Batman Forever

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, and Chris O'Donnell

Batman may be the most successful superhero of all time at the box office.  For a time though in the 90s, he was the worst managed hero.  After the magnificent films Batman and Batman Returns directed by the imaginative Tim Burton, Warner Bros. decided that they wanted this superhero franchise to be more “family-oriented”.  Apparently, a few little weak kids went home crying to their mommas after Batman Returns, so the studio decided to effectively kill the Dark Knight we all knew and loved.  For the 1995 film Batman Forever, we lost Tim Burton.  We lost Michael Keaton.  We even lost Batman.  Batman Forever effectively embodies the worst creative decision ever made for a superhero franchise.

Former district attorney Harvey Dent (Tommy Lee Jones) was disfigured in court and became a criminal mastermind who terrorizes Gotham to this day.  He's now known as Two-Face and is fixated on killing Batman (Val Kilmer).  When he decides to rob a local Gotham City bank, Two-Face takes a swipe at the Bat.  In the ensuing chaos, Two-Face crashes a helicopter into the Statue of Liberty but fails to kill the Dark Knight.  Now, Batman and Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) are consulting with Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) to learn more about Two-Face's psychosis.

Meanwhile, researcher Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) of Wayne Enterprises showcases his new television for Bruce Wayne.  His interactive experience makes viewers feel like their actually in the programming by beaming a signal directly into their brains.  Not so interested in the possibility of manipulating viewers' brainwaves, Bruce Wayne rejects Nygma's idea.  Now infuriated, Nygma becomes the criminal known as The Riddler.  He partners with Two-Face to steal the capital necessary to get his invention in every household in Gotham.  With this hot new product on the market, The Riddler challenges Wayne and his company in every way.  In return for Two-Face's stolen money, The Riddler is also siphoning information from the brains of Gotham’s viewers to find the true identity of Batman.

Batman Forever is not the worst Batman film ever made, but it falls far below anything done by previous director Tim Burton.  Batman Forever is more akin to the old TV show starring Adam West.  It's cheesy.  It's goofy.  It's unfortunately family-friendly.  Thanks to director Joel Schumacher, Batman Forever is everything a Batman film should not be.  The movie gives us a poor hero in Val Kilmer's Batman and an even poorer villain in Tommy Lee Jones's Two-Face.

Val Kilmer is no Michael Keaton.  While Kilmer brings a certain 90s charm and a great deal of showmanship to the character of Batman, he just can't replace the Dark Knight Michael Keaton gave us.  There's a certain longing for Keaton's darkly charming Batman throughout the entire film that is never quite satisfied.  Val Kilmer is not a bad Batman.  He's just not a great one, and the standard had already been set by his predecessor.

While Jim Carrey was born to play The Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones is the Two-Face that was never meant to be.  As Two-Face, Tommy Lee Jones does absolutely nothing to balance out Jim Carrey's over-the-top Riddler.  In fact, he's just as silly as Carrey on camera, and that's annoying as hell.  As Two-Face, Tommy Lee Jones needs to bring out the badass we've seen countless times over the years in his films.  He is literally the perfect straight man to play a role like this, and he fails miserably in the family-friendly Batman Forever.

Batman Forever tries to make a clean break from its predecessors with a new Batman and a new director.  Beyond the simple fact that the film is not better than Batman or Batman Returns, it lends itself to constant references to the older films.  Michael Gough is still cast as Alfred Pennyworth.  Pat Hingle is still cast as Commissioner Gordon.  Nicole Kidman's Chase Meridian even makes an overt allusion to Catwoman.  With all these references to its predecessors, we're constantly reminded of Tim Burton's dark and colorful vision of Gotham City of which we've been robbed.  For this, Batman Forever gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.