Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$336.5 million|
Batman Forever is a 1995 American superhero film directed by Joel Schumacher and produced by Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character Batman. It is the third installment of the initial Batman film series, with Val Kilmer replacing Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman. The film also stars Chris O'Donnell, Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Jim Carrey. The plot focuses on Batman trying to stop Two-Face (Jones) and the Riddler (Carrey) in their villainous scheme to extract confidential information from all the minds in Gotham City and use it to learn Batman's identity and bring the city under their control. He gains allegiance from a love interest—psychiatrist Dr. Chase Meridian (Kidman) and a young, orphaned circus acrobat named Dick Grayson (O'Donnell), who becomes his sidekick Robin.
Batman Forever's tone is significantly different from the previous installments, becoming more family-friendly since Warner Bros. believed that the previous Batman film, Batman Returns (1992), failed to outgross its predecessor due to parent complaints about the film's violence and dark overtones. Schumacher eschewed the dark, dystopian atmosphere of Burton's films by drawing inspiration from the Batman comic book of the Dick Sprang era, as well as the 1960s television series. Keaton chose not to reprise the role due to failing to negotiate with studio executives Terry Semel and Bob Daly about the overall approach to the script. William Baldwin and Ethan Hawke were initially considered for Keaton's replacement before Kilmer joined the cast. Rene Russo was originally set to play Chase Meridian, based on her chemistry with Keaton in One Good Cop, but was replaced with the much younger Nicole Kidman after being deemed "too old" for Kilmer.
The film was released on June 16, 1995, receiving mixed reviews, but was a financial success. Batman Forever grossed over $336 million worldwide and became the sixth-highest-grossing film worldwide of 1995.
In Gotham City, the crime fighter Batman defuses a hostage situation caused by a criminal known as Two-Face, the alter ego of the former district attorney Harvey Dent, but Two-Face escapes and remains at large. Edward Nygma, a researcher at Wayne Enterprises who idolizes Bruce Wayne, has developed a device that can beam television into a person's brain. Bruce offers to let Nygma come up with schematics for the device and set up a meeting with his assistant. However, after Nygma demands an answer from him immediately, Bruce rejects the invention, believing it to be too close to mind manipulation. After killing his supervisor and staging it as a suicide, Nygma resigns and begins sending Bruce riddles, seeking retaliation against him.
Bruce meets Chase Meridian, a psychiatrist who is obsessed with Batman, and invites her to come with him to a circus event. After a performance from the circus performers, The Flying Graysons, Two-Face arrives and threatens to blow up the circus unless Batman comes forward and surrenders his life to him. The Flying Graysons attempt to stop Two-Face, but most of them get killed as a result. Only Dick Grayson, the youngest member, survives as he climbs to the roof and throws Two-Face's bomb into a river.
Bruce invites the orphaned Dick to stay at Wayne Manor. Dick, still troubled by the murder of his family, intends to kill Two-Face and avenge his family. When he discovers that Bruce is Batman, he demands that Bruce help him find Two-Face so that he can kill him, but Bruce refuses. Meanwhile, Nygma, inspired and delighted by watching Two-Face's raid at the circus, turns himself into a criminal called the Riddler and forms an alliance with Two-Face. The two steal capital in order to mass-produce Nygma's brainwave device so that Riddler can use it to learn Batman's secret identity.
At Nygma's business party, Nygma discovers Bruce's alter ego using the brainwave device. Two-Face arrives and crashes the party. He nearly kills Batman, but Dick manages to save him. Meanwhile, Chase has fallen in love with Bruce, which surpasses her obsession with Batman. Bruce decides to stop being Batman in order to have a normal life with Chase, and to prevent Dick from murdering Two-Face. Dick runs away while Bruce and Chase have dinner together in the manor, where Bruce reveals his secret identity to her. The Riddler and Two-Face arrive and attack Wayne Manor; in the process, the Riddler blows up the Batcave. The criminals kidnap Chase after Two-Face shoots Bruce, and the Riddler leaves him another riddle.
