The Goof, The Bat and The Ugly
What a difference a director makes, Tim Burton gave us his vision of the Dark Knight with "Batman" and the slightly darker "Batman Returns" and then handed the reigns over to Joel Schumacher to direct the second sequel "Batman Forever" and what we got was a very different "Batman" movie. Gone were most of Burton's dark, gothic touches and in place was a movie drenched in neon lighting, comic dialogue and cartoon action more akin to the Batman of the 60s/70s TV series. It is like a completely different movie with Val Kilmer replacing Michael Keaton in the Bat suit and many other touches and whether you like it depends on whether you prefer the comical Batman of the Adam West era or the darker Batman of the comic books. For me, well it is most certainly entertaining with all the corny dialogue and comic book action but Schumacher takes it a step too far and makes the whole movie quite cheesy, although not as cheesy as what would come in "Batman & Robin".
Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer - Tombstone) has certainly got a lot on his plate not only is one time district attorney now bad guy Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones - Blown Away) after him, or more precisely Batman, Edward Nigma (Jim Carrey - The Mask) a disgruntled employee also has issues with him. To make matters worse Bruce takes in orphan Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell) whose curiosity leads him to discover that Bruce is in fact Batman and then there is the seductive Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) who has a thing for Batman. So between romance, a curious new house guest and two bad guys to stop, life is never dull for the caped crusader.
One of the strangest things about "Batman Forever" is that although we get a lot of storyline none of it is the least bit important. In fact there maybe a bit too much storyline as we have both Harvey Dent, aka Two Face, and the Riddler after Batman, an introduction to how comes Robin becomes a sidekick and then too add a little more we have a romantic storyline with Dr. Chase Meridian which frankly is ultimately pointless. What this deluge of new characters and storylines mean is that "Batman Forever" is a movie more about the villains than about Batman and focuses on comedy and action rather than character development. It means that the storyline to "Batman Forever" is full of holes and in reality doesn't really flow together in a coherent manner but then the emphasis is clearly on making "Batman Forever" a visual treat rather than a movie to make you think.
It has to be said the first time we are taken into Joel Schumacher's vision of Gotham it is shocking, there is more neon lighting than in a neon lighting shop and it makes it a colourful place rather than a dark gothic one. Even the bad guy's weapons have a touch of neon and it is a bit overkill making it feel more like a cartoon world. But that was probably the intention as Schumacher delivers scene after scene of action all of which is more reminiscent of the Batman TV series of the 60s and 70s. In fact all that was missing was a few of those "pow" and "smack" captions and it would have been like a journey back in time.
Although "Batman Forever" has a more comical tone to the action, and definitely throughout the dialogue, the action does work. There is something impressive about watching Batman sweep in and take on the bad guys be it in a fist fight or with one of his gadgets. And Schumacher captures this side quite brilliantly making it a most definite fun action movie.
But whilst "Batman Forever" is fun and more comical it is also incredibly corny. Right from the opening scenes we get dialogue which is littered with gags and they often end up being more cheesy than funny. It most definitely feels like Schumacher was trying to recapture everything about the 60s and 70s Batman but it just goes one step too far and feels so different to what Tim Burton gave us it feels out of place as a continuation of the series.
What is apparent is that because the emphasis of "Batman Forever" is on the new characters the change from Michael Keaton to Val Kilmer as Batman is not a major problem. In fact Kilmer does a surprisingly good job of playing Batman and seems to find the comic slant which Schumacher was obviously aiming for. And at the same time Kilmer works quite well will Chris O'Donnell who plays Dick Grayson, aka Robin although it has to be said that O'Donnell seems to struggle in finding the right amount of comedy from his character making it a very uneasy Robin to watch.
But in reality "Batman Forever" is really a movie about the bad guys, Two Face and The Riddler. Now Tommy Lee Jones seems to be having fun playing Two Face giving us a bit of a Jack Nicholson as he makes Two Face a confident and whacky bad guy prone to exaggerated arm movements. He's not really a scary bad guy but then "Batman Forever" is more of a family friendly movie rather than one with really dark villains. And the same can be said of Jim Carrey who lends his rubber face pulling and in your face comedy to the role of The Riddler. It is a larger than life performance from Carrey but it is so much fun to watch as he twirls his cane, changes his hair do and prances about in a comical manner. In many ways "Batman Forever" belongs to Jim Carrey because it is him as The Riddler and his scenes of anarchic comedy which you remember.
What this all boils down to is that "Batman Forever" is an entertaining Batman movie and one which is vastly different to Tim Burton's vision in the previous two movies. It does go a bit too far and whilst it is obvious that director Joel Schumacher seems to be trying to capture the essence of the 60s and 70s Batman he just allows things to become a little too cheesy. But as a visual treat of corny dialogue and comic book action it works especially with Jim Carry stealing the show as The Riddler.