Joel Schumacher once commented he was first credited with saving the Batman franchise (with Batman Forever), then destroying it (with Batman & Robin). I think I’d watched his second venture (or tried to watch it) more recently than I had seen Forever… anyway, it isn’t like Schumacher made one good one and one bad one. He made two bad ones and the second one just happened to be worse, but Batman Forever is atrocious in its own right. When Drew Barrymore gives a film’s best performance, it’s trouble.
The problems with the film are a list of its cast (with the except of Barrymore, Val Kilmer–who isn’t good but isn’t bad either, it’s not like he could do anything with the role–and maybe Alfred Gough), its crew (whoever did the composites should be blacklisted and Elliot Goldenthal’s score is an offense to the ears) and particularly Schumacher and the writers.
I’ve long been under the impression the Batchlers worked on “Batman: The Animated Series,” explaining some of the more cartoon-like elements of the plot (particularly the Statue of Liberty stand-in), but I can’t find that credit on IMDb so they’re probably just Warner Bros. in-house writers… Forever’s other credited writer, Akiva Goldsman, is, of course, the guy who has somehow gotten respectable in modernity, though it’s probably because he helped dumb down theatergoers so much in the 1990s… I’m not sure who is responsible for each of the terrible scenes–Batman Forever’s most interesting in its inability to have a single honest frame of celluloid, and it might be my new candidate for the turning point of Hollywood, when everything started its descent into garbage (I need to admit, right now, I used to like Batman Forever, but I was a teenager and apparently a dumb one).
Another possible reason for a genial defense of the film is Jim Carrey. People used to love him, though it’s hard to remember those days. He’s absolutely terrible, as is Tommy Lee Jones (Nicole Kidman and Chris O’Donnell are as well, but no one should expect anything from either of them). But Jones… it’s painful to watch him. I thought he took the role for his kids (but, again, can’t find any online citation of it).
Schumacher’s direction of the film is both incompetent and incredibly interesting. Besides the terrible composites (I sort of remember them always looking poorly lighted), Schumacher appears to have been shooting unfinished sets. Or it was stylistic–a bad style–never shooting any establishing shots, never setting up anything in the film (with the possible except of Wayne Manor) as believable. But, it’s still interesting how he can keep up such a visually unintelligible film.
Schumacher got a lot of crap for making the next one as a toy commercial, but this one is just the same… it even looks like an old toy commercial, the kind with the toys shot as though they were life-size, which pretty much sums up Batman Forever… It’s so bad, I’m surprised I–as the teenager who thought it was good–was literate.