Using the riddles, Bruce and his butler, Alfred, deduce the Riddler's secret identity. Chase is imprisoned by the Riddler and Two-Face in their hideout. Dick returns and becomes Batman's sidekick, Robin. Batman and Robin head to Riddler and Two-Face's lair, Claw Island, where they are separated. Robin encounters Two-Face and nearly kills him, but chooses to spare his life and is captured. The Riddler gives Batman a chance to save only one hostage, but Batman destroys the Riddler's brainwave collecting device, causing the Riddler to suffer a mental breakdown. Batman then rescues both Robin and Chase. Two-Face corners the trio and determines their fate with the flip of a coin, but Batman throws a handful of identical coins in the air, causing Two-Face to stumble and fall to his death.
The Riddler is taken to Arkham Asylum and imprisoned, but he claims he knows who Batman is. Chase is asked to consult on the case, but Nygma says that he himself is Batman, due to his damaged memories. Chase meets Bruce outside and tells him that his secret is safe before parting ways. Bruce resumes his crusade as Batman with Robin as his partner to protect Gotham from crime.
|"I always hated those titles like Batman Forever. That sounds like a tattoo that somebody would get when they're on drugs or something. Or something some kid would write in the yearbook."|
|— Producer Tim Burton|
Batman Returns was released in 1992 with financial success and generally favorable reviews from critics, but Warner Bros. was disappointed with its box office run, having made $150 million less than the first film. Director Tim Burton was asked to restrict himself to the role of producer, with approval of Joel Schumacher as director and the husband and wife screenwriting couple Lee and Janet Scott-Batchler, who agreed with him that "the key element to Batman is his duality. And it's not just that Batman is Bruce Wayne". Their original script introduced a psychotic Riddler with a pet rat accompanying him. The story elements and much of the dialogue still remained in the finished film, though Schumacher felt it could be "lighte[ne]d down". Schumacher claims he originally had in mind an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. Warner Bros. rejected the idea as they wanted a sequel, not a prequel, though Schumacher was able to include very brief events in Bruce Wayne's childhood with some events of the comic The Dark Knight Returns. Akiva Goldsman, who worked with Schumacher on The Client, was brought in to rewrite the script. Burton, who was more interested in directing Ed Wood, later reflected he was taken aback by some of the focus group meetings for Batman Forever, a title which he hated. Producer Peter MacGregor-Scott represented the studio's aim in making a film for the MTV Generation with full merchandising appeal.
Production went on fast track with Rene Russo cast as Dr. Chase Meridian but Michael Keaton decided not to reprise Batman because he did not like the new direction the film series was heading in. Keaton also wanted to pursue "more interesting roles", turning down $15 million. A decision was made to go with a younger actor for Bruce Wayne, and an offer was made to Ethan Hawke, who turned it down. Schumacher had seen Val Kilmer in Tombstone, but was also interested in Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, William Baldwin and Johnny Depp. Kilmer signed on without reading the script or knowing who the new director was.
With Kilmer's casting, Warner Bros. dropped Rene Russo as Chase Meridian. Robin Wright, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Linda Hamilton were all considered for the role, which was eventually recast with Nicole Kidman. Billy Dee Williams took on the role of Harvey Dent in Batman on the possibility of portraying Two-Face in a sequel, but Schumacher cast Tommy Lee Jones in the role, after having worked with him on The Client. Jones was reluctant to accept the role, but did so after his son's insistence. Robin Williams was in discussions to be the Riddler at one point. In a 2003 interview, Schumacher stated Michael Jackson lobbied hard for the role, but was turned down before Jim Carrey was cast. Robin appeared in the shooting script of Batman Returns but was deleted due to too many characters. Marlon Wayans had been cast in the role, and signed for a potential sequel. It was decided to replace Wayans with a white actor. Leonardo DiCaprio was considered, but decided not to pursue the role after a meeting with Schumacher. Chris O'Donnell was cast and Mitchell Gaylord served as his stunt double. Schumacher attempted to create a cameo role for Bono as his MacPhisto character, but both came to agree it was not suitable for the film.
