THIS BATMAN’S FOREVER
Film stands up, David Betancourt writes. You just need to know where to look.
A quarter-century later, one battruth remains: There will never be a Batman movie quite like Batman Forever.
Director Joel Schumacher’s name has become synonymous with two ’90s Batman movies, especially 1997’s absolutely dreadful Batman & Robin, which arrived eight years before Christopher Nolan resurrected the bat-movie brand with his iconic Dark Knight trilogy.
Did Schumacher bring about bat-doom at the big screen in part because he thought George Clooney pulling a credit card out of his utility belt would look great in Batman & Robin? Yes.
But don’t forget, there would be no Batman & Robin if Batman Forever didn’t somehow manage to not destroy the comic-book movie space-time continuum. And while no one is asking for the Schumacher cut of either of his bat-movies, 1995’s Forever was good enough for Warner
Bros. to give him one more trip to Gotham City.
Forever, which turns 25 this month and streams on HBO
Max through July 1, wasn’t the end of that first run of Batman flicks. It was the beginning of the end. And there is still light at the dawn of the bat-pocalypse that is Batman movie numero tres. I know this because despite worshipping at the altar of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, I can sit through a viewing of Batman Forever and still manage to smile just as many times as I did when I saw it as a teen.
There are countless reasons not to like this movie. A blond Dark Knight (Val Kilmer)? Blasphemy. The geek radar goes off almost immediately. Kilmer’s Batman was fine, his Bruce Wayne better, but unless it’s Jean-paul Valley under the cowl, Batman shouldn’t be blond. You’d have to really be into the Batman comics of the ’90s to even know who that is.
It’s the little things that bring you back to Forever. Like the bat-boat. Blown to smithereens before the paint got scratched. Gone too soon.
A Batman movie that feels like the Adam West version with a performance enhancer? Forever is that movie.
The awkward elephant in the room is Forever taking place in a remixed Burton/batman universe. There’s the late Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon) and the late Michael Gough (Alfred Pennyworth) reprising their roles from Burton’s first two Batman movies. Nicole Kidman’s Chase Meridian even mentions
“skin-tight vinyl and a whip” in reference to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, who appeared in Batman Returns.
A hint of the DC Extended Universe? It happened in Batman Forever when Kilmer’s Wayne tells a newly orphaned Dick Grayson (Chris O’donnell) that the circus he grew up in must be halfway to Metropolis. Superman’s Metropolis? In a Batman movie? One could only dream back then. Although that connecting DC superhero movie thing is still very much a work in progress.
The Washington Post