Batman Forever is a 1995 American superhero film directed by Joel Schumacher and produced by Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character Batman. It is the third installment of the initial Batman film series, with Val Kilmer replacing Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman. The film stars Chris O'Donnell, Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey. The plot focuses on Batman trying to stop Two-Face (Jones) and the Riddler (Carrey) in their villainous scheme to extract confidential information from all the minds in Gotham City and use it to learn Batman's identity and bring the city under their control. He gains allegiance from a love interest—psychiatrist Dr. Chase Meridian (Kidman) and a young, orphaned circus acrobat named Dick Grayson (O'Donnell), who becomes his sidekick Robin.
Batman Forever's tone is significantly different from the previous installments, becoming more family-friendly since Warner Bros. believed that the previous Batman film, Batman Returns (1992), failed to outgross its predecessor due to parent complaints about the film's violence and dark overtones. Schumacher eschewed the dark, dystopian atmosphere of Burton's films by drawing inspiration from the Batman comic book of the Dick Sprang era, as well as the 1960s television series. Keaton chose not to reprise the role due to Burton stepping down as director. William Baldwin and Ethan Hawke were initially considered for Keaton's replacement, before Kilmer joined the cast.
The film was released on June 16, 1995, receiving mixed reviews, but was a financial success. Batman Forever grossed over $336 million worldwide and became the sixth-highest-grossing film worldwide of 1995.
In Gotham City one year after the previous film, the crime fighter Batman stops a hostage situation caused by a criminal known as Two-Face, the alter ego of the former district attorney Harvey Dent, but Two-Face escapes and remains at large. Edward Nygma, a researcher at Wayne Enterprises who idolizes Bruce Wayne, has developed a device that can beam television into a person's brain. Bruce offers to let Nygma come up with schematics for the device and set up a meeting with his assistant. However, after Nygma demands an answer from him immediately, Bruce rejects the invention, believing it to be too close to mind manipulation. After killing his supervisor Fred Stickley, Nygma resigns and seeks retaliation against Bruce for rejecting his invention and begins to send him riddles. A news report reveals how Harvey Dent became Two-Face: when he was prosecuting a mob boss named Sal Maroni, Maroni threw acid on Dent's face, disfiguring half of it. Batman tried to save him, but failed. After the incident, Dent seeks to kill Batman for failing to save him. Bruce meets Chase Meridian, a psychiatrist who is obsessed with Batman, and invites her to come with him to a circus event. After a performance from the circus performers, The Flying Graysons, Two-Face arrives and threatens to blow up the circus unless Batman comes forward and surrenders his life to him. The Flying Graysons attempt to stop Two-Face, but they get killed by as a result. However, Dick Grayson, the youngest member, survives as he climbs to the roof and throws Two-Face's bomb into a river.
Bruce invites the orphaned Dick to stay at Wayne Manor. Dick, still troubled by the murder of his family, intends to kill Two-Face and avenge his family. When he discovers that Bruce is Batman, he demands that Bruce help him find Two-Face so that he can kill him, but Bruce refuses. Meanwhile, Nygma turns himself into a criminal called the Riddler and forms an alliance with Two-Face. The two steal capital in order to mass-produce Nygma's brainwave device. At Nygma's business party, Nygma discovers Bruce's alter ego using the brainwave device. Two-Face arrives and crashes the party. He nearly kills Batman, but Dick manages to save him. Meanwhile, Chase has fallen in love with Bruce, which surpasses her obsession with Batman, but she soon discovers that they are one and the same. Bruce decides to stop being Batman in order to have a normal life with Chase and to prevent Dick from murdering Two-Face. Dick angrily runs away while Bruce and Chase have dinner together in the manor. The Riddler and Two-Face arrive and attack Wayne Manor. The Riddler destroys the Batcave and kidnaps Chase, while leaving an injured Bruce another riddle.
Using the riddles, Bruce and his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, find out the Riddler's secret identity. Dick returns and becomes Batman's sidekick, Robin. Batman and Robin head to Riddler and Two-Face's lair, Claw Island, where they are separated. Robin encounters Two-Face and nearly kills him. Realizing that he does not have it in him to murder, Robin spares him. Two-Face gets the upper hand and captures Robin. Batman arrives at the lair, where Robin and Chase are held as hostages. The Riddler gives Batman a chance to save only one hostage. But instead, Batman destroys the Riddler's brainwave collecting device, causing the Riddler to suffer a mental breakdown. Batman manages to save Robin and Chase. Two-Face corners the trio and determines their fate with the flip of a coin, but Batman throws a handful of identical coins in the air, causing Two-Face to stumble and fall to his death. The Riddler is taken to Arkham Asylum and imprisoned, but he claims he knows who Batman is. Chase is asked to consult on the case, but Nygma says that he himself is Batman, due to his damaged memories. Chase meets Bruce outside and tells him that his secret is safe before leaving. Bruce resumes his crusade as Batman with Robin as his partner to protect Gotham from crime.
- Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne / Batman, After coming across the journal of his father, he starts questioning his act of vengeance. Bruce struggles with his dual identity as a crime fighter, becoming romantically involved with Dr. Chase Meridian. Michael Keaton, the actor that portrayed Batman in the first two films, was originally attached to reprise his role, but he declined after learning that Schumacher would direct the film. Keaton later recalled, "I knew it was in trouble when [Schumacher] said, ‘Why does everything have to be so dark?’"
- Chris O'Donnell as Dick Grayson / Robin, Once a circus acrobat, Dick is taken in by Bruce after Two-Face murders his parents and brother at a circus event. Bruce is reminded of when his parents were murdered when he sees the same vengeance in Dick, and decides to take him in as his ward. He eventually discovers the Batcave and learns Bruce's secret identity. In his wake, he becomes the crime fighting partner, Robin.
- Nicole Kidman as Dr. Chase Meridian, A psychologist and love interest of Bruce Wayne. Chase is fascinated by the dual nature of Batman. She is held as a damsel in distress in the climax.
- Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Dent / Two-Face, Formerly the good district attorney of Gotham City, half of Harvey's face is scarred with acid during the conviction of a crime boss. Driven insane, he becomes the criminal Harvey Two-Face obsessed with killing Batman. He flips a two-headed coin to determine if he kills (damaged side) or not (clean side). Billy Dee Williams the actor that portrayed Dent in the first film, was supposed to reprise the role, but Joel Schumacher gave the role to Jones.
- Jim Carrey as Edward Nygma / The Riddler, A former Wayne Enterprises employee, Edward resigns after his newest invention is personally rejected by Bruce Wayne, with whom he is obsessed. He becomes the villainous Riddler, leaving riddles and puzzles at crime scenes. Robin Williams was previously considered for the role, but he declined, like singer Micky Dolenz.
- Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, The Wayne family's faithful butler and Bruce's confidant. Alfred also befriends the young Dick Grayson.
- Pat Hingle as James Gordon, The police commissioner of Gotham City.
- Drew Barrymore as Sugar, Two-Face's "good" assistant.
- Debi Mazar as Spice, Two-Face's "bad" assistant.
- Elizabeth Sanders as Gossip Gerty, Gotham's top gossip columnist.
- René Auberjonois as Dr. Burton, The head Doctor of Arkham Asylum. His surname is a reference to Tim Burton, the director of the first two installments. He originally filmed a scene in which Dr. Burton discovered that Two-Face had escaped and found his guard tied up and gagged, but the scene was deleted from the film.
- Joe Grifasi as Hawkins, the Bank Guard, Two-Face's hostage during the opening scene.
- Ofer Samra as Two-Face's thug
- Ed Begley, Jr. as Fred Stickley, Edward Nygma's ill-tempered supervisor at Wayne Enterprises. After Stickley discovers the side effect of Edward's invention, Edward kills him and makes it look like suicide. Begley was uncredited for this role.
- Don "The Dragon" Wilson as the leader of the Neon Gang.
- Patrick Leahy in an uncredited cameo, This is the first of five cameo appearances in Batman films by Leahy, a United States Senator and DC Comics fan.
- En Vogue as Hookers
While the previous two films had been directed by Tim Burton, Batman Forever was directed by Joel Schumacher, who made changes to the established designs and thematics of the first two films.
The villains in the movie are the Riddler, played by Jim Carrey, and Two-Face/Harvey Dent, a role played in the original 1989 movie by Billy Dee Williams, but assumed here by Tommy Lee Jones. Also in the movie is Dr. Chase Meridian, played by Nicole Kidman.
Picking up a few years after the events of Batman Returns, this sequel follows Two-Face's alliance with the Riddler and their resulting plan to destroy Batman. It also tells the origin story of Robin, who was not seen in either of the two previous films; As in the comic books, Robin is a circus performer whose family is murdered (although, in the film, his family is killed by Two-Face, rather than an ordinary gangster) and becomes Bruce Wayne's ward and Batman's partner in crime-fighting. The Riddler, meanwhile, is portrayed as a vengeful, obsessive former engineer who once worked for Bruce Wayne.
According to an interview with Janet Scott Batchler, Tim Burton's only involvement with Batman Forever was approving Joel Schumacher as director and Lee and Janet Scott Batchler as the writers. Burton did not contribute story ideas and by the time the Batchlers signed on, Schumacher already had hired Tommy Lee Jones to play Two-Face. Since Warner Brothers wanted two villains in the movie, the Batchlers then decided to bring on the Riddler, due to the character's popularity. They wrote the role with Robin Williams in mind, but no deal was made with him. Schumacher also wanted to bring in the character of Robin and the Batchlers turned to their assistant, who grew up in the circus, for research. The character of Dr. Chase Meridian was also created as a way to challenge both sides of Batman's personality, with Nicole Kidman's name mentioned for the role in the early stages.
