Here at FandomWire, we continue to delve deep into some motion pictures that might have divided fans or critics. This is another installment in our series Why it’s Better than You Remember. Take a look at our coverage of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Now let’s take a look at 1995’s Batman Forever, Directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Val Kilmer, Chris O’ Donnell, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones and Nicole Kidman. The Riddler and Two-Face have teamed up to suck information from the minds of Gotham’s citizens. As Batman has to face off against these two villains, he will even the odds with the assistance of the Boy Wonder, Robin. Now you might be thinking that synopsis of the film might be cheesy as hell. I figured for a campy movie, we would need a campy introduction. For this article, we don’t intend on speaking poorly for the film at all, instead we actually will be looking at the things that made it great. So if you hate Schumacher’s take on Batman, this article probably isn’t for you, you have been warned.
After Batman Returns, Tim Burton stepped down from the director’s chair, and was filled in by Joel Schumacher and with him came Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Coming off of Michael Keaton’s take on the Dark Knight, it was difficult to imagine anyone playing Batman at the time. However, Kilmer managed to provide a fairly impressive performance. While he might’ve not been as well received as Keaton, Kilmer still managed to bring a sense of intensity and broodiness that fit the character. Kilmer does very little to alter his voice, but still manages to capture two separate performances within one person. As Bruce Wayne he commands the screen with looks of professionalism and intelligence, but then changes it to a dark and mysterious when he puts on the cape and cowl. While Kilmer might not be regarded as a great Batman, he still manages to give us a performance as both Bruce Wayne and Batman that is at least commendable for the kind of Caped Crusader the studio was going for. Even if you aren’t a fan of Kilmer’s performance, you have to at least give him props for the way he looks in both roles. Perhaps if we had the chance to see him portray the character just one more time.
We know what you are thinking “The costumes? You mean Bat-Nipples?” while this film was the first to introduce the infamous Bat-Nipples, which was further used in the sequel Batman & Robin. Let’s give the suits just a little more credit than what you might think they deserve. Costume Designer Bob Ringwood returns to create the batsuits, alongside newcomer Ingrid Ferrin. Ringwood and Ferrin intended on giving the suit a more modern feel and an edgier look. Luckily, they managed to create costumes that would end up being some of the coolest toys for kids. The first batsuit we see Kilmer appear in gives off Keaton vibes, but still manages to change some unique aspects too it. Swapping out the robot look from Batman Returns, and instead adding a gladiator type design (which is where the nipples come into play) in an attempt to portray Batman as a warrior. A similar design is used when we finally get to see Robin. While some might not be exactly ecstatic for these costume changes, we can still be grateful we didn’t get Chris O’Donnell in green underpants and green pixie shoes. We would much rather have the nippled up armor.
The Visual Effects
Visual Effects supervisors John Dykstra, Andrew Adamson, and Jim Rygiel paired up with Pacific Data Images to create a visual Batman for some of the more complicated stunts. A perfect example of these effects comes in a visually stunning scene, showing Batman leap off a building and down the side of a building. While you can clearly tell its CGI and not an actual person. Let’s look at what exactly makes the visual effects work for this film. Of course, at the time of this movie’s release it was difficult to generate such effects. However, this is Batman we are talking about, and as we have learned since this film’s release “Darkness is our ally” and “Theatrically and deception are a powerful ally for the uninitiated” despite the audience already being initiated. The use of the film’s surroundings it used to mask a lot of the more difficult effects. With an emphasis on light and dark shadows throughout the movie, the artists were able to mask a lot of the difficult effects with world these characters were already inhabiting. The only thing that still bothers us, is the day time city sequences. However, when night time rolls around, it’s glorious to behold.
What can I say about this films soundtrack? It doesn’t get more 90’s than this. With a fresh new style within the score of Elliot Goldenthal, we are also graced with an entire soundtrack featuring the likes of The Offspring, Seal and U2… As I said, it doesn’t get more 90’s than this. However, the tracks manage to elevate the film with its more modern and edgy style Schumacher was going for. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me by U2 is a smooth rock song to jam out too, but carries gothic and grim lyrics that are suited for a Batman film. Meanwhile, Seals Kiss from a Rose is another smooth song but taken in an R&B melody, provided with lyrics that are perfect for the mysterious and sexual relationship between Batman and Chase Meridian. Then The Offspring comes on with their song Smash It Up that fits perfectly with the scene when Dick Grayson steals the Batmobile, what better pick for a scene involving a rebellious teenager taking the Batmobile for a joyride? Despite how some might feel about these songs and these artist, the Batman Forever Soundtrack was one of the hottest albums of its year and will continue to be referenced today.
Although the writers decided to make some changes to Dick Grayson’s origin, it is one that doesn’t hinder so much from the comic books. Combining Grayson’s origin with Tim Drakes, Dick was still part of a family that preformed death defying aerobatic stunts. While the comics show Tony Zucco being involved in their death, the film changes it to Two-Face being held responsible, similar to Tim Drakes origin. This sends Grayson on a crusade to bring Two-Face to justice, leading to his team up with Batman towards the end of the movie. The changes make sense to the film, connecting Grayson to Two-Face. And while Chris O’Donnell is a little old to be playing Robin, he actually isn’t that bad as a Robin. His motivations make sense, including the choice to dawn his families performance costumes and make it into a symbol of heroism and respect. The story Dick tells about saving his brother and earning the name Robin, also suits the characters choice to take on the name as Robin next to Batman. While some might find is a bit cheesy, it actually all works out really well for the film. Making Dick Grayson a welcoming addition to the movie.
Something most fans and non-fans can agree on when it comes to this movie, is Jim Carrey’s role as Edward Nygma/The Riddler. In 1995 Jim Carrey was one of Hollywood’s favorite actors of its time, coming off of hits like Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask. It was time for Carrey to really make his mark in Hollywood as one of Batman’s notorious villains. Adding his own type of flare to the character, with his zany and over the top humor that made the Riddler entertaining and original. Expanding on what we were talking about earlier with the costumes, Carrey’s fitted him perfectly… literally. Taking inspiration from Frank Gorshin’s look in the classic 1966 Batman film, Carrey mostly wore a skin tight green spandex covered in question marks. Other than the spandex, Carrey had some of the craziest costume designs for his character, which made him a stand out throughout the whole film. If there is one thing this film did for me as a child, its make me believe question marks were always colored green.
Now let’s get down to the controversial aspect of this cheesy film, the campiness of it. Of course it’s campy, everyone who has seen this movie knowns that. But isn’t that kind of what makes it charming? Sure it’s no Batman (1989) or The Dark Knight but what it lacks in darkness, it makes up in fun. The nature of the film provides a feel of from the Golden Age of comics, back when Batman was a bit more playful and funny. Which is the feeling this film provides, with a bunch of cheesy one liners and fight scenes that looks so choreographed its barley watchable. Which is what leads us to making an article like this one, one that can defend such an awkward time for Batman. What is a Batman film if Robin can’t say “Holy rusted metal Batman!” in a film that was made in 1995 and just came off the darkness of Batman Returns. So whether you like or dislike Batman Forever, it has made its place in the world of Batman. It has made its statement as being a modern version of Batman’s Golden Age, with a killer soundtrack, incredible costumes and great performances. If that doesn’t impress you, just keep in mind Batman Forever was nominated for three Oscars… That is more than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises combined.