With wooden acting, nonsensical dialogue and scenery that combines every ugly hue of neon light imaginable, “Batman Forever” isn’t so much a movie as an overglorified cosplay session at your local Hot Topic. Joel Schumacher covercompensated for his lack of directorial vision by adding cinematic elements that seem “creative” or “quirky.” But even with Schumacher’s misplaced artistry, this Batman doesn’t have a leg to stand on, a soulless film whose only redeeming characteristic is that Ace Ventura is in it.
Of course, every “Batman” movie is judged first and foremost by who is tailoring up Caped Crusader’s spandex slacks. This time its Val Kilmer, a solid actor who up until this point had shown off a pretty remarkable range in movies like “Real Genius,” “Top Gun” and “Tombstone.” His take on Batman is slightly more moody and mysterious than his predecessor, Michael Keaton. While Keaton’s “Batman” was never afraid to be himself even under the mask, Kilmer is always standing off in a distance, beckoning us to solve the puzzle of who he may be.
As the film progresses, we find out that this mystery isn’t worth solving, as Kilmer’s performance grows more wooden and emotionless. Even when he is supposed to be showing moments of anger or sorrow, its like some PA off-screen is trying to nudge the actor to remind him how humans typically act in such scenarios. Seeing how Kilmer is a splendid performer, I’m betting Schumacher told him to be a more moody Batman, resulting in his stiffness.
Funnily enough, Kilmer is still the second best actor of the whole film! Nicole Kidman is a travesty as Chase, a seemingly juvenile, low cut-shirt-wearing psychologist who puts feminism a step backwards with every step she takes into Batman’s arms. Tommy Lee Jones is a travesty as two-face, so zany and farcical that he feels like a rejected comic character from some Batman fan fiction. And Chris O’Donnell doesn’t sell the emotional delivery that usually comes when one loses single person in their family in some freak circus accident.
Jim Carrey, though, is great as Edward Nygma ,aka The Riddler. His character is ridiculous and non-sensical, developing very loose, unbelievable motivations to go against Batman. Still he earns his place among his comic book peers for just being his good ole 90s Jim Carrey self. I think the storytelling powers at Warner Bros saw Carrey’s rise as a comedic actor and crafted this entire movie just so he could star as The Riddler.
Even taking into account Carrey’s antics, there’s no joy in this movie, a migraine of a movie with no storytelling or character momentum. Gotham doesn’t feel so much like a city as an infinite labyrinth of towering skyscrapers, a place where nobody actually lives except for Batman, his villains, the police, and some local thugs. Watching Kilmer dive from the top of buildings is literally nauseating. Like this movie, its a pure, visual representation of motion sickness, a constant blur in our sight that we wish would go fade away into the night.