By Matt Fleming and Jarrod Jones. This is the ANTI-MONITOR podcast, where caffeine’ll KILL ya. This week, Jarrod and Birdy have summer blockbusters on their minds, so they ventured back to 1995 to view arguably one of the biggest phenomenons to ever grace the multiplexes, Joel Schumacher’s ‘Batman Forever’. But first, since they were going to spend an hour talking about Batman anyway, the Boys throw in a few more unqualified opinions on DC Films’ upcoming supervillain jamboree, ‘Suicide Squad’.
As always, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please enjoy.
ANTI-MONITOR: MATT — Nobody was particularly thrilled when Tim Burton and Michael Keaton left Warner Bros.’ Batman franchise in the mid-Nineties, but the
money show must go on. It was The Client‘s Joel Schumacher who got the call, and while everyone can agree that Batman & Robin is definitely the lowpoint of the series, the oft-neglected Batman Forever managed to infuse the franchise with some well-needed levity. While it’s no Dark Knight — or even Batman Returns for that matter — Forever remains a heck of a lot of fun.
In spite of the poor performance delivered by then-new Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer in a turtleneck), this Batman comes equipped with a new partner and a feisty new love interest in Nicole Kidman, as well as a car that can drive up walls. Most notably, peak-era Jim Carrey injects enough energy into this schlock-fest to keep everyone (especially Tommy Lee Jones) on their toes, and Schumacher’s knack for flashy colors makes Gotham City a little less depressing. If you enjoyed Batman ‘66, there’s no reason not to have fun with Forever.
ANTI-MONITOR: JARROD — Say what you want about Tim Burton’s interpretation of Batman, Joel Schumacher aimed for financial success with Batman Forever and nailed it. Thirteen years before The Dark Knight blew the Batman franchise’s box office braggadocio out of the water, Forever became the second highest grossing film to feature the Dark Knight, surpassing the tonally malignant Batman Returns while putting the Caped Crusader back in good graces with merchandising agencies the world over.
Val Kilmer might be the most inconsequential Batman to ever grace the silver screen, though Schumacher counteracts his black hole performance with plenty of subtext (Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson) and innuendo (Bruce and Batman’s dalliances with Nicole Kidman’s rather assertive Dr. Chase Meridian). It’s Jim Carrey who makes it out of Forever entirely in one piece in a performance that set a precarious new bar for future supervillains in the franchise, though no one would ever be able to clear it. (Even his co-star and co-conspirator, Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face, is forced to take a backseat to Carrey’s buffoonery.)
With askew camera angles and undulating horns meant to recall the ’66 Batman TV series, Batman Forever asked audiences put out by Burton’s psychosexual Returns to come back to a franchise that was only too willing to change. But was Forever a cultural success? Considering that it was but the prelude to the full implosion of Warner Bros’ prime cash cow (with 1997’s Batman & Robin), and that we’re still feeling the effects of Christopher Nolan’s full tonal reversal (with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), I’m inclined to say no. But in 1995, Batman Forever was the biggest blockbuster multiplexes could handle, and that’s not for nothing.
CONSENSUS: Yes, it’s nowhere near as dark as those Burton movies, and that’s precisely the point. Batman Forever is silly, brightly colored entertainment, a trifle meant to offer us escape. And a humdinger of a soundtrack. — 5.5 out of 10
Before: “’X-MEN: THE LAST STAND’ Is An Act Of Flagrant False Advertising”, here.
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