At the time the third Batman film went into production, it was initially going to be directed by Burton with Michael Keaton. The film was to have Bruce Wayne enlisting the assistance of an orphan by the name of Robin, in bringing down the villainous Riddler, not expecting to meet with a new love interest to complicate matters. Rumors claimed Micky Dolenz was the Riddler and that Robin Williams was offered the role, but turned it down, with a possible return of Catwoman (who survived the events of Batman Returns). Rene Russo was cast as Keaton's love interest. After initial casting with Marlon Wayans he actually signed on to portray Robin and costume tested for the film. But Warner Bros. ultimately threw out Burton after they realized the tone of the film was to be similar to Batman Returns. When Schumacher came on board as the new director, he threw out most of Burton's decisions and ideas, starting from scratch. As a result, Marlon Wayans' contract was actually paid out in full by Warner Bros. and Chris O'Donnell was cast as Robin instead. Tommy Lee Jones was then cast as Two-Face to replace Burton's choice of Billy Dee Williams, although Burton never intended on using the character in the film but had left it open as a possibility in future installments. Schumacher approached Robin Williams to play the Riddler, who after some deliberation turned down the role. Instead Schumacher cast Jim Carrey. Rene Russo was deemed too old to play Kilmer's love interest, and therefore was replaced by Nicole Kidman.
After some negotiating, Keaton left the film as he was unhappy with the script being lighter-in-tone and the absence of Tim Burton. Due to its huge success, Batman Forever was followed two years later by Batman & Robin.
Val Kilmer and Joel Schumacher clashed during filming. Schumacher described Kilmer as "childish and impossible". According to Schumacher, Kilmer refused to talk to him for two weeks. Schumacher also said that Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones had problems with each other on set. Jones was not friendly to Carrey, telling him once off-set during the production, "I hate you. I really don't like you... I cannot sanction your buffoonery".
Hit singles from the soundtrack include "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by U2 and "Kiss From a Rose" by Seal, both of which were nominated for MTV Movie Awards. "Kiss From a Rose" (whose video was also directed by Joel Schumacher) reached #1 in the U.S. charts as well.
The soundtrack itself, featuring additional songs by The Flaming Lips, Brandy (both songs also included in the film), Method Man, Nick Cave, Michael Hutchence (of INXS), PJ Harvey, and Massive Attack, was an attempt to (in producer Peter MacGregor-Scott's words) make the film more "pop". The soundtrack was hugely successful, selling almost as many copies as Prince's soundtrack to the 1989 Batman film.
In 1996, "Kiss From a Rose" won three Grammies for best male pop vocal performance, best record and best song.
A second album, featuring over 40 minutes of Elliot Goldenthal's "Original Score", was released two weeks after the soundtrack album.
Batman Forever obtained generally mixed reviews. Much of the negative reaction came from the drastic makeover of the franchise (most of it led by Joel Schumacher at the will of the Warner Bros. executives). Due to the fact that Batman Returns earned less than the original, Warner Bros. insisted the movie to be more "family friendly" to improve merchandising turnover. This included deleting over 30 minutes of footage, including Two-Face escaping from Arkham Asylum, the resolution to the Red Book subplot, and a sequence in which Bruce Wayne confronts a section of the Batcave with a giant bat. Further editing rearranged the first half of the film to start it off with an action scene. The end results reflected the third Batman movie with an overall tone that seemed to be lighter in comparison to its Burton predecessors. However, based on 54 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 43% of reviewers enjoyed the film. The film was more balanced with 14 critics in Rotten Tomatoes's "Top Critics" poll, receiving a 71% approval rating. Metacritic collected an average score of 51, based on 23 reviews.
Peter Travers criticized the movie's blatant commercialism, but commented that "Batman Forever still gets in its licks. There's no fun machine this summer that packs more surprises. The script misses the pain Tim Burton caught in a man tormented by the long-ago murder of his parents." Brian Lowry of Variety believed "One does have to question the logic behind adding nipples to the hard-rubber batsuit. Whose idea was that supposed to be anyway, Alfred's? Some of the computer-generated Gotham cityscapes appear too obviously fake. Elliot Goldenthal's score, while serviceable, also isn't as stirring as Danny Elfman's work in the first two films."
