Batman Forever is quite a different sort of movie to its two forerunners, Batman and Batman Returns. If you come to it expecting "more of the same", you'll be surprised and probably disappointed. However, approach it as you would any other super hero movie and you'll surely agree it at least provides some simple, high-octane relief.

The major change in direction for the series is mainly a consequence of switching directors. The first two films were directed with the style and sinister interpretation of Tim Burton, but Batman Forever instead has as its director one Joel Schumacher. Schumacher dispenses with the dark side of Batman's adventures, instead concentrating on the action and psycopathic characters that populate the comic book. This is undeniably dumbing down, but at least it's somewhat closer to the DC license.

The classic Batman Michael Keaton is also replaced, by Val Kilmer, who turns in a suitable performance if not Oscar-winning. There is also the first appearance of Robin, played by Chris O'Donnell, who uses his gymnastic circus skills to slip into the Batcave and ends up working alongside Wayne. Robin doesn't have the largest of roles, but it sets him up nicely for Batman and Robin (1997), incidentally the film that really did kill the series.

Since this was probably the highest-budget film Schumacher had yet directed, it is at least understandable that he employed so much big-name talent; Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, Jim Carrey as The Riddler and Nicole Kidman as the tiresome piece of skirt on Bruce Wayne's arm. Kidman plays Dr. Chase Meridian, who Master Villain assures me was a fairly minor character from the comic - the film has been good to her, as she plays a psychologist and has at least a few good scenes.

The plot is standard action movie fare - Robin's parents are killed by Two-Face, Two-Face meets up with The Riddler and after initial tension they form an alliance etc. etc. I imagine this formulaic element is what puts so many people off this movie, especially given the slightly more dramatic creations of Burton's films. However, this film is just a bit of fun; The Riddler is consuming people's brains through the television set, and so on out. I won't spoil the ending but, well, it doesn't take a genius to guess it.

It's unfair to blame the simplistic nature of the film entirely on Schumacher's shoulders. For a start, Burton by no means cut all ties to the series, as Batman Forever is produced by him. In a sense, it is Burton's fault that the movie-going public had such high expectations of the films of Bob Kane's creation. Watch it for what it is - an action movie.

Main Credits

Director     Joel Schumacher
Producers    Tim Burton and Peter MacGregor-Scott
Batman       Val Kilmer
Robin        Chris O'Donnell
Dr. Meridian Nicole Kidman
Two-Face     Tommy Lee Jones
The Riddler  Jim Carrey
Screenplay   Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, Akiva Goldsman
Music        Elliot Goldenthal

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