Friday, July 3, 2020

Nerdbot Cinema Reviews: “Batman Forever” Turns 25 This Month

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Derrick Murrayhttp://www.jackofallnerdsshow.com
Derrick Murray is a Los Angeles based stand up comedian, writer, and co-host for The Jack of All Nerds Show.

It’s hard to imagine that 25 years have passed since some of favorite (and not so favorite) 90s movies were released. Time has the tendency to escape us, so it can be fun to look back into the past each month to see how our lives were spent. I promise I am not trying to make anyone feel older than they look. A stroll down memory lane is simply a fun exercise in remembering the movies that made us. And since Hollywood is on an indefinite hiatus from new releases, the best we can do is reach back a quarter of a century and review movies that were released in June.

25 years ago was a hot year for film. There are a number of films released that year that have a long lasting impact on cinema even today. In June 1995, “Batman Forever” was released. A drastic departure from its predecessors, the whimsical and downright over the top reimagining of the famed anti hero has divided fans for years. With an all star cast and neon filled cinematography, “Batman Forever” is the beginning of the end for the cape crusader, missing the mark of what makes the hero so compelling and leaning more on silliness than previous Batman themes.

Jim Carrey as The Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face, “Batman Forever,” photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Hot off the dark success of 1989 Batman and 1992 “Batman Returns” (both directed by Tim Burton), “Forever” is a massive shift in tone and story for the dark knight.

Right from the get go, it seems Warner Bros. Pictures attempted to make a more family-friendly Batman film was ill advised in retrospect. While “Returns” was a critical success, it made $150 milliion less than it’s prequel, prompting the studio to search for a more family-oriented director. While Burton was a producer, most of the creative input came from newly selected director Joel Schumacker and writers Lee and Janet Batchler. It was the sixth highest-grossing film of 1995.

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Chris O’Donnell as Robin, “Batman Forever” photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

While there are a number of behind the scenes reports of dissent on set, including Schumaker complaining about working with Val Kilmer and Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey hating each other set, it’s the least of the films problems. While problems during filming always seem to come through on screen, the biggest problems with Batman Forever is it’s over the top story and visuals. Add in the dead behind the eyes acting ability of Chris O’Donnell, The film seems to favor cheese over substance, dumbing down powerhouse actors and reducing them to nothing more than bad dialogue and caricature performances.

While Carrey was a hot commodity at the time (and probably generated a number of box office sales) his shtick is mostly wasted here.

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Val Kilmer as Batman in “Batman Forever,” photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The Batman series was in the process of trying to darken their tales, a departure from the previous films but in line with “Batman the Animated Series,” the attempt to service camp over quality didn’t fair well for the hero over time. When you consider that the last attempt to keep it cheesy with “Batman Forever” failed miserably, it’s no wonder the studio decided to return to the night with “Batman Begins.”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love this movie when I first saw it. I was huge fan of Carrey at the time, and for all the films faults he delivers hard of what he was hired to do. That and fueled by a powerhouse of a soundtrack, I think we all can admit a little love for the film despite that enjoyment waining over the years.

Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman “Batman Forever,” photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

There is extensive reading you can do as to why this film was ultimately a failure both commercially and behind the scenes. Like, did you know Marlon Wayans was supposed to play Robin? It seems Warner Bros. Pictures took a bit too long to recognize their error, and despite being financially successful, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that puts “Batman Forever” on their all time Dark Knight list.

Look, the film isn’t great, but it’s not as horrible as time would have it be. Is it cheesy? Sure. Is it less Batman and more neon colored Gotham? Ya. And does the overacting from both Kilmer and Kidman (both of whom are far better than these roles) mixed with poor dialogue weigh down the film to the point of it being almost unwatchable? For me, yes it does.

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However, “Batman Forever” is still a quoted favorite. Despite all its faults (of which are endless) it can be a fun rewatch when wanting to stroll down memory lane. It is by far the best attempt at capturing the heart of what makes Batman a comic favorite, but it’s just ridiculous enough to be funny and mildly enjoyable. Were we reviewing “Batman and Robin,” there would be no conclusion other than to destroy all copies and erase it from existence.

But “Batman Forever” holds a special place in my nostalgic heart and for everything going against it, it can still be a fun watch. And if nothing else, it hadn’t added nipples to the batsuit, yet. Are you right to hate it? I don’t think I would argue with you. But is it fun to watch Jim Carrey dial up his schtick to 11 in a film that doesn’t really need him to? Absolutely. And if all else fails, watching Val Kilmer poorly deliver the line, “Harvey! I’m Batman!” is still good for a laugh even 25 years later.

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