Saturday, May 12, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Batman Forever (1995) *½

PG-13, 121 min.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writers: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, Akiva Goldsman, Bob Kane (characters)
Starring: Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar

I remember going to see “Batman Forever” in the theater with one of my best friends. We had seen the original “Batman” together, and it was still a pinnacle in cinema to us. I was also still of the mind that “Batman Returns” was even better. Nothing had prepared us for the disappointment that was to be “Batman Forever”.

Going in, I didn’t like the fact that Batman had been recast, but Val Kilmer was a great actor and had made “The Doors” an amazing experience for my friend and me as well. I wasn’t a fan of Chris O’Donnell and he seemed a bit old to be recreating the role of Robin, but I had faith that Warner Bros. and producer Tim Burton knew what they were doing with the franchise.

I hadn’t really paid much attention to director Joel Schumacher’s career at that point. I knew he’d directed “The Lost Boys” and “Flatliners” and one of those Grisham movies. I didn’t really think much about his work. How could anyone have known how horribly wrong his vision of the Batman franchise could be? The only thing that makes sense to me in considering where he went with the series is that he was a big fan of the late 60s television series.

He certainly didn’t take comic books seriously if this is how he saw them on the big screen. With his neon lighted production design, his perverted obsession with Batman’s butt (and in the next film nipples), and absolutely no sense of the severity of Batman and his world, Schumacher single handed destroyed something that had started out good and had the potential to be so much more. Luckily, Warner Bros. handed the rebooting to someone who understood the essence of Batman in current Batman director Christopher Nolan.

I did like Jim Carrey in the role of the Riddler, however. It seems that Carrey’s involvement in this movie marked when his popularity bubble first started to show some cracks, but his over the top performance really prevented the movie from crumbling into the pit of hell its follow up would.

My friend and I shuffled our way out of that theater to my car in the parking lot like we had just survived a severely traumatic event in our lives. Neither of us spoke about the shattering of our dreams, but we could both feel the other’s pain. The one consolation was that it had a pretty good soundtrack album. Playing the songs on the way home helped to start the healing process. Unfortunately, two summers later, Schumacher would return to tear the scab back off again. 

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