James Berardinelli enjoyed the film. "It's lighter, brighter, funnier, faster-paced, and a whole lot more colorful than before." Scott Beatty felt "Tommy Lee Jones played Harvey Dent as a Joker knock-off rather than a multi-layered rogue." Lee Bermejo called Batman Forever "unbearable". Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both gave the film mixed reviews, but with the former giving it a thumbs up and the latter a thumbs down. In his written review, Ebert wrote: "Is the movie better entertainment? Well, it's great bubblegum for the eyes. Younger children will be able to process it more easily, some kids were led bawling from Batman Returns where the PG-13 rating was a joke." Mick LaSalle had a mixed reaction, concluding "a shot of Kilmer's rubber buns at one point is guaranteed to bring squeals from the audience."
Val Kilmer as Batman
There was debate about the performance of Val Kilmer; some critics charged that Kilmer, while physically fit to play Batman, more so than his predecessor Michael Keaton had been, gave a wooden performance as Bruce Wayne. Other critics though, such as Roger Ebert, had kind words for Kilmer. Batman creator Bob Kane said in a Cinescape interview that of all the actors to have played Batman up to that point (before the series was rebooted in 2005), he felt Kilmer had given the best interpretation.
Film critic Leonard Maltin (who heavily criticized the dark tone contained in Batman Returns) complimented Kilmer's portrayal when he reviewed the film for his expanding collection of film reviews, as well as being very favorable of the film as a whole. Defenders of Batman Forever praised the movie for portraying Batman as a more heroic, less ruthless, and more human character than in the Tim Burton films. The film also brought the film interpretation of Bruce Wayne more into line with his comic book counterpart, showing him as a seasoned celebrity of the media and a very public figure rather than the neurotic recluse of the previous films.
One of the biggest complaints about the Burton films was their portrayal of Batman killing his adversaries (especially in Batman Returns) without showing much remorse. However it is interesting to note that Batman does kill Two-Face in a very similar manner to his killing of the Joker in the original Batman film despite a noticeably less cavlier attitude to killing.
Two-Face and Riddler
Others accused Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones of giving cartoonish performances as the Riddler and Two-Face (Carrey himself even stated, though non-judgmentally, that this film "didn't take itself as seriously" as the past films had.) In one scene, Two-Face repeatedly flips his coin until achieving the desired outcome; in the comics, Two-Face always adheres to results of a single coin toss when a decision must be reached. It has been hypothesized that Two-Face is treating each opportunity to kill Bruce Wayne in this scene as a separate decision requiring a separate toss.
Reactions to Carrey's performance were generally similar, though some complained that his portrayal was too over the top, and had more in common with the Joker than with the comic book version of the Riddler. In fact, after the Riddler proclaims megalomaniacally, "For if knowledge is power, then a god am I!" he pauses, then reflects, "Was that over the top? I can never tell".
Criticism of his portrayal aside, Carrey's manic performance was a large part of the film's box office success.
Gotham City and Bat-Gadgets
A prominent criticism of the film's atmosphere centers on the constant use of neon lights, black lights, and glow-in-the-dark elements, which seemingly reaches its peak with the street gang Dick Grayson fights halfway through the film.
H. R. Giger was chosen to design the Batmobile in the very early stages of production. He left due to creative differences. His designs are on his official website in illustrated and 3D Graphic Art form.
Charges of Homoeroticism
Batman Forever has been regarded by some as homoerotic, especially after Garry Willis, a conservative columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, sardonically bashed the movie's campiness and perceived homoerotic motifs ("'Batman Forever' is a Gay Old Time", Chicago Sun-Times, 1995). One source of this controversy is the introduction of nipples on the chest of the Batsuit worn during the majority of the film, as well as the humorous close-ups of Bruce Wayne while donning the Batman costume, including the close-up shots of the groin and buttocks. Similar charges would be brought up in the sequel, Batman & Robin.
Box Office Performance
The film's budget was approximately $90 – $100 million and earned $184,031,112 (including a record breaking $52.8 million opening weekend) in total domestic sales and $152.5 million worldwide (according to Box Office Mojo) surpassing the ticket takings for Tim Burton's Batman Returns, making it the most commercially successful movie of the summer of 1995 and second-best of that year (next to Toy Story). It was also the third highest grossing Batman movie as of 2005 (after the 1989 original and 2005's Batman Begins). This success came as a surprise to the filmmakers, who were constantly told by the studio that no one wanted a Batman movie and it was only going to be a moderate success.
Awards and Nominations
Batman Forever was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound
The film was first released on VHS and Laserdisc in October 1995.
Batman Forever was given a "bare bones" DVD release when the medium was introduced in 1997-1998. However, in 2005 Batman Begins release incited Warner Bros. to release a Two-Disc Special Edition set of all four Burton-Schumacher films in Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997. This included 14 of the 30 minutes of deleted scenes known to exist. The Region 2 DVD restores more than a minute of cut footage. Previous cuts included headbutts and various close ups of Two-Face. The uncut version was certified 12 by the BBFC, higher than the cut version's PG.
- Batman Forever at AllMovie
- Batman Forever at Box Office Mojo
- Batman Forever at the Internet Movie Database