Batman Forever

Batman Forever ★★★★

The Riddler: Joygasm!

Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, how poorly history has served your legacy. Where Burton brought Bats into the depths of darkness, Schumacher carved out an idiosyncratic neon-noir interpretation of the Caped Crusader, offering a cinematic experience that is as meticulously well-crafted as Burton’s, as camp and whimsical as the Adam West series of the 60s, and as simultaneously separate to and steeped in the culture and lore of Gotham city as each new comic book series that redefines Bruce Wayne’s world.

Utilising madcap matte paintings, stupendous special effects, and possessing as it does the visionary lensing of Schumacher, whose boldness and brashness is only outweighed by his directorial conviction, this third major reinvention of Batman on the big screen marks a beast burdened with possession of a surrealistic sensibility that has evidently been pitted against studio reservations. For every attempt to bring in philosophic enquiries into man’s innate dualism and the self-immolating nature of revenge, there’s a seedier, more (sadly) mass-appealing need to give the men of the film a woman to wear on their arm and give the woman little else to do than look grateful to be there. Thankfully, with a female lead as charismatic, graceful, beautiful, and beguiling as Nicole Kidman, who bends the bars on the creative cage surrounding the characterisation of Dr. Chase Meridian, a less condemning result is wrought from the otherwise often overpoweringly male-centric film.

Val Kilmer is a far better Bruce Wayne than a Batman, but has the look for the Dark Knight and the almost cold but ultimately cool charisma to carry off Bruce Wayne’s insular character. The film’s three screenwriters collectively managed to produce, amidst the carnival of comic delights, a sincerely touching examination of how Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma continually defines and haunts his adult self and way of life. Repping the villains on the other hand, Jim Carrey is bang on the money with the madness he inflects his Edward Nygma with, whilst Tommy Lee Jones’ undeniable smarminess is given a purpose in his role as the two-bit thug Two-Face. Though infamously Jones and Carrey got on like a house that was very literally on fire, on screen the pair make a joyously campy and ridiculously pantomimic pair of foils for Bats.

Boasting sumptuous, singularly stunning production design, a tongue-in-cheek reverence for the inherent silliness of the Batman roster of villains, and more one-liners and quirks than you could shake a Batarang at, Batman Forever is an overwhelmingly entertaining take on DC Comics’ greatest creation. Though many see its garish aesthetics and grandiose performances as a mega-budget car crash, I’d be tempted to say that the naysayers are framing it wrong. It’s not the car crash that Batman Forever provides, it’s the explosion, and to my mind, that shit is pretty damn hot.

Rest in Peace Joel Schumacher, your mind was unlike any other and your worlds are destined to secure your immortality 🦇💚

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