✯’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I always hated those titles like ‘Batman Forever’. That sounds like a tattoo that somebody would get when they’re on drugs or something. Or something some kid would write in the yearbook.”
— Tim Burton
This is a bit of a Rorschach test in that you see what you want to see in it. The film I’m describing here will probably not come across as the film someone else watched—objectively I know that this is like, very very bad, and many people whose opinions are more credible than mine have said it’s a total stinker. But I think it’s kind of a brilliant stinker, and one that I’m still openly enthusiastic about.
Batman Forever is possibly one of the campiest displays of excess ever put to screen, and one of the most enjoyable. Aside from a few initial CGI faux-pas in the first half hour or so, the film is gorgeous; and I say that with utmost honesty. Bob Ringwood and Ingrid Ferrin design costumes with a sharply clear vision and an intricacy that’s honestly breathtaking, no matter how brightly camp they are. It all comes together to create the sense of a mishmash, technicolour stage production that was somehow thrust onto the big screen, an accidental jackpot of charm and idiosyncrasy.
The staple areas of the city are created and destroyed in a devilishly unique way, with every set piece going out in a slow motion crumble and a flurry of blinding sparks. Barbara Ling’s production design paints Gotham as rich and claustrophobic; successfully combining gothic architecture with neoclassical imagery and striking, soft-lit neons. The only way I can think to describe it is to say it’s a sort of beta-vapourware kind of style, if that aesthetic movement took itself less seriously and harkened back to the 60s instead of the 80s. It plays with the idea of a place that speaks to both the past and the future, like the Roman statues looming over the electric city as a constant reminder of a bygone pre-industrial age. Similarly, Riddler’s space-age holographic technology is constantly at odds with his tiny apartment filled with archaic machinery and riddles shrouded in card and glue. The whole film grapples with the idea of paradox or duality, and it exists in nearly all of the major player characters: Two-Face for obvious reasons, Bruce coexisting with Batman, Chase’s struggle with reason and desire, Dick’s dual wish for revenge and justice. I mean, none of these ever get developed in any concrete way but hey, the sentiment was there I guess.
This pretty cerebral sentiment knits together the entirely goofy script, which is kind of like saying there’s a solid gold foundation holding up a house made out of mud. The thing is, the goofy dialogue and laughable story arcs are really, really fun. I never end up caring that the storyline is full of conveniences and doesn’t make any sense, because I’m too busy having such a good goddamn time.
Because of this, the film itself is a stumbling paradox: with its attempt cheesy humour becoming wildly nonsensical and the more serious aspects of the film becoming so laden with tropes that it speaks more to the satirical than the emotional. The weird thing is that this doesn’t massively sink it, and it works spectacularly well as an openly bizarre romp that seeks to obliterate classic comic book stereotypes by exposing how stupid they are. And yeah, that sounds pretentious and douchey, but I’m still trying to justify just how much I enjoy this every time I watch it.
Also, the amount of trivia that has stuck around in my brain about this film is shocking. Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey try to out act each other in every scene they’re in because Jones apparently hated Carrey and reportedly said, to his face, that he couldn’t “sanction [his] buffoonery.” Val Kilmer didn’t talk to the director for two weeks because he told him to stop acting childish and treating other cast members rudely. There’s a shot of one of the extras fully falling down the stairs that they just kept in for some reason. This will all haunt me forever. It’ll haunt me Batman Forever.