Filming started in September 1994. Schumacher hired Barbara Ling for production design, claiming that the film needed a "force" and good design. Ling could "advance on it". Schumacher wanted a design that was not to be in any way connected to the previous films, and instead was to be inspired by the images from the Batman comic books seen in the 1940s/early 1950s and taken from that of New York City architecture in the 1930s, with a combination of modern Tokyo. He also wanted a "city with personality", with more statues, as well as various amounts of neon.
Schumacher had problems filming with Kilmer, whom he described as "childish and impossible", reporting that he fought with various crewmen, and refused to speak to Schumacher during two weeks after the director told him to stop behaving in a rude way. Schumacher also mentioned Tommy Lee Jones as a source of trouble: "Jim Carrey was a gentleman, and Tommy Lee was threatened by him. I'm tired of defending overpaid, overprivileged actors. I pray I don't work with them again." Carrey later acknowledged Jones was not friendly to him, telling him once off-set during the production, "I hate you. I really don't like you ... I cannot sanction your buffoonery."
Rick Baker designed the prosthetic makeup. John Dykstra, Andrew Adamson and Jim Rygiel served as visual effects supervisors, with Pacific Data Images also contributing to visual effects work. PDI provided a computer-generated Batman for complicated stunts. For the costume design, producer Peter MacGregor-Scott claimed that 146 workers were at one point working together. Batman's costume was redesigned along the lines of a more "MTV organic, and edgier feel" to the suit. Sound editing and mixing was supervised by Bruce Stambler and John Levesque, which included trips to caves to record bat sounds. A new Batmobile was designed for Batman Forever, with two cars being constructed, one for stunt purposes and one for close-ups. Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger provided his version for the Batmobile but it was considered too sinister for the film.
Elliot Goldenthal was hired by Schumacher to compose the film score before the screenplay was written. In discussions with Schumacher, the director wanted Goldenthal to avoid taking inspiration from Danny Elfman, and requested an original composition. The film's promotional teaser trailer used the main title theme from Elfman's score of 1989's Batman.
The soundtrack was commercially successful, selling almost as many copies as Prince's soundtrack to the 1989 Batman film. Only five of the songs on the soundtrack are actually featured in the movie. Hit singles from the soundtrack include "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by U2 and "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal, both of which were nominated for MTV Movie Awards. "Kiss from a Rose" (whose video was also directed by Joel Schumacher) reached No. 1 in the U.S. charts as well. The soundtrack itself, featuring additional songs by The Flaming Lips, Brandy (both songs also included in the film), Method Man, Nick Cave, Michael Hutchence (of INXS), PJ Harvey, and Massive Attack, was an attempt to (in producer Peter MacGregor-Scott's words) make the film more "pop".
Batman Forever went through a few major edits before its release. Originally darker than the final product, the movie's original length was closer to 2 hours and 40 minutes according to director Joel Schumacher. There was talk of an extended cut being released to DVD for the film's 10th anniversary in 2005. While all four previous Batman films were given special edition DVD releases on the same day as the Batman Begins DVD release, none of them were given extended cuts, although some of the following scenes were in a deleted scenes section in the special features.
There was an undercurrent theme involving Bruce having repressed memories of an aspect of his parents' death that he hadn't faced which was finding his father's diary on the night of his parents' wake and reading that Bruce insisted his parents go to the theater so he could watch one of the shows, meaning the reason he became Batman was out of the guilt that he was responsible for their deaths.
