Not This Forever, Please
It figures this is the Batman to deal with morality in vigilantism. Bruce Wayne warns sidekick Robin about what it means to take a life in revenge, a reflecting point after Batman and Batman Returns saw Wayne produce a number of corpses. That dynamic of Wayne trying to avoid creating another of himself deserves credit. More so considering the prior two movies hardly treated Wayne as an actual human.
But this is Batman Forever. Yes, the one with derided nipples on the Batsuit, but that’s hardly the major offense. This is a movie that puts neon strip lighting on Tommy Guns. There’s an alley brawl under black lights. It’s the one with a nauseating, twisting camera. At the worst, Batman Forever has Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones.
While still hooked on darkness, there’s more color in this fourth entry. That explains the lights. Batman Forever drives itself into a rut, halfway between Burton’s surrealism and the Warner executives who wanted camp outrageousness indicative of Adam West. That’s what Carrey and Jones play to. Together, the pair’s ambition is to be obnoxious and loud. The script that lets them loose is derogatory to the uniqueness of say, DeVito’s eccentric Penguin.
Batman Forever is an uncomfortable nightmare
Batman Forever is an uncomfortable nightmare
Whatever the ‘89 film did to progress public perception of comics, Batman Forever seems determined to undo. It’s farcical, a noxious pulp fantasy that sees Riddler (Carrey) latching on to Gotham’s TV addiction to feed his own mind. It’s the right origin – Riddler spawns when his self-ascribed genius is demeaned by Bruce Wayne. When placed in the “everything goes extreme” mid-90s zeitgeist, soon Batman Forever is an uncomfortable nightmare willing to mock and thread mental illness through a grinder of cinema tropes. Jones’ pitiful Two-Face and Riddler set this series back a decade.
Nicole Kidman drops in for a farcical romance, bouncing between Wayne and Batman. Kilmer’s undervalued; he’s fine as both, merely sandwiched by the overwhelming volume of this dud. His interpretation deals with the familiar backstory, stitching together childhood trauma while still trying to mature in how he deals with people. That’s Batman Forever at its interesting high point; it’s also around 10-minutes of the runtime.
The rest is preposterous and phony. Burton’s production team built a genuine, otherworldly place. With Schumacher at the helm, Gotham looks haphazard and busy. Nothing seems to serve a purpose, decorative or otherwise – things fill the frame at odd angles, while sketchy digital composites try putting pieces together. Then the finale, with Robin tussling with Two-Face on an obvious backlit soundstage, with Batman dueling with Riddler on an equally abstract interior. There’s no grace. It’s a chunky knock-off, uncertain of its identity.
Ditching the heavy color timing, Batman Forever is happy to splash the screen with color. Gotham looks like a sci-fi city, a less moody Blade Runner, where neon lights in various configurations stretch down city streets. Their color proves dazzling. There’s a lot of that in this movie. Riddler green and Two-Face red fill the frame to excess, but stand-out against the still shadowy aesthetic.
HDR only helps. The lights of the new Batmobile shimmer and glow. Riddler’s invention sends beams at people and the city, bold against the deepened backing. Plentiful explosions reach hearty peaks. With black level stability, image density jumps two-fold over prior home video releases. Black is pure black and never anything less.
Excuse a handful of digital effect scenes. Those exhibit notably lower resolution. Batman Forever finds plentiful detail, richly textured and high-resolution. Images from Riddler’s apartment bring out the production design of the messy set, resolving objects and small touches. Make-up work stands out for its intricacies, with the same for suits. The Riddler leotard is rich in texture, down to stitching.
This Atmos mix is not shy about bass. Opening credits pan by as if trains, and soon Batmobile engines drop into the low-end with incredible weight. A wrecking ball sounds as forceful as a wrecking ball should. Dynamic range is the best element of this disc, movie or otherwise.
Batman Forever is a positional showman too. Activity rarely stops, from circus ambiance to street crowds. Batman zips around, helicopters pass, and bullets ricochet. Debris flies around too. Rarely is the mix cautious, but it’s vibrant and consistent.
Joel Schumacher heads into the booth for a commentary. You can listen along on the UHD or Blu-ray. The rest comes on the included Blu.
An amusing EPK from 1995 (with Chris O’Donnell hosting) runs 23-minutes. Shadows of the Bat looks back on this production with a generally honest eye. This is the one to watch at 28-minutes. Two sections hone in on the cast, one for heroes and one for villains. It’s brief fluff no matter which you choose. The real meat comes in Beyond Batman, running an hour total in five parts. These detail effects, make-up, and scoring. A stack of deleted scenes (including an unfinished alternate opening) run 13-minutes. A music vid and trailers come up last.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
A confused, messy, and dorky sequel, Batman Forever destroys all credibility earned from the Tim Burton-directed efforts.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 46 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: