Into the Knight: A Batman Film Retrospective- Week 3

Batman Returns was an unbelievable experience for me, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I was beyond excited for the imminent sequel. Once casting news broke that Keaton would be replaced, I was heartbroken. He was Batman to me. Once my little heart recovered from the devastating news, I heard  Joel Schumacher was replacing Burton as director. I didn’t know who Schumacher was, but I knew inherently Gotham would become something else entirely. Even with Burton and Keaton exiting the sequel, I eagerly anticipated another adventure with Batman. I waited months, with bated breath, just to absorb any morsel of information to leak about the film. As you can imagine, being that I was eight years old and the internet wasn’t really in existence, it was an unbearable wait for me. That is until the first trailer dropped. Some people remember where they were when President Kennedy was shot, I, however, remember when I got my first peek at Batman Forever. In retrospect, I’m glad I saw this film as a kid, otherwise my love for Batman would’ve been crushed in a demoralizing manner. This is not to say that Forever wasn’t stirring in some capacity, but the world Burton created was so magnificent and wondrous, anything less than it would be a travesty (McDonald’s glasses be damned!). Here marks the beginning of the indefinite end:

Batman Forever (1995)

With Batman Returns being too dark for its own good, and Tim Burton ready to move on from the Batman franchise, if not being completely pushed out, Warner Brothers began the death of Batman with this half-assed titled sequel. Even though  Burton’s watchful eye served producing duties, his keen directorial sense couldn’t stop Joel Schumacher, one of the worst filmmakers out there, from ruining all the momentum and wonder that Batman Returns generated. The mystic, tragic beauty behind Burton’s Gotham disappeared in favor of garish neon sets that made the film veer into the class of camp.  Visually speaking, it was as if Gotham decided that it wanted to reinvent itself as one giant rave party, minus the psychoactive drugs. In spite of Schumacher’s worst intentions, Batman Forever is an enjoyable popcorn flick. Obviously, just based on the film’s reinvention of Burton’s wheel, Forever seems out-of-place. Nonetheless, it provides a high level of mind-numbing entertainment. At the forefront of the film’s fun is Jim Carrey as the Riddler. Fresh off his performance in The Mask, Carrey’s high octane energy lends itself perfectly to a summer tent pole.

The only problem with the Riddler is that Carrey’s trying to supplant Nicholson as the definitive Batman villain. Joining Carrey’s manic presence is Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face. Acting wise, both deliver performances that are likely fueled by a sugar rush or buckets of cocaine. Jones is somehow more ridiculous than Carrey, but together they make a commendable tandem that is, in the very least, interesting to watch. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Val Kilmer as his attempt to replace Michael Keaton as Batman is an unmitigated disaster. Kilmer is a solid actor, but his presence in Forever is catatonic. Due to Schumacher’s direction and Kilmer’s performance, Batman lacks the intrigue and brooding nature that made him an inescapable hero. Vainly attempting to fornicate with Batman is Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), a psychologist that attempts to understand the psyche of Batman by throwing herself at him. Kidman is basically tits and ass with a name.

Matters aren’t helped when Forever’s script blandly reiterates the trauma of Bruce Wayne’s childhood. Oh, did I mention bat nipples yet? For some reason, Schumacher thought it’d be necessary to make Batman’s suit anatomically correct. Well, except for providing Batman with a rubber phallic piece. I’m sure Schumacher cut it out, so he could spend more money on glow in the dark paint. My disdain for Batman Forever’s helmer doesn’t overpower the level of entertainment found in this second sequel. It has a decent level of action that moves briskly and with a great deal of clarity, while the introduction of Robin to the grand scheme makes for a more diverse experience. With that being said, the film is a misguided attempt to redirect the franchise from Burton’s gloom and doom to family oriented affair. Unfortunately, it leads to a hollow experience that doesn’t emphatically capture the imagination of the viewer, nor the heart.


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