Batman Forever

review by John W. Herbert

Make no mistake: Batman Forever is an entirely different animal than its two predecessors, Batman and Batman Returns. Gone are Michael Keaton as the Darknight Detective and previous director Tim Burton remains only as an executive producer. The biggest change is the departure of Burton's trademark dark, brooding atmosphere and deadpan dark humour. Batman Forever, directed by Joel Schumacher, is a slam-bang action flick that rarely pauses for breath, a rapid-fire burst of staccato editing and high-energy set pieces. A lot of time is spent blowing things up in this picture. In fact, a whole new slew of Bat-toys are introduced (new and improved versions of the Batcave, Batmobile, Batwing and a brand new Batboat) and all of them get blowed up by the end of the film. In fact, the Batwing and Batboat both barely survive no more than a couple of minutes of screen time. I think there's even a plot.
Let's cut to the chase. Who makes a better Batman? Val Kilmer slips into the role effortlessly and seamlessly and indeed outshines Keaton as the Caped Crusader. Keaton, however, brought a certain quirkiness to Batman's alter-ego Bruce Wayne that is sadly lacking in Kilmer's performance. So it's a tossup. The rest of the cast turn in mostly satisfactory performances. Tommy Lee Jones's Two-Face, after a rousing, rip-roaring start, gets nearly forgotten as Jim Carrey's Riddler takes control, becoming merely an add-on that has to be continually shoehorned into the story. The movie is indeed designed to take advantage of Carrey's recent phenomenal popularity as we are treated to endless shots of Carrey hamming it up and mugging for the camera. Unfortunately he grows rather tedious.
The film's action sequences are spectacular, and the Robin subplot works very well, too. Director Schumacher says he wanted to film a "real comic book" and that is exactly what he's done. The plot is strictly comic book, and the characters are basically two-dimensional.
If you thought the previous Batman films were too heavy and disturbing, you'll probably like Batman Forever. If you liked Burton's slightly twisted vision of the Dark Knight, then this film will probably disappoint.

Originally published by Under the Ozone Hole Number Thirteen – March, 1996

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