Burton out. Keaton out. Score out. And apparently, Bruce Wayne, out. “Batman Forever” is where the series started to eventually fall off the fails and Joel Schumacher’s approach toward these movies are completely different and absolutely radical from what Burton originally envisioned. Burton depicted Gotham as a sprawling endless canyon of darkness and shadows while Batman was mostly polarized and closed off outcast from the world. In Schumacher’s eyes, Gotham is now a bright and neon wonderland and Schumacher’s handling of Batman and many other key characters of the mythos make “Batman Forever” in to a veritable gay burlesque show.
There’s so much more flamboyance and charisma added to the series once Schumacher grabs a hold of it. And his view of Batman seems to undercut any and all gothic sensibilities in favor of grasping on to the sheer homoeroticism of the entire premise of the character. How else does Batman’s suit go from a form fitting costume to a brighter more sexually suggestive outfit? And let’s face it, the most sexual chemistry in “Batman Forever” comes in the form of Bruce Wayne and his tumultuous relationship with young Dick Grayson. Bruce’s only love interest in the film, Dr. Chase Meridian as played by a busty and gorgeous Nicole Kidman, is mainly just a lot of run around, as Bruce Wayne’s approach toward women is chaste and noticeably teeming with evasion. The hits don’t stop there.
Riddler is transformed in to a flamboyant sexually ambiguous criminal who loves to dress in dapper outfits, while Two-Face’s entire wardrobe is painted on stripes and bright pastels. His deformed face is also bright and colorful. “Batman Forever” suffers from the same narrative problems the first two films did. Bruce Wayne and Batman are pushed in to the back in favor of two scenery chewing villains and a new sidekick, while Val Kilmer is a relatively piss poor version of Bruce opting more elegant inept metrosexual rather than a dapper playboy; his performance is also utterly lethargic. Bruce is given a paper thin storyline involved with a repressed memory about his parent’s deaths that leads nowhere, and his romance with Chase Meridian is so conservative it’s almost as if it were written for Bollywood.
For the most part, save for some passing reference to Catwoman and Superman, “Batman Forever” is a reboot and manages to portray every bit of the Batman mythos with a new light and spectrum paired with Schumacher’s own sensibilities. Schumacher turns the entire Gotham underground in to a rave where criminals dress up in bright and colorful costumes, fight with glowing batons, and hide out in neon colored alleyways painted with glow in the dark graffiti. The plot for the Riddler and Two-Face is ultimately convoluted and nonsensical and the battle in the end wreaks of pure camp with a script that, once again, can never be sure if it wants to play the story dramatically or comically.
Jim Carrey is just Jim Carrey playing the Riddler, and Tommy Lee Jones is at an all time low. In the end though, “Batman Forever” works as an agenda for both the studio and Schumacher. He gets to inject his own ideas about Batman as a metaphor for a man hopelessly struggling with his sexuality, while Warner get’s a PG Batman sans the ultra violence and intense sexuality. Batman is transformed in to Flesh Gordon with a phallic bat mobile, Bat nipples and sexual chemistry with his young ward while Schumacher delivers a follow up to “Batman Returns” that manages to be over the top and dull at the same time. Sadly, it just kept getting worse for the dark knight.