In 1995, the third installment in Warner Bros. Pictures initial Batman live action movie canon of the 1990s. After the dark tone that was exhibited in the previous two films, and the fact that Batman Returns failed to outgross its predecessor after complaints and criticisms from parents, the studio ventured into a different direction. Batman Forever's tone is significantly different than that of Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns. After Burton decided to step down as director of the franchise, Michael Keaton similarly followed, and decided not to return. Director, Joel Schumacher, would now take the reigns of the series, and a new Batman/Bruce Wayne was cast to replace Keaton in Val Kilmer. Upon its release, Batman Forever had mixed critical reaction, but ended up outgrossing Batman Returns with $366 million worldwide.
Former district attorney of Gotham, now under the guise of his evil and criminal alter ego, Two-Face, is robbing one of Gotham's banks. Batman comics in to stop the hostage situation, but fails to capture Two-Face. Meanwhile, Wayne Enterprises researcher, Edward Nygma, develops a device that can beam television directly to a person's brain. After Bruce Wayne rejects the development of the project, Nygma becomes even more obsessed with the billionaire and begins leaving a series of riddles. While on a date with Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), Bruce becomes a part of takeover by Two-Face and his henchman at the circus. Two-Face is ultimately responsible for the murder of The Flying Graysons, except the youngest member, Dick. From here, Nygma, now the Riddler, teams with Two-Face to steal capital to produce the television beaming device, as well as destroy Batman, and his new sidekick, Robin.
After two genre-defining installments from Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher enters the franchise and completely disposes of the tone that was established before him. Batman Forever is lighter, funnier, brighter, more colorful and a lot more fast-paced than its predecessors. Whether this is a good thing or not is left up to personal opinion. For me, it's one of those things that disrupts the chemistry of this entire series. Rather than looking at the live action Batman films of the 90s as a series of four installments that are connected with each other, I look the films as two completely different entities - the Tim Burton films vs. the Joel Schumacher films. Tim Burton, easily, creates the better pair of Dark Knight outings. Batman Forever isn't a terrible movie, but it certainly falls flat of acceptable Batman mythology and storytelling.
Batman Returns was birthed out of a desire for the Batman franchise to return to its roots of the 1940s and 1950s era of comic books. To achieve this, Bob Kane, the creator of the iconic character, the film's producers and Schumacher lightened up the tone. Not so much as the campy 1960s television show, but just enough so that it was more of a family friendly showcase. While I understand the ideology behind this choice, I think the producers failed to realize that the characters that were created in the 1940s had to evolve and grow with the changing times. Tim Burton, in my mind, created Batman material that was ahead of its time. While he was heavily influenced by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Burton was able to translate some of those qualities on-screen. In turn, he created the most influential Batman film yet in 1989. Warner Bros. and Joel Schumacher, essentially, went in the completely opposite direction.
Probably the only redeemable quality of this bubblegum, toned down entry into the series is the portrayals of the Riddler and Two-Face from Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively. Even though their iterations of the iconic villains stray away a bit from comic book lore, these two have awesome chemistry together, and delver some hilarious moments. At a point very early on the movie, you realize that Batman Forever isn't something to be taken too seriously. Because if you do, you'll be quite disappointed. Luckily, we have the maniacal comedic quips, as well as the larger-than-life characters of Carrey and Jones to carry the film. Unlike those two, Val Kilmer falls flat on his portrayal of the billionaire-vigilante. Kilmer has a few notable moments, but overall, he's just boring. Likewise, Chris O' Donnell as Dick Grayson/Robin is the young, fast wisecracking sidekick underwhelms. The problem lies with the fact that I just don't care about the heroes in this one. And that's problematic seeing that both characters lost their parents at young ages. How could you not feel for them? Well, Schumacher sure found a way.
To wrap up, Batman Forever is one of those Batman depictions that many of us would like to forget. It isn't the worst Batman film made (that comes next), but it does damage the things that made this character so special in order to cash in on box-office receipts and merchandise sales. I don't want knee-slapping, pun-making Batman films. I can say that this film is watchable every now-and-then. The purity and essence of the Batman character had been lost, which leads to the villains stealing the show in this one. That said, Batman Forever, has a special place in my heart. A place that I'd rather not visit unless I'm discussing what not to do in a Batman film.