The cast is great, but only held back by a subpar script (written by Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, and Akiva Goldsman), a slight lack of focus on the overall trajectory, and a touch of misguided self-aggrandizement—which shouldn’t all be blamed on Schumacher. Although his slow-moving pace doesn’t help.
Kilmer is a good actor and a great Batman. Where Keaton gave us some natural quirks when he acted as Bruce Wayne, his masked alter ego lacked a certain charm. Kilmer has more character while wearing the bat suit. He doesn’t treat Batman and Wayne as two completely separate entities, but creates an overlap with their identities and gives his masked side an actual personality. You see Wayne in Batman and you see Batman in Wayne—and this is done probably better than any Batman before or since. And this overlap only helps to juxtapose the completely separate personalities of his two villains.
Jim Carrey was brought on board during the height of his career. Coming off of a spectacular year in 1994, Carrey responds with Batman Forever, and, despite your opinion on the film itself, easily makes it more watchable. Kilmer is a great Batman, but Batman is nothing without his villains. Jones does a solid job, but he wouldn’t have carried this movie alone. Carrey gives us plenty of amazing one-liners, many of which are definitely ad-libbed, and shows us how effective he is as a villain. He’s undoubtedly the selling point here.
However, the filmmakers don’t quite utilize this character’s hook well enough throughout the movie. Riddler is constantly throwing riddles at Batman, but this element is used only tangentially as part of the story. It would have been nice to get a sense of mystery revolving around these riddles to string along the plot.
The movie doesn’t deprive us of character, yet there’s somehow still a blandness to the story. However, there are flashes when Schumacher and his team of writers throw in some cool and interesting turn-of-events when it counts.
Batman Forever is less dark, but definitely just as stylized as Burton’s versions. The world created has a definite appeal, but we’re constantly suffocated by constricting shots and a lack of exploration of its universe. We don’t get immersed in these tasty sets as much as we would like to. And then gadgetry usage isn’t clear or creative enough either. During the action scenes, it’s often difficult to figure out what’s even happening.
The studio’s spirit behind the project may have been skewed from the start, as they desired for the film to have more merchandising appeal than the previous two, putting the cart before the horse as they say—not really what you want to be thinking about first and foremost. Their commercial ideals seemed to contrast greatly with Schumacher’s creative vision, even though he’s the one who gets the bad wrap.
While not a better film than Batman Returns, Batman Forever definitely feels more like a Batman movie—at least more like some of the comics and even the ’60s TV series. There’s a certain type of humor here that had been lacking in the two Burton installments. Schumacher combines old school campiness with the darker tone of “new era” Batman. The jokes are more tongue-in-cheek, with a priority on a more accessible type of humor rather than the dark comedy stylings of Burton.
Let’s take a moment to reconsider Batman Forever’s bad reputation and realize that even despite its rocky foundation, Schumacher and company manage to crank out an above-average movie, if not a solidly entertaining one, with much owed to the pieces that make up the production as a whole.