Batman Forever

Batman Forever ★★★★

It's a weird experience watching this film now. Along with STAR WARS and several other VHS staples around our house, BATMAN FOREVER is one of if not the film I've seen the most in my life, though this is the first time I've watched it in maybe 15 years. But beyond that fact, this is the film I remember the experience of watching the most: the 12 inch TV, the ever-growing VHS fuzz, me in my darkened bedroom, sitting way too close. It's the one film where the details around the film are as engrained as every punch and punchline.

Watching again, I get why that is so; the film is a crackling of bells and whistles, more a catalog of 90s neon flair than a film. While other films engaged my young self and sucked me in, BF was like a favorite magazine, or dare I say, comic book, one that served as a night light for my growing entertainment dreams.

Is the film great or underrated? Probably not, though while the look is very similar to the camp fest of BATMAN AND ROBIN, the tone at its best is probably the strongest of the series, equally silly and sinister. It goes off the rails frequently, but that's better than not having a rail at all, and it's a colorful and engaging rail when it works.

I've had many nostalgia film explorations in the last decade. Some I grow to love more, others I see the bad that a child doesn't care about. But BATMAN FOREVER exists in an unbreakable place of my psyche. It brings me back to me when I was becoming me. I'm sure other films could have taken that position, but maybe that's beside the point. This isn't a film I forgive for its flaws; it's a film whose strengths and weaknesses are a part of my creative DNA, and maybe its imperfections make it the perfect film for that role, for I can forever (eh) dance with them, figure out why they work or what would have elevated it.

It's a film designed to numb you with color and splendor; that's even what The Riddler's plan is, hijacking people's brains through television. That's literally what happened to me, though in a twist no critic could have predicted, I became smarter. Is that a credit to the film? In the least, it's a well produced and put together film, and compared to the CG porn of today it's spectacular visually (even in some of the CG moments, which look old but when mixed with the production value add a sense of scope that mindless CG cut n paste can't do alone). The performances are over the top, and the female characters are mostly window dressing (though Nicole Kidman is painfully alluring, if they hadn't made her a none-stop horndog for Batman she'd be a fascinating character). Even the score has a few moments with what appears to be a female opera singer echoing the melody. And the segments with Robin seem to come from another movie (one that would come out two years later, if you get my drift). Those are points hard to argue against, and I'm not.

So the question is, I guess, can a film like this really be an integral part of my development? After watching last night, the felling I came away with was yes. I think that's a credit first and foremost to films. Hundreds of people worked on this film, and I was at the age and place to soak ever aspect of that in. It could have been a million films (and it wasn't the only one I devoured in my youth). But it stands alone, and I can't explain why, but I'm glad I have something that can remind of who I am and how I got to this point. It was my dreamcatcher. And my latest viewing showed me that I can catch that dream again if I need to. Sometimes the truth is over the top, but I can never tell.