You know, I like Batman Forever less than even Batman & Robin
. Obviously that film is like a monster out to destroy everything you hold dear, but this one is like a killer cop with a split personality and a sexually transmitted disease only carried by sheep. The Film That Killed The Franchise is appalling in every way and a shocking waste of celluloid, but at least it understands itself. Batman Forever is this bizarre deformed mistake made up of the script for a third Tim Burton Batman, the direction of Joel Schumacher and the "you must be kidding me" slut of a character that they gave to poor Nicole Kidman. Oh, and Batman is played by Him. I hate Him. He was in The Doors, which makes him evil. Films starring Him will give you cancer of the follicles and runaway diarrhoea, except for Top Secret which is funny. My little brother hates this film with a passion and it's hard to blame him.
The odd thing is that the script isn't bad at all. I wasn't kidding when I said it's trying to be a Tim Burton movie, but all complexities get squashed like cockroaches by Joel Schumacher. This film's towering stupidity is all the more bizarre given how much intelligence it actively had to seek out and destroy to get that way. There's some nice character stuff for Robin and what's by now become annoying psychoanalysis of Batman, but forget all that. Fair's fair. Let's judge it on its chosen level. Unfortunately it's not even a decent no-brainer, for which I blame the main characters.
(1) Why does Val Kilmer even exist? He's so dull! He's a pretty-boy of 100% cardboard, a walking stiff who can kill the most promising material stone dead. His scene in Nicole Kidman's office should have been sparkling, but it's dead on its feet. This is supposedly a deeply disturbed Batman with as many psychological problems as Keaton's incarnation, but you'd never guess any of that from Kilmer's performance. Personally I blame Kilmer almost as much as Schumacher for screwing up this movie. (Note: this is probably unfair and prejudiced of me, although the reason for said prejudice is having seen other Kilmer movies. Did I mention The Doors? There's a film to leave mental scars. Don't get me started on Oliver Stone.)
(2) Tommy Lee Jones. Unlike Kilmer he's turned in good performances in other movies, so what happened? Playing a Batman villain should be the chance of a lifetime. They're scene-stealing grotesques, both fascinating and appalling. The Penguin, the Joker, Catwoman... all dream roles, surely? No, not here. Tommy Lee Jones takes the horrific character of Two-Face, possibly the most disturbed of Batman's villains, and turns him into an excitable moron who shouts a lot. Gee thanks, Tommy. Wake me up when someone interesting appears.
(3) Nicole Kidman. On reflection I think the script is mostly to blame, but her character (Dr Chase Meridian) is the sluttiest slut in Slutsville. There's a word for people like this. They're called stalkers. Admittedly Kim Basinger's character wasn't slow to drop her knickers for Michael Keaton, but you still respected her in the morning. Dr Chase Meridian on the other hand is a slapper with a one-track mind who loses her audience in five seconds flat and becomes a figure of ridicule.
Okay, I've been nasty. There are good things here too. I liked the two other leads. The Robin subplot is cool and really effective, which is doubly surprising since I think everyone in the world secretly dislikes Robin and wishes he'd just go away and let Batman go on adventures on his own. Nonetheless this part of the film really works; you like and sympathise with Dick Grayson. Even when demonstrating near-terminal stupidity as he goes joyriding in the Batmobile, somehow Chris O'Donnell retains our affections despite this. He's mostly not annoying, which is high praise when you consider that this is the Boy Wonder we're talking about. Chris's performance in this film is underrated. Seriously. I think he's really good.
However most important is Jim Carrey, as usual wound up to eleven and mutating everything into another Carrey vehicle. It's his Midas Touch. I'm not a huge Carrey fan, but you'd have to be some kind of grouch not to acknowledge the energy he puts into his work. No one else does what he does, which in this case is to single-handedly save the movie. In a serious Batman film, you'd want to kill him. However here, even when everything else is falling apart around his ears, he's always putting in 10000% and against all the odds giving us something worth watching. This flick is a Jim Carrey film that happens to star a bunch of other characters including some guy in a cape. Personally I think he's great. Even leaving aside the fact that he later went on to gain plaudits in serious film roles like Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I defy anyone to watch The Mask and not have a seriously good time. Film snobs can leave by the first exit, although it's a mystery why they were standing in line for Batman Forever in the first place.
It seems that we have a pattern... watch the even-numbered Batman movies for the villains. Yes, I did say "even-numbered". You didn't think I'd forgotten the 1966 Adam West film, did you?