1995 was a very magical time for films. It saw the premieres of such memorable classics as Apollo 13, Mr. Holland’s Opus and Braveheart, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. We even got to see Salma Hayek’s boobies in Desperado. It was a good time, all around.
Then Batman Forever was released. It was a decision on the part of Warner Bros. that would impact all of our lives, well, forever. That decision was “Hey, let’s get the guy who directed St. Elmo’s Fire and let him direct a Batman movie! What could possibly go wrong?”
Let’s start at the beginning by looking at the basics of this film on paper:
You have Val Kilmer. Ice Man for crying out loud, cast as Batman. Good, that’s solid. I can buy Val Kilmer as a billionaire playboy who likes to spend his evenings dressing up in a leather bat suit and punching dudes in the face.
Chris O’Donnell portraying Robin. Here is when things get sketchy. I totally understand Warner Bros. fear of pairing the guy from Top Secret! with a small boy acrobat in green tights who is eager to learn. But could they not have cast someone who didn’t look like he was ten years away from a midlife crisis?
Tommy Lee Jones. This is an actor whose name I am always glad to see in a films opening credits. He’s what you call an “Actor’s Actor”, always very serious about whatever role he’s playing. Always very committed to his craft. Which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see him in a two color suit with a bunch of hot pink goop on one half of his face, while he dances around like an idiot and makes puns referencing the number two.
Jim Carrey. The person to whom all idiot-like dancing should always be left. I’d like to think that his portrayal of the Riddler, arguably Batman’s most intelligent villain, as a giggling buffoon was, in fact, a nod to Frank Gorshin, who wore a very similar Riddler outfit/attitude in the 1960s escapades of the Caped Crusader. But it probably wasn’t. Coincidentally, the three films Carrey did prior to Batman Forever were Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber. Three films that defined his career to that point. The two films he did after Forever? Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls and The Cable Guy. Two films he’d rather forget.
Nicole Kidman as Dr. Chase Meridian, which I also believe is the name of a few of my credit cards. A very talented actress whose presence in this film I don’t really understand. She didn’t emote very much, she didn’t have any truly wonderful lines of dialogue (then again, neither did anyone else). I mean, it’s almost like they cast her to stand around and be blonde and attractive. Oh, wait. I see now. Nevermind.
All of these things, by themselves, are wonderful. A list of very talented actors (and Chris O’Donnell), a talented director (say what you will, but Schumacher is responsible for The Lost Boys, The Client, Falling Down and Flatliners, all entertaining films for very different reasons), and a slough of time tested characters from which to pull inspiration. But once you put all of these puzzle pieces together, you get some sort of horrifying bigger picture.
Like a puppy dressed as Hitler.
Or Charlie Sheen’s liver.
I will say a few good things about the film, though. It is nowhere near as campy and over the top as it could have been. Don’t believe me? Watch Batman Forever, and then immediately follow by watching Batman & Robin. There now, see the difference? You know why that is?
Batman Forever was actually produced by Tim Burton.
So, I imagine there were moments when Joel Schumacher would bring ideas to Tim Burton, hoping for inclusion in the final film, and Tim Burton would look at them and ask Joel “Are you high right now?” and then Joel would grumble and go film Chris O’Donnell getting into his skin tight leather suit.
Plus, that song Seal did for the soundtrack was pretty awesome.