It is lighter, brighter, funnier, and a whole lot more colorfull than before. In the third installment of the BATMAN series, we have a new lead actor (Val Kilmer) and a new director (Joel Schumacher). As a result, we have a different, yet the same Bat-film.
Set about 3 or so years after the previous film, we find Batman (Val Kilmer) in the middle of things from the very beginning. Former Gotham City D.A. Harvery Dent, now known as Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), has escaped from Arkham and is out to wreck havoc on the city--and kill Batman. The opening sequence is exciting and grabs the viewer's attention from the beginning. We also get to meet both Bruce's and Batman's love interest, Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman); a psychiatrist specializing in split-personalities.
In the meanwhile, Edward Nigma, a fired worker at Wayne-Tech, has sworn revenge on Bruce Wayne. Nigman has invented a box that allows the user have images projected directly into the brain. When Wayne refuses to back Nigma's plan, Nigma becomes The Riddler and partners up with Two-Face. So both with revenge in mind, the two super-villians terrorize Gotham. Jones (in a role orinally played by Billy Dee Williams) is ok as Harvey/Two-Face. Played a bit over-the-top, the character starts out strong, then sort of fades away once Carrey's Riddler is on the screen. And Carrey is great as the Riddler. Next to Nichlson's Joker, Carrey gives us an excellent Bat-nemises.
Batman/Bruce Wayne gets his third love interest as in many movies. Kidman does a fair job as a police psychiatrist obsessed with The Batman. It also gives the film an interesting love triangle similar to the one depicted in SUPERMAN: The Movie. Chase loves Batman, but doesn't like Wayne. We finally see the long awaited screen debut of Batman's partner Robin (Chris O'Donnell). Robin's screen orgin is almost a carbon-copy of his comicbook version. He is though portrayed a bit older in the form of actor O'Donnell. He is probably more the age of Nightwing, the grown-up version of Robin in the comics. Nevertheless, the part is well written and played well by O'Donnell.
And as I said earlier, the film gives us a new director and lead actor. Val Kilmer replaces Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne. His Batman is very similar to that if Keaton's. It is his Bruce that is different. He is not as quirky as Keaton's version. He is personable and in-the-news. He IS the billionare playboy Wayne is susposed to be. Yet it is still the mask and his soul is still tortured. Schumacher makes subtle, yet evident changes to the series. His Gotham is still bizzare and larger than life, but brighter and presented on a larger scale.
Overall, an excellent movie. WB wanted to make changes to out the franchise back on it's feet. BATMAN FOREVER succeeds on that scale and gives us a very enjoyable two hours at the movies.
I had no idea whether or not Warner Bros. would produce a third Bat-film. I did not like the last movie and hoped that the studio would right that wrong. Then I started to hear rumblings that there indeed would be a third Bat-movie. In addition, the Riddler and Two-Face would be the villians. I assumed that the cast and crew from the first two films would return. But I would be wrong.
I was sitting in a little bar/hangout in Port Arthur, TX about the summer of '94. There was a big-screen TV back in one corner that was showing some entertainment-type tv show. As I sat hanging with my friends and drinking a few cold beers, I saw a pic of Val Kilmer pop up on the screen. Not being that big of a fan of Kilmer's, I really didn't pay any attention. Yeah, I liked him in TOMBSTONE and TOP GUN, but really never paid him any mind. Then I saw a pic of Michael Keaton follow Kilmer's. I thought, "What is up with that?" The volume was down, so I couldn't hear what was being said. I found out when I got home. My wife (my ex today) told me she had heard that Michael Keaton was not playing Batman and Kilmer was taking over the role! I was shocked! Surprised! As much as I was against Keaton first getting the role, I now could not see another actor in the cape and cowl! And there were other changes too. Joel Schumacher was now the director or the Bat-franchise. What would the Bat-series become?
Well, over the next several months, I started to find out. Now this is pre-internet days; well, pre-me having the net. Nevertheless, bits and pieces of the plot, the cast, etc. started coming in. Robin would finally make his movie debut. He would be played by Chris O'Donnell, who scored big in SCENT OF A WOMAN. Cool choice, I thought. He would not be this little kid, but someone more like the comic character "Nightwing." Tommy Lee Jones would be portraying Two-Face. Great choice! Of course, this was a role originally played by Billy Dee Williams (as Harvey Dent) in the first film. And Jim Carrey, the talent de jour, had taken the role of the Riddler. It had long been rumored that Robin Williams would be cast in that role, but I believed Carrey to be an excellent choice.
As the summer of '95 approached, I was really getting fired up for this film! I began to think that Kilmer might do a hell of a job. I had seen some pics of him in costume and thought he really looked the part; more so than Keaton. I was also excited for the birth of my daughter that summer. Makenzie would be born about a month after the movie premiered! So I was counting down for 2 events that summer.
As the premier of the movie neared, I read in the paper that a "sneak preview" would be shown at 11pm the night before the official release. It was on! My buddy Chris and I had a few cold beers and headed over to the theater about 10pm. The line was HUGE! Everyone there seemed to really be geeked for the new Bat-film! We bought our tickets and took our seats.
Then the movie started. The opening credits were different than the last 2 films. So was the music. Then the scene of Batman getting dressed in the Batcave leading to the first shot of Kilmer as the Bat. I thought it was cool as hell! The film just had a diffferent FEAL to it. It was the same. Costume just a bit different. Same Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. But it just FELT different. Was wasn't as weired and bizzare as the last film. A little more "hip and trendy" would be a good way to describe it. I like it.
I really enjoyed this film. Yeah, there were some faults. It was a bit too light at times. T.L. Jones' Two-Face, which started strong, seemed to just take a backseat to Carrey's Riddler. The neon-colored gang was a little dumb. But overall, a good film. VaL Kilmer was great as Batman. He seemed more physically suited to the role. He was hip and dashing, yet still conveyed Bruce's dark side. O'Donnell did a excellent job as Robin and the script did a good job of introducing the character. I thought that WB had steered the franchise back on course. But in the next movie, they REALLY headed off course.