"Remembered Forever" - A BATMAN FOREVER Retrospective Author: Nick Perkins (Follow @WESTERNREBEL)
Date: June 26, 2015
It was the summer of 1995. A little boy sat in the darkness of his local theater. He had a Pepsi in his lap and a box of Zours in his hands (and he will forever resent said local theater for discontinuing that delicious movie treat). More than likely, this wasn’t the first movie he had ever seen in a theater, but it is the one that now, 20 years later, he remembers the most distinctly.
The lights dimmed, the previews started and the little boy smiled lovingly at his mother, who had brought him here to bear witness to his hero.
The boy wasn’t yet two years old when Bat-Mania took over the country in the summer of 1989. Obviously his parents weren’t going to take him to the movies to see a scary man in a bat costume fight an equally scary man dressed as a clown (this would not save him from developing an extreme case of coulrophobia later in life). Likewise, three years later, they were not going to take him to see a sexy cat and a penguin-monster-thing (this would not save him from developing an extreme fear of Danny DeVito later in life). But now, in 1995 his mother assumed that he was old enough to see Elvis and the kid from SCENT OF A WOMN fight Lloyd Christmas and the guy who finds fugitives. This was coupled with the fact that both of this boy’s parents knew how much he loved The Batman.
Birthdays and Christmases were devoted to The Dark Knight. This boy’s parents probably single-handedly kept Kenner’s Toy Line in business. The kid loved Batman and now, for the first time, he got to see his hero on the big screen.
Two hours later the boy and his mother emerged from the theater. He was zipping past other patrons, bouncing off walls, going back and forth between being Batman to saying “riddle me this, riddle me that.” He had just seen BATMAN FOREVER, and for his money, this was the best Batman movie he had ever seen.
Twenty years later….not so much. That little boy grew up, but his love for The Batman never died. He has seen every single Batman movie ever made and he loves them all (yes, he even has a glimmer of nostalgia for “It Which Shall Not Be Named” [BATMAN AND ROBIN]). BATMAN FOREVER, was the first Batman movie he had ever seen, but what was its legacy?
(How was that for an introduction? Nailed itttt).
Every other Batman film has a legacy. BATMAN ’89 was THE Batman movie for the longest time. It’s the film that ushered in what most of us expect a Batman film to be; dark, moody, and most of all, serious. It erased memories of Adam West’s paunchy midsection and Burt Ward’s chicken legs and…um…protruding package. BATMAN ’89 is the granddaddy of Summer Blockbusters, with all due respect to JAWS. Unfortunately for Spielberg’s masterpiece, Batman had a certain shark repellant in his utility belt.
BATMAN RETURNS is the “Gothic Fairytale” that transformed a fat bureaucratic mobster into a fish/nose gobbling monster. RETURNS was very much “Tim Burton’s Batman,” and that will forever remain its legacy.
The less said about BATMAN AND ROBIN, the better. That’s its legacy.
And then we have Chris Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy.” BATMAN BEGINS ushered in a new generation of Bat-Mania and it changed the way superhero movies are perceived. If BATMAN ’89 was the granddaddy of Summer Superhero Blockbusters, BATMAN BEGINS is the rich grandson that was the only member of the family to go to college, attend grad school, get a Master’s Degree, and only show up to one family function a year but it always brings awesome presents so it’s still the favorite in the family.
(To further belabor the point, BATMAN AND ROBIN is Cousin Eddie).
THE DARK KNIGHT is absolutely the greatest superhero movie of all time and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is the only Batman story in existence to give Bruce Wayne a happy ending.
Now, we are entering the dawn of a new era (pun fully intended) in regards to The Bat; one that will absolutely forge its own legacy in the years to come.
So, where does that leave BATMAN FOREVER? What is this film’s legacy?
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve seen BATMAN FOREVER. If you haven’t, you can read our fearless leader’s review of the film HERE. The gist of it is: new director, new Batman, new bad guys, new love interest and Robin.
The thing about this film is that it isn’t a bad flick by any means. It’s just not a good one. It’s just…there. It’s the middle child that could maybe be cute as soon as it rids itself of the neon headgear and gets boobs. BATMAN FOREVER is severely underdeveloped.
There are good things and bad about the Jan Brady of the Batman franchise.
Val Kilmer is a much better Bruce Wayne than Michael Keaton ever was.
As apathetic as people are in regards to Robin, Chris O’Donnell’s portrayal of him in this film is pretty good, as long as you accept the fact that instead of adopting an 11 year old, Bruce adopts an 18-year-old.
Batman actually uses his detective skills AND a lot more “Bat-gadgets” than in the previous two films.
