Batman Forever

Batman Forever ★★½

Since Batman Returns terrified kids and baffled most adults, the gothic tones of Tim Burton were swapped out for the gaudy dynamism of Joel Schumacher. As a result Batman Forever exists in a strange middle ground, as if Schumacher wanted to make a vividly campy comic book come to life but couldn't quite shake the inherent darkness of the previous works. So what we end up with is a film that, like one of it's antagonists, is in two minds about everything.

There are things to enjoy here. I really like Val Kilmer's stoic portrayal of the caped crusader. Not only is his look and voice perfect for the role, but he feels much more heroic and humane than Keaton's take did. I also like Chris O'Donnell as Robin even if he is too old. The film shines when parallels are drawn between these two characters with themes of guilt and revenge handled surprisingly well. The Gotham depicted is striking, a neon soaked city of seediness and glamour, and definitely feels like something straight from the pages of a comic book. I also think the action sequences are much more fluid than previous and Elliot Goldenthal's energetic score is better than you'd expect.

Sadly it is not without a share of issues. Jim Carrey as Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face are competiting to see who can overact the most, both doing little but cackle and bounce around like hyperactive children. Nicole Kidman also feels wasted as Chase Meridian, someone whose only trait is to be incredibly horny. The uneven screenplay doesn't understand these characters, simply using them to fill a role rather than serve a purpose. It also provides a plot that is thin, little more than an excuse for flashy imagery and playful interactions, and one which feels superfluous compared to the thematic elements. Then there's the dumb stuff thrown in here such as the batmobile driving up a wall, Two-Face endlessly flipping his coin and Robin doing laundry kung fu.

I'd call this an average effort, yet I still think it is the best of the Burton/Schumacher films. It is the only one that actually places focus on Batman and tries to craft some interesting dilemmas. It has a multitude of problems, but I think if you accept the camp approach then you can at least have fun with this one.

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