Saturday 29 March 2014

Movie Review: Batman Forever (1995)

A limp entry into the tiresome superhero comic book adaptation genre, Batman Forever offers nothing new beyond the usual ridiculous chases and over the top characters spouting warmed-over dialogue.

In Gotham City, Harvey Dent, better known as Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), is the latest villain terrorizing the populace and trying to lure Batman (Val Kilmer) into a trap. Two-Face has a split personality and a split physical appearance, normal on one side and hideous on the other, the result of an acid attack. Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) arrives in town to help analyze Two-Face's motivation. It does not take long for Chase to fall in love with the mysterious Batman.

Meanwhile, Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) is a lowly employee at Wayne Enterprises, but also a mad genius. Feeling slighted by Bruce Wayne's dismissal of his brain wave capture invention disguised as a television image enhancer, Nygma is driven insane. He takes on the persona of The Riddler, and teams up with Two-Face to spread his evil device throughout Gotham, sucking power from everyone's brain.

When Two-Face attacks the circus in an attempt to lure Batman, young trapeze artist Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell) is the only family member to survive. Wayne takes Grayson under his wing, and gradually Grayson takes on the superhero persona of Robin, but still seeking to kill Two-Face despite Batman's advice that revenge solves nothing. With Chase falling for both Batman and Wayne, Batman grudgingly teams up with Robin as they try to put a stop to the evil reign of Two-Face and The Riddler.

Batman Forever suffers from a severe case of retread. Two-Face is a rehash of The Joker from Batman, all maniacal laughter and no substance. The villain as a physically and emotionally scarred man monster is none too inventive for the series. The Riddler suffers from being an amalgamation of Jim Carrey's other, better characters from other, better movies. And Nicole Kidman follows in the footsteps of blonde sisters Kim Basinger and Michelle Pfeiffer, except that Chase Meridian is not that interesting.

Director Joel Schumacher takes over the reins from Tim Burton, and steers the series into a lighter, more comical direction, stripping the foreboding darkness that worked well in Batman Returns. This time around, Carrey does get to deliver some clever one-liners, but the prevailing lack of seriousness, characterized by The Riddler's machine looking like a goofy juicer, hinders Batman Forever as it tries to latch on to anything beyond obvious set-pieces and stale chases.

Val Kilmer steps into the batsuit and offers little, the Bruce Wayne scenes in particular suffering from a lack of intensity as Kilmer appears generally disinterested. The script offers half-hearted attempts to revisit Wayne's childhood, but the film seems to abandon any notions of character development as too serious for the target tone.

Jones laughs a lot and does little else, while Kidman's Chase limits the scope of her psychological investigation to determining whether Batman or Wayne would make for a better boyfriend. The introduction of Robin into Batman's life becomes the most interesting sub-plot to the movie, Chris O'Donnell finally injecting some emotion and human conflict as he weighs revenge against destiny.

Batman Forever is a sequel looking for a purpose, and finding none it flaps clumsily into the night, labelled easily forgettable.

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