For the third Batman film in the ‘Batman vs Superman‘ challenge we turn to Joel Schumacher’s 1995 film Batman Forever.
Having been disappointed with the box office performance (albeit still large in profit), Warner Brothers turned Tim Burton into an Executive producing role for the third Batman instalment. It’s said that this led to Michael Keaton rejecting a third film, and the studio ultimately casting Val Kilmer in the role of Bruce Wayne / Batman.
For the story, the script is by Lee Batchler, wife Janet Scott Batchler, and Akiva Goldsman. Its only Goldsman that has had a credible career in film writing since, with I am Legend and A Beautiful Mind on his resume.
Having resisted the ‘Robin option’ for two previous films, the desire to shift this film to a more family friendly audience, saw them finally cave and cast Chris O’Donnell as the orphaned acrobat Dick Grayson. He arrives at Wayne Manor attempting to avoid social services after the death of his family (its worth bearing in mind O’Donnell was 25 years old at this point).
For the villains in this film, we again see a ‘bad guy double bill’ of The Riddler (Jim Carrey) and former District Attorney Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent (Tommy Lee Jones).
Essentially the story (of what there is) revolves around previous Wayne Enterprises employee Edward Nigma inventing a brain scanning device that allows extraction of people’s intelligence, and becoming the Riddler. He joins Two Face on a campaign of chaos where he puts a device in every home, with the agreement that he will help Dent discover the true identity of the Batman.
Alongside this, we find Wayne falling for psychologist, Dr Chase Meridien, played by Nicole Kidman.
Tommy Lee Jones makes the interesting role choice of of essentially just laughing and screaming maniacally throughout the film and offers nothing in terms of the psychological duality of his character, simply ‘acting nuts’ through the film. I can only assume that Carrey’s performance was so dominant on set, that Lee Jones could only try and follow along.
For Carrey, you can’t help but think he was just doing what he was told, and he leaves the film with at least some credibility. What he lacks though is any of the darkness that Nicholson (or to be fair, DeVito and Pfeiffer) brought to the previous films. However, he is predictably just being himself in this film and you end up with a performance that is heavily born from Ace Ventura : Pet Detective.
Schumacher’s opening line in the DVD commentary is that he had been tasked with reinventing and refreshing the Batman franchise. No one would disagree that he achieves shifting it, but I think the relative merit of that shift would be debated. Now we see a Gotham that is trying to be funny, full of colour and neon, and generally a lot more confused.
Kilmer is far more mainstream as Batman and seems to bring only jaw clenching to the role. There’s not much in his performance and in honesty its forgettable due to the heat that Clooney picks up for his only years later.
The film starts with Alfred asking Batman is he wants to take a sandwich with. Batman responds that he will get ‘drive thru’. There is a lot in that opening line in setting the tone of the film. Amongst others include a Flaming Lips song in the film, a ‘holy rusted metal’ self aware joke, close ups of Batman’s ass when putting the suit on, and of course the batsuit nipples.
This film was a cynical attempt to shift the audience of the Batman franchise. Not for any artistic merit, but for box office size and old fashioned cash. No one should be proud of their involvement in it.