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Batman Forever
1995 - PG-13 - 122 Mins.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Producer: Tim Burton
Written By: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Chris O'Donnell
Review by: John Ulmer
   
It's sad to see a series wither away. First there was "Batman," a fun film with a good director at the helm who portrayed Gotham City with just the right tone of darkness, ignoring the camp qualities of the aptly named television show of the 1960s that starred Adam West, and had also betrayed the comic's tone to go for full-out laughs.

Then there came "Batman Returns," an over-the-top sequel that had too many quirky qualities and dark traits for my own personal enjoyment.

Then Michael Keaton and Tim Burton left the series so that Val Kilmer and Joel Schumacher could step in (Burton produced the third film but ignored the fourth altogether; WB is smart, the new Special Edition DVDs coming out exclude "Batman and Robin," too). This essentially marked the downfall of a series many refer to as one of the most disappointing and "in-between" of all time.

Val Kilmer is a good Batman, and I think everyone has to admit this. He is arguably the best Batman of them all--as much as I like Michael Keaton as an actor, many people were dissatisfied with his portrayal of Bruce Wayne on the whole, and George Clooney was just George Clooney in the fourth film.

Kilmer displays a sort of repressed anger and rage and hatred for crime that is vital to the Batman character in the first place. He looks as though his mind is heavy and his soul depressed with the mess of the world--too bad the material can't support the depths of Bruce Wayne in this one.

After Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) emerges from the underground of Gotham City and threatens peace in his own extravagant way, Bruce Wayne (Kilmer) puts on his cape and defends his beloved city--much to the chagrin of a new villain, The Riddler (Jim Carrey), who teams up with Two-Face and decides to hatch an elaborate plan to brainwash America using small TV boxes. (Symbolism? A bad matter for a film like "Batman Forever" to try and tackle.)

Meanwhile, Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) tries to unearth the mystery of Batman, and a recently orphaned acrobat named Dick (Chris O'Donnell) comes to live with Bruce and vows to seek vengeance against his family's murderer: Two-Face. This is, as far as I know, pretty close to the comic books--but the outcome is at times quite disastrous.

Chris O'Donnell, as Robin, is the film's weak link in terms of acting--he brings nothing memorable to his character and merely stumbles through the movie like a walking plank made of wood. His family of acrobats, clothed with the same design of Robin from the cult TV series, takes a plummet a few stories up after trying to save the day. He gets mad. But O'Donnell is too smarmy and smart-alecky to like. Please, get rid of this guy.

Thanks to Joel Schumacher, this stands as one of the wackiest films of all time. I looked forward to it quite enthusiastically back in 1995, when the top-notch cast and extreme word-of-mouth seemed to hype up the film to a maximum extreme. The result was discouraging, and to this day the entire circus sequence is ingrained in my memory as one of the most OTT of all time.

In some respects this could be called one of the worst films of all time. It's over-the-top, ridiculously extravagant and horribly directed by Schumacher--whose films are hit ("Falling Down," "Phone Booth") or miss (his second "Batman" movie). Here he's somewhere in between. The acting by Kilmer, Lee Jones, Kidman, and even Carrey is fine. The movie itself is just bad--and that's where it fails. But in terms of entertainment, this is easier to digest than the second movie. I prefer it, despite its flaws. And it isn't half as bad as "Batman and Robin."

Trivia note: Michael Keaton was originally attached to this project with Rene Russo as his love interest. However, after meeting Schumacher and disagreeing with his vision for the series, he left the project and Russo was deemed "too old" for Kilmer.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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