As Jett has stated, Batman seems to be a lot more “heroic” in this movie. He actually saves people, instead of, say, setting them on fire or trying to f*ck them.
Jim Carrey, as The Riddler was the highlight of this film for me. He was very much “The Riddler as performed by Jim Carrey,” but I think that works to the character’s advantage. I’ve never really cared that much about E. Nygma, so I would much rather prefer a neurotic, flamboyant misunderstood genius than a pretentious, pedantic d*ckhead as he is usually portrayed.
My favorite part of this film is also the most disheartening. This flick actually delves into the psyche of Bruce Wayne, albeit in the aforementioned underdeveloped way. As the story goes, many scenes exploring Bruce’s backstory were left on the proverbial cutting room floor. There was a good idea there, it was just severely flattened by that ever-oppressive sports bra that is called “studio involvement.”
Batman’s first line in BATMAN ’89 was, “I’m Batman.” Batman’s first line in BATMAN FOREVER was, “I’ll get drive-thru.” Need I say more? Yes, I do.
Two-Face wants to be the love-child of The Joker and The Riddler, but the Academy Award-winning Tommy Lee Jones simply doesn’t have the acting chops to pull it off. Weird huh? It doesn’t help that this version of Two-Face is like, the polar opposite of what makes the character so great. Harvey Dent has perhaps the most tragic backstory in all of Batman lore, save The Dark Knight himself.
Harvey Dent was the district attorney of Gotham. He was one of the good guys. He had a fiancé, a great job, and the moral fortitude to help clean up Gotham and he didn’t need a mask and a cool car to do it. He was Gotham’s “White Knight,” if I may (thank you very much). Then, tragically, Sal Maroni threw acid at him in the middle of a trial, severely disfiguring half of his face and all of his mind. Suddenly, Harvey Dent found himself to be exactly like the ones he worked so hard to put away. In the comics, THE DARK KNIGHT and BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, Two-Face was a Modern Greek tragedy who could only differentiate right from wrong by the flip of a coin. In BATMAN FOREVER, Two-Face was a cackling buffoon who flipped his coin until he got the desired result, which totally undermines the entire basis of the character.
Batman still wanting to f*ck hot blondes.
Batman wanting to quit so he could still f*ck the hot blonde, except now he won’t have to wear the mask every time (incidentally, it’s forever been my dream to have sex with my girlfriend whilst wearing my Batman mask).
Lack of a “Master Plan.” In BATMAN ’89, The Joker wants to kill everyone. In BATMAN RETURNS, The Penguin wants to kill all of the children because he has mommy and daddy issues. In BATMAN FOREVER, uhm, I guess Two-Face wants to kill Batman ‘cause he’s Batman and The Riddler wants to read people’s minds but doesn’t have the cool accent like Miss Cleo(who will probably end up spending more time locked up anyway).
So all of that being said, BATMAN FOREVER really is a middle of the road kinda film. It’s not bad, it’s not good. It’s…there. So what is the legacy of BATMAN FOREVER, at least for me? Well…
In 1995, a little boy emerged from a movie theater with the excitement and wonderment that only a little boy who just saw Batman can have. He just saw Batman and Robin beat up two bad guys and he lost himself in the streets of Gotham for just over two hours. He saw his hero on the big screen for the very first time, but there was something more. He didn’t know it then, but he does now.
BATMAN ’89 and BATMAN RETURNS will always be my favorite Batman movies. Michael Keaton will always be “My Batman.” “The Dark Knight Trilogy” will remain, for the time being, the best Batman movies ever made. But for that little boy, BATMAN FOREVER may very well be the most important, most special Batman movie he has ever seen.
In 1995, a mother took her son to see Batman, because she knew how much Batman meant to him. As far as he can remember, that was the only movie that just he and his mom went to. 11 years later, his mom died, and from that moment on, he clung to every single happy memory he had of her and their time together. Seeing that film with her remains at the top of his list.
I can’t speak for the overall legacy of BATMAN FOREVER. But what I do know is that I got to see my favorite superhero while sitting next to my favorite real hero. BATMAN FOREVER gave me a day that I will always hold close to my heart. And I will remember that day…you guessed it…Forever. - Nick Perkins
Nick Perkins is a lifelong Batman fan that has written for numerous companies and publications including MTV, WhatCulture.com, KissCasper.com and more.
He was the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, yet somehow still remained a virgin until he was 22.
He enjoys Batman, professional wrestling, Pepsi and watching himself attempt to make his pecks bounce, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend whom he promised he would take out on a date that night.
He can be reached via twitter at @WESTERNREBEL. He is also available on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Myspace, Friendster, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger and via carrier pigeon.