So Bad It’s Good #11 : Batman Forever (1995)


Guilty Pleasures that we enjoyed – even though we don’t quite know why.

Movie Title : Batman Forever
Released 1995
Starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Ed Begley Jr
Directed By Joel Schumacher

What is it? : The second sequel to Tim Burton’s hugely successful “Batman” (1989) – only with a new Batman, a new director, a new tone, and a greater interest in selling toys. The flamboyant Joel Schumacher (“The Lost Boys”, “Flatliners”) helms this instalment; a slightly campy but creative and colourful adventure that sees Gotham City’s lone superhero, Batman (Val Kilmer), taking on dual villains – The Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones). The film also marks the contemporary debut of Robin, the boy Wonder (Chris O’Donnell) to the Bat-mix.

What’s wrong with it? If you ask most people, they’d say ‘a lot’ – but that’s probably because they’ve either got it mixed up with “Batman & Robin” (which was, to say the least, ‘So bad it’s.. bad’) or have bundled the two together (simply because Joel Schumacher did both of them). Truth of the matter is, there isn’t a hell of a lot wrong with “Batman Forever” – it’s got a good Batman, it’s fun, and besides the fact it’s probably a little too camp for the fans’ liking, the tone works.

It’s that lack of darkness, which worked so well in Tim Burton’s previous films (to an extent), that’s really missing here, I guess. Bruce Wayne (here played by Val Kilmer) is no longer the tortured and scarred billionaire just looking for a little love, and a little peace… he’s a superhero. And that’s about it. He’s the cartoon Batman… the ‘Super Friends’ Batman. No brooding here. He’s just a dude in a cape fighting super-villains… (Schumacher could easily have inserted “biff”, “bam” and “whammo” text into the fight scenes and we wouldn’t have blinked).

In addition, there might be too many secondary characters in the mix – and even then, some of them don’t quite know who they’re playing or what their motivation is. Tommy Lee Jones, for starters, seems to think he’s reprising Jack Nicholson’s Joker role – – and just plays it out-and-out Looney. Now aren’t their two-sides to Harvey Dent? Don’t see that here. In addition, Nicole Kidman is probably the most one-dimensional of all of the Batman movies’ leading ladies – she’s not a shade on Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, not a threat at all to Kim Basinger’s Vicky Vale, and even fails to match Katie Holmes’ Rachel Dawes. Thankfully, everyone else in the cast – including Jim Carrey, Ed Begley Jr, Michael Gough, Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar – are giving it their best.

What I dislike most about the film is how commercial it is though…. In that, I mean it’s similar to the “Star Wars” prequels in that the studio is clearly more interested in selling toys and co-op advertising deals (McDonald’s plug in the first five minutes of the film) than making a good movie. Thankfully, it still turned out OK.

What’s right about it? It’s a comic book come to life – right down to the performances, the colours (more colours than a rainbow in this palette!) and the storyline. Something Tim Burton didn’t succeed in was incorporating much fun and adventure into his “Batman” movies… it was all dark, moody and suspenseful…never did his films comes across as a fun ‘Superhero’ movie which, in many ways, would’ve been good – if only to lighten up the mood in a few spots.

Joel Schumacher’s film is flawed, sure, but it’s a dazzling production all the same – he’s gone to great lengths to create a wonderfully eye-popping backdrop and keeps proceedings lively and fun all the way through. This is probably the “Batman” movie you’ll love if you’re 14-years-old… and that ain’t a bad thing. What it lacks in substance, it makes up for in style.

In addition, people still rave about how good Val Kilmer was as Batman (he refused to come back for a second one) – and they’re right, he looks the part, acts the part and really fits the mould. If only he could’ve played Bruce Wayne as well as he did the Caped Crusader.

When you look back at it now, you may even consider “Batman Forever”
one of the better superhero movies that Hollywood has produced – tell me it doesn’t shit all over “X-Men : The Last Stand”, “Daredevil”, “Hulk”, “Elektra”, “Ghost Rider” and “The Fantastic Four”? Shite in parts, sure, but the studio definitely put a lot more into it than they did those films.

Why is it so bad it’s good? : Because it’s absolutely ridiculous, and played severely over-the-top, but yet it’s so much fun. If only they’d whacked Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl into this one… and forgot all about “Batman & Robin”… it may have even been my favourite of the modern-day “Batman” movies (well, besides the reboot – “Batman Begins”).