Batman Forever (1995)

*. Batman Forever occupies a special place for me, at least when it comes to my relationship with movies. Not a good place, but a special place.
*. It was while sitting in the theatre watching Batman Forever that I first felt that I never wanted to go out to see another movie again.
*. It wasn’t just a bad movie. It wasn’t just confusing, and noisy, and annoying, and a lot of other things that made me feel old. It was also the overwhelming sense I had of waste.
*. It cost $100 million to make, which was still a lot of money in 1995. It had a good cast. And what did all this money and effort and talent come up with? Garbage. I remember sitting in my seat wondering what the world, or at least what the movies, had come to.
*. So much for my initial reaction. Have I softened much twenty-five years later?
*. Not at all. I still think this is a brainless and completely unenjoyable explosion of flashing lights and general incoherence. I know they had to move on from the gloomy sets of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, but all the Gotham scenes in this movie seem to be set in a disco, which makes no sense at all. Even the title is stupid. Tim Burton thought it sounded “like a tattoo that somebody would get when they’re on drugs or something. Or something some kid would write in the yearbook.”
*. It’s often said that this is a campier version of Batman after the “darker” Burton films. I’m not so sure. Burton’s Batman movies had their own camp quotient. What Joel Schumacher did was mainly just make everything a lot sillier. Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito hammed their roles up, but they were sedate compared to what Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey do here. Meanwhile, as the love interest Nicole Kidman is breathy and on the verge of orgasm right from her first sight of the caped crusader, and stays that way till the end. But she has nothing else to do but get hot.
*. And there’s Robin (Chris O’Donnell) too. The first two films avoided him because he didn’t fit with their vision of Batman as a brooding loner. He doesn’t fit very well here either, and O’Donnell seems way too old to be the Boy Wonder. There’s also an uncomfortable gay-icon vibe given his boy character, which may be part of the whole camp sensibility but which feels sort of pervy.

*. Val Kilmer is one of those actors labeled as “difficult,” and for all I know there’s some truth to that. I actually prefer him to Michael Keaton, but he’s stuck playing the part of Batman as a wooden dummy. Every actor who has taken on the part has suffered the same fate. Adam West could make fun of it, and that was twenty years before this particular franchise got started. When the Marvel superhero movies gave us wisecracking heroes it seemed like such a breath of fresh air in large part because Batman was what we thought a superhero was supposed to be like.
*. I couldn’t understand the plot at all. What was Two-Face up to? Just raising hell I guess. Jones seems to have understood the role to consist of nothing more than dancing demented jigs and laughing like a maniac, so that’s what he does. The Riddler, meanwhile, has developed a kind of brain-sucking box that manages to be both completely ridiculous and unpleasant at the same time. “Soon,” he crows “my little box will be on countless TVs around the world, feeding me credit card numbers, bank codes, sexual fantasies, and little white lies. Into my head they’ll go. Victory is inevitable.” So, basically he’s Google. A villain ahead of his time.
*. Actually, I thought something interesting might have been made out of how all of the people fighting Batman, going back to the Joker, are envious of him in some way. His good press, or his good looks, or just his reputation for being an all-around good guy. But there are no, I repeat absolutely no interesting ideas being developed in this movie. It’s just a giant arcade game.
*. Basically Batman goes around stupidly falling into one impossibly elaborate trap after another and then escaping, which is what it almost seems the bad guys want him to do. Weird coloured lights keep flashing all over the place. Things explode and people fall through space. I had completely forgotten U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” played over the end credits. Maybe the first time I saw the movie I was already out of the theatre before it came on. Too bad if that’s what I did. I missed the best part.

7 thoughts on “Batman Forever (1995)

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Yeah, if this one isn’t the nadir of the Batman film canon then it must be pretty close. Hasn’t aged well either. I’m always concerned that somewhere down the line one of these turkeys is going to be rediscovered by a new generation as an unappreciated work of genius.

      1. tensecondsfromnow

        I remember coming out of The Dark Night and thinking ‘so that’s the serious Batman movie that they’ve been trying to make since the 80’s’. I guess franchise and world building isn’t as bad as these remakes of lousy movies from the year before.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        I think The Dark Knight was probably the best Batman movie, though I did have some problems with it. Leagues ahead of this disaster though!

  1. Tom Moody

    I think you can rest easy that there will never be a college course called The Films of Joel Schumacher (unless perhaps in an Idiocracy remake). Similar to Peter Hyams, he is a Hollywood creature that somehow kept working year after year, turning out big budget movies, until he finally reached a ripe old age and quit. Hyams and Schumacher were the Tom Cruises of directing, without the boyish good looks.


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