Batman Forever

Batman Forever ★★

Almost within the first five minutes of watching this, I already found myself missing Burton’s rendition of Gotham. Gone are the delightful Gothic miniatures, the meticulously crafted costumes, and those colossal amphitheatre-like sets. Schumacher’s more clinical, angular, futuristic design looks far less appealing, and far less tangible. Burton’s Gotham looked lively and felt lived in; Schumacher’s feels cold and empty, as if it is no more than a series of isolated sets (which of course, it is) that are scattered across a city that you never actually see. The wider city just doesn’t seem to exist beyond the four walls of each enclosed studio.

This may seem like a trivial complaint, but the lack of any coherent world-building here is a large part of why this film falls completely flat. At no point did the experience feel immersive. The best comparison might be that this is akin to watching a poorly orchestrated, but ostentatiously produced, rock concert. It looks like the actors are performing on stage, in gimmicky costumes, surrounded by twirling lights and dry ice machines and an overabundance of pyrotechnics. It all gives the impression that this is big and impressive and flashy, but the whole thing is otherwise dead behind the eyes.

Jim Carrey might be the one person who treats the film for the trash that it is, his performance being about the level of batshit crazy that we’ve come to expect of him. But even he is a little disappointing. Nicole Kidman is completely wooden throughout (which to her credit might be intentional) and Val Kilmer is yet another uninspiring presence as Batman. And as for Tommy Lee Jones... good lord he hams it up so hard in this. I feel embarrassed for the man.

There seems to be one major common flaw with all of these Burton-Schumacher era Batmans—they don’t tell us anything about the man himself. Instead the focus always seems to be on the side characters or the villains. This is all very well up to a point, but failing to really establish who Bruce Wayne/Batman is and what he’s about just gives the viewer no reason to care about him or his cause.

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