The first scene in Joel Schumacher’s foray in the Batman film franchise is a joke. Batman’s response to Alfred’s suggestion that he take a sandwich while out crimefighting is “I’ll get drive-thru” (ha ha). From this opening scene, it is clear—and somewhat painfully—that Batman Forever has little in common with Burton’s films, despite Burton’s presence in the background as a producer. No, Schumacher’s film has more in common with the 1960s television series, something Burton’s films tried so distance themselves from. The 60s series has many merits: it’s undeniably colourful, campy fun. Sadly, Batman Forever is only colourful and campy. Schumacher’s Gotham City feels like a Vegas side street, and Jones and Carrey embrace campiness—both are gratingly vampy, over-the-top, and difficult to swallow. This film just isn’t that much fun to watch. The screenplay is clumsy and uninspired: instead of dialogue screenwriter Akiva Goldsman prefers to have the characters communicate in exchanges of groan-inducing one-lines; there’s a car chase doesn’t serve any narrative purpose.
Yet, there are many compelling elements (other than U2’s stellar contribution to the soundtrack). I’m a staunch believer in Val Kilmer’s Batman/Bruce Wayne. Also, the flashbacks delving into Wayne’s guilt and a pseudo-retelling of the origin work really well on their own, but these quiet moments don’t sit well next to the garish, loud, and borderline-incomprehensible action scenes. At times, the cinematography is pretty great and the special effects are excellent—the look is reminiscent of Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. History may remember Batman and Robin as the worst of these films, but ultimately Batman Forever isn’t far behind.
Batman Forever (1995, USA/UK, 121 mins). Directed by Joel Schumacher. Written by Lee Batchler, Janey Scott Batchler, and Akiva Goldsman. Starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Chris O’Donnell, Nicole Kidman.