Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler (Jim Carrey), along with a love story between Batman (Val Kilmer) and Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). Oh yeah, and did we mention that we somehow have to fit Robin (Chris O'Donnell) into this movie too?
At the very least, the plot is simple enough: Two-Face and The Riddler begin working together to take down Batman, and with The Riddler's devious "Box" invention, can zap the IQ of everyone in Gotham City. It sounds stupid because it is, but in the defense of the writers, it makes the whole movie feel like more of a comic book movie, rather than a gritty crime noir like the later films in the franchise. I was not impressed, however, with the way Two-Face and The Riddler were portrayed onscreen. Both Jones and Carrey are overacting in their parts here, and it makes the two iconic villains look like clowns. Two-Face is so bumbling and idiotic, that it's really hard for anyone to take him seriously as a villain. Carrey's Riddler is slightly more menacing, but you can expect his comedic style to go over the top in more than a few scenes.
Surely, these villains would have benefited from some good ol' fashioned character development, right? Wrong! The Riddler does get a modest origin story, but Two-Face's background is limited to nothing but a fly-on-the-wall scene where his origin is briefly covered by a news anchor. To top it all off, the news piece just looks stupid. While we're on the subject of looks, let's talk about the overall look and feel of the movie. Gotham City seems to be stuck in some kind of solar eclipse, because the whole place is so dark it's no wonder crime runs rampant everywhere. It's almost difficult to make out some of the characters at times because the place is so damn shadowy. In addition to the darkness everywhere, there's the strange vibrant lights that give everything a seedy, late night bar kind of feeling. I suppose it can all be chalked up to how "Gotham is consumed by crime" but after three movies and the top villains being taken down, can't these poor people get some streetlights?
Not counting the 1960's and earlier attempts at bringing the comic books to film, this is the first Batman film without Michael Keaton as the titular hero. Val Kilmer takes over in this installment, and he does a respectable job at portraying the caped crusader. His scenes as alter ego Bruce Wayne are very well acted, even more so than when he dons the cape and suit. He doesn't quite beat Keaton's performance in the first two Burton films, but he does a good enough job with some lackluster material and a few cringe-inducing lines.
Even if you manage to forget the last two Nolan films that have come out in the past five years, will you find something enjoyable in Batman Forever? Well, if you're willing to watch a more cartoonish take on Batman, and forego character development, this film can provide you with some very goofy fun. Just don't expect to remember or care about it after you watch it.