BlokeBusting The Essentials #90: Batman Forever

#90: Batman Forever

Or

Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That: Who Even Remembers This Bat?

Oh yeah, this film exists!

First Impressions

I remember watching this on TV when I was younger, but I don’t recall if it really made that much of an impression on me. I could clearly remember TLJ’s Two-Face and Carrey’s Riddler, as well as the major plot beats, but I don’t really have any moments from the film that jumped out when I tried to think about it. So, will a re-watch change that?

The Characters

  • Bruce Wayne/Batman: Val Kilmer

    Ok. Here’s the thing: Bruce Wayne is the playboy-philanthropist billionaire who is coolness personified and Batman is THE NIGHT, dark and stoic and (quite often) brooding. Val Kilmer manages to play one of those in an ok-for-the-time way. Care to guess which one? Yeah, Batman in these films is fairly boring. Maybe that’s why we actually don’t get as much Bats as you’d expect during the film. Based on my calculations*, we get to see Batman on screen for maybe 20% of the runtime. And that’s actually a little more than I think we needed. However, this film did manage to give us the basis for a smiling Batman meme, so maybe that’s good?


    *100% factual and in no way disprovable
  • Two-Face/Harvey Dent: Tommy Lee Jones

    In no way is this the definitive Two-Face version. There’s many other more nuanced portrayals, loads of better written examples and pretty much every other version shows way more of the chaos and depths behind the character. However, can you tell me a more fun version to watch? Nope, didn’t think so. TLJ was clearly told to take the script and run with it. I’m convinced that there were many things we saw that came just from him reacting to the rest of the cast that was so good they kept it in. His script was ok, the film is not set up for a proper Two-Face portrayal and yet he brought the fun and camp that we needed to see to accept the character given the tone of the film. I’d love to see TLJ take more of these kinds of roles. Ok, moving on!

  • Edward Nigma/The Riddler: Jim Carrey

    *coughs* Um….

    This film is pretty camp already. Carrey’s Riddler is the equivalent of bringing a squadron of drag queens to “help camp it up more”. Honey, you didn’t need it but we appreciate it anyway! By the time we see The Riddler, you’ve effectively written off any chance of this film accurately portraying the comic books (except Alfred as of the time of recording the film). So when Jim is allowed to very much let loose as the green menace, you’re on board. And if you aren’t, I feel sorry for you. What we got was a codpiece wearing (prove me wrong) fairytale villain who uses “science” to absorb brainwaves via television to get smarter and…. that’s his plan. There is literally no other aspects to his plan. The whole “Who is Batman?” part is solely to get Two-Face on board to help finance his brain thing. Our co-main villain folks! But Carrey portrays him as whimsical-insane, which is probably the best choice for this film and is actually fun to watch. Horribly written, over-the-top acted but still fun.

  • Everyone Else: Everyone Else

    Quickfire, here goes:

    Alfred is good. Well done Michael Gough!
    Robin is boring.
    Chase Meridian is pointless.
    Hey, Drew Barrymore is in this one!
    And hey, is that… Ed Begley Jr? Neat.

    That’ll do.

The Setting

As I may have mentioned, this film is camp. It’s not done perfectly and there’s really nothing to the script, but it’s not as bad as other films in the Batman franchise (you can probably guess which ones I’m referring to…). This film also suffers from the same problem that all the live-action Batman films of this time had. A combination of the visual style of the franchise and the fact that there’s no way studios were going to start trying to make a serious comic-book film meant that what we got was the Loony-Tunes version of Gotham. Specifically the Who Framed Roger Rabbit version of Gotham. It’s very bright. If there’s one thing I usually take away from my experience of Gotham, it’s that it’s not bright. At all. But, of course, this was when these films needed to be bright enough and fun enough to bring in the kids, because that’s who like Batman. Nobody wanted a gritty Batman, that would be insane. What’s next, a well-made female-led action film? Yeah right!

So yeah, the setting is not really right for a proper Batman film. But if you are willing to accept that it was never going to be the right setting given the time, you can find the good in what they did. Now, there is one more thing I have to bring up.