Many scenes were filmed but deleted from the film, other scenes had footage removed. These included:
Batman Forever opened in 2,842 theaters in the United States on June 16, 1995, making $52.8 million in its opening weekend, breaking Jurassic Park's record for highest opening weekend gross of all-time (it was surpassed two years later by The Lost World: Jurassic Park's $72.1 million). The film went on to gross $184 million in North America, and $152.5 million in other countries, totaling $336.53 million. The film earned more money than its predecessor Batman Returns, and was the second-highest (behind Toy Story) grossing film of 1995, in the U.S.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 39% based on 61 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Loud, excessively busy, and often boring, Batman Forever nonetheless has the charisma of Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones to offer mild relief." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 51 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Peter Travers said "Batman Forever still gets in its licks. There's no fun machine this summer that packs more surprises." However, he criticized the film's excessive commercialism and felt that "the script misses the pain Tim Burton caught in a man tormented by the long-ago murder of his parents" seeing the Bruce Wayne of Kilmer as "inexpressive". Brian Lowry of Variety believed "One does have to question the logic behind adding nipples to the hard-rubber batsuit. Whose idea was that supposed to be anyway, Alfred's? Some of the computer-generated Gotham cityscapes appear too obviously fake. Elliot Goldenthal's score, while serviceable, also isn't as stirring as Danny Elfman's work in the first two films."
James Berardinelli enjoyed the film. "It's lighter, brighter, funnier, faster-paced, and a whole lot more colorful than before." Scott Beatty felt "Tommy Lee Jones played Harvey Dent as a Joker knock-off rather than a multi-layered rogue." Lee Bermejo called Batman Forever "unbearable". Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both gave the film mixed reviews, but with the former giving it a thumbs up and the latter a thumbs down. In his written review, Ebert wrote: "Is the movie better entertainment? Well, it's great bubblegum for the eyes. Younger children will be able to process it more easily; some kids were led bawling from Batman Returns where the PG-13 rating was a joke." Mick LaSalle had a mixed reaction, concluding "a shot of Kilmer's rubber buns at one point is guaranteed to bring squeals from the audience."
At the 68th Academy Awards, Batman Forever was nominated for Cinematography (lost to Braveheart), Sound Mixing (Donald O. Mitchell, Frank A. Montaño, Michael Herbick and Petur Hliddal; lost to Apollo 13) and Sound Editing (John Leveque and Bruce Stambler) (also lost to Braveheart). "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by U2 was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song (lost to "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas), but was also nominated for the Worst Original Song Golden Raspberry Award (lost to "Walk Into the Wind" from Showgirls). At the Saturn Awards, the film was nominated for Best Fantasy Film (lost to Babe), Make-up (lost to Seven), Special Effects (lost to Jumanji) and Costume Design (lost to 12 Monkeys). Composer Elliot Goldenthal was given a Grammy Award nomination. Batman Forever received six nominations at the 1996 MTV Movie Awards, four of which were divided between two categories (Carrey and Lee Jones for Best Villain; and Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" and U2's "Hold Me" in Best Song from a Movie). However, it won in just one category—Best Song from a Movie for Seal's "Kiss from a Rose".
In addition to a large line of toys and action figures from Kenner, the McDonald's food chain released several collectibles and mugs to coincide with the release of the film. Peter David and Alan Grant wrote separate novelizations of the film. Dennis O'Neil authored a comic book adaptation, with art by Michal Dutkiewicz.
Six Flags Great Adventure theme park re-themed their "Axis Chemical" arena, home of the Batman stunt show, to resemble "Batman Forever", and the new show featured props from the film. Because of the mostly negative critical reaction however, the stunt arena was changed back to its original version after the season. Six Flags Over Texas featured a one-time fireworks show to promote the movie, and replica busts of Batman, Robin, Two-Face, and the Riddler can still be found in the Justice League store in the Looney Tunes U.S.A. section.
Vermont senator Patrick Leahy filmed a cameo appearance in Batman Forever;
Warner Bros has cast the caped crusader aficionado in four films — from 1995's Batman Forever to the brand-new The Dark Knight Rises.
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