"The Bat Signal is not a beeper"! Batman 4ever @25
1989 was well regarded as the closing year for that decade of Pop culture, the 80's and the year of the Bat as in Batman. Director Tim Burton's success of the iconic DC hero helped to revise modern Superhero cinema which was abandoned long after the horrible Superman Quest for Peace.
In 1992, Burton made a follow-up sequel, Batman Returns, a more Gothic albeit darker tone than the first Batman film. Despite its box office earnings and critical reception, Returns was not looked upon too favorably by merchandise tie ins like McDonald's due to the sequel’s horrific imagery and deep rooted psychological character arcs that would scare kids, preventing them from buying Toy included with Happy Meals.
This prompted Warner Brothers to remove Burton as Director from the third Batman film, originally titled Batman Continues. It was Burton who handpicked Joel Schumacher as his successor and what’s even more ironic, Schumacher wanted to do a prequel incorporating ideas based on Frank Miller's Batman Year One. Actor Michael Keaton was onboard to reprise his role, until the suits at Warner Bros scrapped the idea in favor of something more merchandise favorable. Frustrated at how the sequel would take a different approach, Keaton bailed out of the project. So now, here we are..
In 1995's Batman Forever, one of the first "sequoots" as in a sequel and reboot I have seen Batman is up against Riddler played by Jim Carrey and Harvey Dent (Tommy Lee Jones.) once a former District Attorney, now goes under the name Two Face. Unfortunately Billy Dee Williams didn't get to reprise his role as Dent .
The cast is entirely new with the noted exception of Michael Gough and Pat Hingle, even composer Danny Elfman has been replaced by Elliot Goldenthal
With a sequel practically built from the ground up, was it able to lure more fans or detractors of the Dark Knight's cinematic stint?
Batman (Forever) begins with a promising start during Val Kilmer’s introduction as Batman with cleverly timed quips such as "I'll (eat at) the drive thru" which leads to the scene in which Batman uses more of his martial arts combat skills.that involves more grappling, gadgetry followed by spinning kicks.
In all fairness, Schumacher skipped any preamble moments and dove straight into a 10 minute action sequence between Batman and Dent, to reel the viewing audience in and it works for the most part. I can tell that Tommy Lee Jones, looks as if he's having too much fun when playing as Two Face, but that pales in comparison to Carrey's over the top Edward Nygma a narcissistic scientist who has an axe to grind against his former employer, Bruce Wayne.
Although Returns has a more lighthearted approach than its predecessors, it is still a very dark Superhero film. The undercurrent themes are ripe with psychological allegories, be it duality, survivor's remorse, or obsession in the case of Psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian (Played by Nicole Kidman, who delivered a very sultry performance. *WINK*) who has this fascination with Batman to the extent of trying a seductive play.Especially when you have Wayne saying to her, "Iv'e got to get you out of those clothes.." followed by "..into a black dress".
This movie tries to squeeze in as many character arcs as possible but at least gives one important character, Dick Grayson (Chris o' Donnell) enough time to flesh out his origin and Hero's journey. But overall, the narrative is focused on Bruce, as he feels responsible for the murder of his parents.
With Bruce involved with a newfound love interest he hangs up the cape and cowl while Dick is obsessed with taking revenge on Two Face after the Gotham Circus Massacre.
When looking back at Batman Forever, I think it is still an entertaining film despite its flaws and there are quite a few of them. Like the scene where Bruce as Batman walks into Chase's bedroom, shot like a cross between a romantic Soap Opera scene and those old "I can't believe it's not Butter commercials or a squandered scene involving Don "The Dragon" Wilson in the slums of Gotham. Overall, Batman Forever is not a bad film as most are quick to believe. Now I can deal with Batman "breaking character" by smiling, but the butt shot when donning the Sonar Batsuit was completely out of sync as it does not fit in this movie. I get that the writers were having a little fun, but the culprit is more likely Joel Schumacher who is gay, had something to do with this decision. Doubt me? Well take a look at Batman and Robin, where the Director had full reign! Aside from the "Buttsuit", there were other Gay subtexts, one involving Edward Nygma who is flamboyant as the Riddler and subtle hints at having this Man crush on Wayne. Feeling rejected, like a spurned Girlfriend, he's fueled by revenge.
I had to laugh when Bruce yelled "Harvey..I'm BATMAN"! Followed by him taking on Dent's thugs sans Batsuit at the Circus.
The set designs and neon saturated backdrops give off this awkward aesthetic, and not the art deco feel from the previous Burton films we have come to respect. However, with Tim onboard as a producer, this may lend credence to Forever’s levels of violence and dark character studies.
While many appreciated the clever nods to Metropolis, Nightwing and Catwomam, it was the whimsical scenes, performances and dialogue that is more memorable. One of the funniest scenes for example, goes to Dick taking the Batmobile off for a spin, prompting Alfred to contact Bruce, while on a date. When Bruce was being flippant about Dick taking one of his cars, Alfred says "the other car"!
Although the writing is a bit tongue-in-cheek at times, I can appreciate jabs at the expense of corporations i.e. Bruce's assistant mentions how "Suicide's not covered by our corporate policy", and the "Holy rusted metal, Batman" line.
But its really the dark comedic timing, especially in the case of Carrey's Riddler that shines. His You'll have to settle for the Bronze" delivery after murdering his boss was one of the few highlights that had me laughing my ass off. Regardless what anyone says, I enjoyed Jim Carrey's take on The Riddler who brought so much energy and enthusiasm toward an otherwise, mediocre villain.
Him swirling the staff, was practically a one take and it is worth noting how this interpretation of Riddler served as a template for rejected mad scientists seeking retribution i.e. Iron Man 3. More than just being Meme fodder, Batman Forever is a good production, the use of cinematography, direction, storyboards and soundtrack rounds out the rest of this film's qualities.
Val Kilmer did an adequate job when going from "Iceman" to a Batman. His stoic voice and facial expressions under the cowl were convincing enough as a suitable replacement for Michael Keaton. While Keaton brought the eccentricity, it was Kilmer who made Batman more of this James Bond and at times, fragility persona. At 25 Years, is Batman Forever that bad? That depends on one's expectations or sense of entitlement.
I saw it for what it was, an Action film with a healthy modicum of comedy with a bit of sexual innuendo.Not to mention how it added more clarity when delving into why Bruce became the Dark Knight. it’s not a disappointing sequel in the vein of Superman 3 or Rise of Skywalker. Sadly, it was the last of the somewhat good Batman films, as Schumacher went on to ruin the franchise (prior to Nolan's Trilogy.) courtesy of Batman and Robin.
Release the Schumacher Cut?
What's interesting about Batman Forever, is how not only the film's 2 hour and 40-minute length prior to some serious edits, but also how it was conceived as much darker than what was shown in theaters and home video.
While there was talk of an extended cut being released to DVD for the film's 10th anniversary in 2005, it did not come to fruition. With scenes like Bruce's discovering his father's diary, that helped to absolve him from feeling guilt and remorse, Dent's escape from Arkham Asylum, a sequence where Batman follows a robbery signal on a tracking device in the Batmobile, shows up at the crime scene and instead is at the wrong place a beauty salon, in which a room full of girls laugh at him. Not to mention extended fight scenes and an alternate ending less campy than the homage paid to the 1966 Television series. All these would further flesh out and complete this film. So, did you like, love, or loathe B4ever?
Batman Forever is now available on HBOMAX for the time being.
Who wore it better? Keaton or Kilmer?