Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Movie Review: Batman Forever

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong story, characters, and sense of fun
Cons: Some of the acting doesn’t quite work; still a little dated
The Bottom Line:
Batman, two villains
Remembers a sense of fun
And we meet Robin

Batman Adds Some Fun and a Sidekick

While I hadn’t seen the first two films of the Tim Burton Batman run, I saw the second two when they were in the theaters originally.  That’s been a long time, so I didn’t remember much about them.  Essentially, I went into Batman Forever with a clean slate.  I’ve got to say I enjoyed it.

As the movie opens, Batman (Val Kilmer) is called to the scene of a bank robbery.  Harvey Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) is robbing Gotham’s Second National Bank on the second anniversary of the first time Batman defeated him.  However, it’s an elaborate trap meant to kill Batman.  Naturally, Batman escapes, but Two-Face is determined to end the caped crusader once and for all.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne (of course, also Val Kilmer) meets one of his employees, Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey).  Edward is working on a device that would send TV signals right into a person’s brain.  Bruce is less than enthusiastic, and Edward decides to conduct human experiments himself.  That’s when he discovers one unexpected side effect, a discovery that turns him into Riddler.

Meanwhile, the circus is in town for a fundraiser, and Bruce goes with new love interest Dr. Chase Meridan (Nicole Kidman).  When a horrible accident leaves acrobat Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell) without any living family, Bruce takes the young man in, only for Dick to make a surprising discovery.  Where will that lead?

Obviously, there is a lot going on in this film, and that keeps the pace moving.  Honestly, there is no down time.  We open with a great action sequence and close with another, but the plot keeps moving forward with a few fight sequences in between.  It helps that we don’t see Two-Face’s back story here; we are just told it in a brief bit of dialog.  Considering we have Riddler’s and Robin’s origin stories, we’ve got enough origin stories for one movie.  Even better, Robin’s origin story is part of the action of the film, so the main story is moving forward at all times.

Of the three films so far, this one definitely takes a large step toward feeling modern.  Yes, this was 1995, so the effects are still a bit dated, but I didn’t notice them as much.  The stunts and quick cuts in the action help with this more modern feeling.  Yes, some elements are dated, but it isn’t as obvious as the first two.

I remember at the time all the talk about Val Kilmer’s recasting.  Honestly, I found him fine in the part.  I didn’t realize that they had also recast Harvey Dent, who was played by Billy Dee Williams in the original Batman film but the character was absent from Batman Returns.  I just remember hearing about Tommy Lee Jones playing the part here.

Speaking of which, I’ve got to say that I found his makeup amazing.  I can’t imagine how many hours it took to get him to look that way.

In my mind, the biggest weakness of this film is the acting.  Jim Carrey is over the top – that’s a given since that is his shtick.  It would have been better if he had toned it down a bit but he mostly works.  However, Tommy Lee Jones tried to match him too often.  I think Two-Face would have been better and more menacing if he had been less maniac.  I get what they were going for, but two villains with the acting style didn’t quite work.  There are some scenes where it feels like they are trying to one up each other.  The other weakness in the acting is Nicole Kidman in her early scenes.  Actually, I think this is more the dialog she was given as her character tries to flirt with Batman.  Fortunately, I felt her dialog and acting got better as the movie went along.

Speaking of character, I really appreciated the fact that Bruce Wayne, and therefore Batman, got some character development here.  It certainly helps that with a love interest and his new ward at home, we had to see more of his character.  No, it’s not anything surprising, but I still enjoyed watching it.

All told, this is a lighter film.  There are some genuine laughs (Robin has my favorite line of the film).  Yes, the villains are evil and some of their scenes are still dark in tone, but overall this film remembers that comic book movies are supposed to be fun.

All told, Batman Forever is a fun movie.  And that’s what a superhero movie is supposed to be, right?

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