The Props

Oh dear. I’m effectively lumping the props, costumes and vehicles into this. Everything, and I do mean everything, that Batman wears, uses or has in his possession looks like it’s made from that hollow fibreglass that would never hold up to any actual scrutiny. The car actually wobbles in a few shots, the Batsuit might as well have been a Batman doll that got blown up by Wayne Szalinski and then hollowed out for use and that hood is just flimsy. I honestly think that the entire budget went on getting the A-list stars and then they had to “that’ll do” for the rest. They even had a “chase” scene where instead of having a car actually go fast, they clearly drove at 5mph while swinging the camera around and dutch-angling it as much as possible to give the illusion of speed. Which it didn’t. But obviously somebody in charge didn’t care enough (or worse thought it actually looked good) to either give more money or ask for another try.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say here is: “Batman Forever, I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed…”

Ok, let’s see what Bubba has to say about this one!

I’ve seen this film several times at this point and I always remember it as the better of the two Schumacher Batman films. Watching it again, I really noticed the strong influence of the Adam West Batman and unfortunately it’s some of the worst parts of that version. Where Two-Face and Riddler have their own personalities and backstories, here they feel very much like variations of the Joker. Much like most of the villains in the Adam West era were cookie cutter personalities with different shticks. None of the personalities are very deep and Chris O’Donnell was one of the worst choices possible for Robin. Looking past how they didn’t work for the characters they were given, Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones seemed to have a lot of fun and chew the scenery as coin flipping Joker and riddle telling Joker and Val Kilmer was a decent replacement for Michael Keaton. It was lighthearted but the jokes only started creeping into the movie without completely overtaking it. It’s still a fun watch more or less.

But in the overall superhero cinema, this was more or less the beginning of the end of this incarnation of the Batman franchise. It was held together by the star power of Jim Carrey and grossed $184M domestic and $336M worldwide, outpacing Batman Returns even though it didn’t hit the mark set by the first Batman. This was the first instance of a major comic book movie franchise re-casting the main character in a series of movies and even though Tim Burton didn’t direct this movie, he stayed on as a producer so there’s still a hint of his overall influence despite Schumacher’s much more brightly neon colored Gotham. It’s not quite the first sign of a franchise going down the wrong path as the same thing happened with Superman before it, but it’s still an overall important big movie in the still relatively early days of superhero cinema. At least the early days of what superhero cinema as we know it today.

Nice one Mr Wheat! And with that summed up, let’s take a zip-line dive into the 3 main questions:

  1. Would I recommend this film to others?
  2. Does this film deserve to be on the list?
  3. If so, where does it appear on the list?

Well, in keeping with tradition, we’ll start at number 1:

1) Given the caveats that I outlined before, yes. TLJ is amazing and once Carrey goes full Riddler, he’s almost on par. The rest is kinda dull, but that’s no reason to avoid it!

2) I do think it’s really close this time. On one hand, it’s a better film than Batman & Robin, and does have some good performances in it. On the other hand, it’s not bad enough to be a lesson and not good enough to be the best. However, I think I would suggest leaving it on the list if only because it’s still an early enough attempt to bring more of the comic-book world into the mainstream, even if it takes another several years and a lot of CG to really bring it to life.

3) Ok, so where does it fall on the list? Well, even with what I’ve said, I think it’ll surprise you yet again!

  1. Hellboy
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger
  3. The Crow
  4. Men In Black
  5. Dr Strange
  6. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  7. Batman: The Killing Joke
  8. Superman 3
  9. The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
  10. The Meteor Man
  11. Supergirl
  12. Howard The Duck
  13. The Fantastic Four (1994)
  14. The Punisher
  15. Batman & Robin
  16. The Amazing Spider-Man
  17. Batman Forever
  18. BvS: Dawn Of Justice

    Potential Substitutions:

    Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
    X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)
    Turbo Kid (replacing The Incredible Hulk)

Told you. Even though it’s better than B&R as a film, I feel that the nature of B&R serves as a warning for how far is too far, while BF is simply more of the same as before, which was novel for the time but doesn’t give much weight in the rankings. But please, let me know if you disagree/agree/couldn’t care less and I’ll be willing to change my mind if you make some good points!

Alright, that’s it for now. The Paul-Signal is lit and that means….. nothing really. I’m just surprised someone made one. I should probably see what they want. Ok, Bye!

About Hurricane Hawk

I'm a Brit in the US. Yes, my accent is real. No, I'm not from Australia. Oh yeah, I have 2 film podcasts!

Posted on November 10, 2019, in Blokebusting the Essentials. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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