Batman Forever is a puzzling riddle wrapped in a schlocky superhero enigma. Burton has moved on, only labelling himself as a producer. The continuity has been reset. Keaton is no longer "The Bat". There was only one director that could transform a successfully tragic tone into a camp reminiscence of West's 60s era. Joel Schumacher. An amateur that I strongly dislike, mainly due to his poor directorial efforts, who would send this franchise down the path of recklessness. Thanks Joel! Batman is tasked in stopping the crazed genius Edward Nygma from extrapolating brainwaves from individuals who purchased his new television technology, becoming the "smartest carbon life form in Gotham". Meanwhile, Two-Face wants to kill Batman, so nothing new there.
Now, given that Schumacher smacked his hands all over this instalment, I was expecting the very worst. I'm talking 'Batman & Robin' level of idiocy. Much to my surprise, the characters and screenplay were much more tolerable in this chapter. However do not mistake my unexpected shock as optimism, for this is still a bad film in many ways. I have no quarrels with the overall story. Its goofiness and absence of thematic purpose harks back to the early comic books where Batman would just simply stop the villain from taking over the world. There is a slight commentary on the increased usage of televisions and how susceptible audiences are, but this is merely an inadvertent afterthought.
Where I do take issue is how the story is executed. Schumacher is unable to balance all of the characters into one cohesive film. The Riddler and Two-Face are developed enough, with their partnership coming from a mutual agreement. Conversely, Batman and his new found Robin were not developed at all. The chemistry was non-existent and whenever the story is focused on Dick's stupid shenanigans, the pace comes to a halt. It's never interesting.
There were also a few miscellaneous scenes that made me exclaim how dumb the screenplay was. Riddle me this, Batman. How is it that you couldn't work out who was sending you all those riddles until the very last minute, yet the excessive use of green matched the sudden rise of Nygmatech? I mean, I'm no detective, but it was painfully obvious. A simple revelation, yet badly executed.
Not as bad as some the performances though. Kidman acting as Batman's love interest and O'Donnell as his sidekick were excruciatingly horrendous, with the former having no expressive emotions and the latter just unable to act. Kilmer as the titular superhero has the unfortunate outcome of being half decent. As Batman, his physical prowess within the bulky suit was pretty decent. As Bruce Wayne? Yikes! Terrible in every sense. Again, emotionless right from the start, even with his line delivery. Jones as Two-Face was infectiously enjoyable, just nice to see him not play the typical grumpy sheriff. Carrey provides much of the film's memorability and laughs as The Riddler. However, his portrayal of this villain was ridiculously goofy, and unfortunately all I saw was Jim Carrey instead of The Riddler. Should've been more restrained and less exhausting. Although seeing him in a tight sparkly leotard with pink hair was a sight to behold!
Schumacher's direction is something of an enigma itself. I shan't list all of the issues, otherwise we would be here all day. It's worth mentioning how many angled shots there were. Directors who excessively use this technique, usually don't know what they are doing and attempt to masquerade their downfalls with "artsy" Dutch angles. In actual fact, it's nauseating and loses the grand aesthetic appeal from the production design. I mean, Gotham looks absolutely fantastic. But you have to tilt your head constantly to truly take it all in. Be warned, you may get neck pains. The final showdown was a letdown and the stakes weren't really boiling, only just simmering.
Batman Forever may not be the "punny" mess that its sequel would become, but you can clearly see the substantial downward step from previous instalments. It's camp, goofy and enjoyably bad. Yet it is just that, bad. A conundrum that not even The Riddler could solve.