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Movie Review: "Batman Forever" (1995)
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers.
Prior to "Batman Forever", the last time we saw Batman... he lost his batmobile, saved the children of Gotham City from the Penguin, and lost contact with Catwoman. A lot had occurred, behind the scenes, between "Batman Returns" and "Batman Forever". A lot of bad things. The tale of the first 'Batman' franchise (i.e. the Tim Burton/Joel Schmaucher films) is one of selling toys, marketing, and tragedy.
Warner Bros. wasn't satisfied with the backlash they received from children's parents in regards to "Batman" and "Batman Returns". Think about it, they were selling kids merchandise for dark and gothic films that depict themes of child neglect, children being kidnapped, and all these sexual undertones (i.e. a hot woman in skintight vinyl with a whip). "Batman Returns" more or less took most of the heat, but both movies were pretty dark for children nonetheless.
This led to Warner Bros. seeking to take the series into a completely different direction, one that was more marketable to the kiddies and the concerned parents. Cue the campy scenes, neon lights, over-the-top villains, awkward music score, and the gay undertones. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton certainly weren't going to stand for that nonsense, so they left. Enter Joel Schmaucher. It's rather odd that he directed the two 'Batman' films that destroyed the franchise, because if you were to watch his 'Batman' movies and "The Lost Boys" back to back, you would think they were done by two different directors.
'Forever' Wasn't Long Enough
"Batman Forever" is a far cry from the vision that Tim Burton had laid down in the first two movies. There's so much campiness in "Batman Forever" that it's not even funny, all you have to do is look at the poster for the movie, it looks more like a direct-to-video spoof rather than a true 'Batman' sequel.
Many people always mention "Batman & Robin" being the big bad one, but it all started with "Batman Forever" though. This film laid the seed for what was to come in "Batman & Robin" which was the final nail in the coffin. As far as titles go, 'Forever' is the wrong word, being that the series didn't last long after "Batman Forever". "Batman Dies" is a more fitting title, I think.
Gone are the gothic atmosphere, the Danny Elfman score, and nitty-gritty landscape of Gotham City. Now we have neon lights everywhere, bright cheery colors, and a musical score that sounds like it's from a bootleg 'Phantom of the Opera'. Let's not forget about the close-ups of Batman's nipples and butt (what on Earth were they thinking?).
This is not the Tim Burton Batman in any way whatsoever. In a sense, you can actually pick up that they were sort of aiming to reboot the entire series with this movie. It's kind of like a loose sequel (i.e. "Superman Returns"). We have the parents and kiddies to thank for this; aside from a few flashbacks to the death of Bruce Wayne's parents, this movie tries to distance itself from the previous two whenever and wherever it can. Regardless, I think "Batman Begins" showed us how to execute a proper reboot.
Jim Carrey-ed Away
One major problem with "Batman Forever" are the villains themselves. They are portrayed as being way too over-the-top, much like the entirety of this film. Jim Carrey plays the Riddler, actually he's playing as his usual over-the-top self that he plays in almost every movie he is in. As a result, Tommy Lee Jones felt like he was going to be out-shined by Carrey's performance, so he decided to portray Two-Face as over-the-top as well. As a result, Two-Face becomes a Joker wannabe of sorts.
It's okay for the Joker to be over-the-top but Two-Face and the Riddler? This is not the 60s TV show here. Now, Two-Face was redeemed in "The Dark Knight", so I'll leave that alone. But as far as the Riddler goes, the closest we ever got to a more suitable portrayal of him would have to be Jigsaw from the "Saw" movies.
However, Joel Schmaucher and Warner Bros. decided otherwise. They gave their villains tight outfits and colorful hair. Every time Two-Face and Riddler open their mouths in this movie, it made me bow my head in shame. Speaking of Two-Face, I must say that the history of Harvey Dent throughout the first three 'Batman' movies is quite embarrassing.
What do I mean by that? Well, in "Batman", Harvey Dent was played by Billy Dee Williams whom had signed up for the role thinking that he was going to play Two-Face in one of the sequels. That would have been pretty cool to have Billy Dee Williams play Two-Face, but he never appeared in any of the sequels. Something tells me race had something to do with it, I guess a black actor playing a 'Batman' villain was sort of a big deal in the late '80s and early '90s?
Given that the Kingpin was played by Michael Clarke Duncan in "Daredevil", I'd say that's thankfully no longer an issue. But nevertheless, Harvey Dent was scrapped in "Batman Returns" and instead replaced by a brand new character named Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). At the end of "Batman Returns", Catwoman fried him, leading one to think that if this were indeed Harvey Dent, then he would probably emerge as Two-Face from this incident by the start of the third film.
But no, "Batman Forever" gives us a totally different Harvey Dent, a very colorful and animated one. Imagine the arc that could have been built up with this character over these three films if they had stuck with the original plan. It would have been amazing. And then there's the Riddler. Jim Carrey blew this character out of proportion, big time. Supposedly, Tim Burton wanted Robin Williams for the part (this was before Schmaucher stepped in). After seeing Williams as a perverted psycho in "One Hour Photo", it would have been a lot more interesting to see what he could do as a 'Batman' villain. Instead, we got Bruce Almighty.
A Partner in Crime
As if this movie couldn't get any worse, they decided to bring Robin into the series at this point. Well, what do you know? It's the goddamn TV show all over again. At least they gave him a more suitable outfit, I'll give them credit for that. However, my thing is if you're going to bring Robin into a 'Batman' sequel, make sure you kill him off before the movie is over.
Now, I'm not trying to be sarcastic, but the idea here is that Robin is a mirror image of Batman, they both lost their parents to psychopaths, they both want revenge. Batman tries to persuade Robin away from it, but he persists and Batman eventually gives in. This would result in him tragically losing Robin by the end of the film, teaching Batman a very important lesson. That is what should have happened.
Remedies for "Batman Forever"
- Kill Robin before the ending credits.
- Keep the Danny Elfman score.
- Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face.
- Tim Burton directs.
- Robin Williams as the Riddler. Please, anybody but Jim Carrey.
- No neon lights, bright colors, or any campiness, please.
- Some closure for Catwoman would have been really nice.
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