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In the producer's chair Burton had to find a director and settled on Joel Schumacher, he'd made The Lost Boys and Falling Down so looked like a good choice. The news gets better as rumour has it Schumacher wanted to make an adaption of Batman: Year One. Frank Miller's story of Batman's beginnings and his relationship with Commissioner Gordon was obviously a bit highbrow for studio execs who pushed for a more traditional sequel. We have yet to fully embrace the notion of a prequel. Christopher Nolan is thanking his lucky stars for that.
Batman now undertook a dramatic change, harking back to the 60s TV series and noir was replaced by nipples and neon. It was a cynical decision to exploit toy markets and cash in on the burgeoning 60s nostalgia that swept Hollywood; a craze that would involve Austin Powers, The Brady Bunch and, horrifically, Bewitched. Michael Keaton decided he didn't like the direction the film was going in and ignored the millions offered to him, so now we needed a new Batman for the new Gotham. Keaton's decision is completely understandable as Bruce Wayne's vinyl clad arse introduces Schumacher's version of Batman.
Keaton had been an unpopular casting decision which came good for Burton yet none of the actors he won the part ahead of seemed to be considered for the role this time around. Within days of Keaton's snub came Val Kilmer's casting. Kilmer was passable in Tombstone and did a good Jim Morrison impression but if you don't count Willow his best role is the obscured Elvis in True Romance. Hardly a good CV for someone carrying a superhero film. Kilmer's star power would need a bit of a boost to draw the crowds so the new kid's favourite Jim Carrey was cast. presumably on the back of The Mask with Tommy Lee Jones adding a little gravitas.
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Carrey is in his element as Edward Nygma/The Riddler bouncing around in spandex and chucking out sound effects as he attempts to suck up Gotham's brainwaves. Apparently Carrey has ADHD and it's employed to full effect here. The same cannot be said of Jones. Jones looks and feels uncomfortable as Two-Face, with just seconds spent as Harvey Dent. His costume and make up are impressive but the character lacks a true reveal in the film's opening and his motives are never really explored. Why does he blame Batman? What are Sugar and Spice doing all day? Billy Dee Williams was probably quite pleased Schumacher paid him off.
So Batman Forever has two larger than life supervillains. The dynamic is different from Batman Returns where Catwoman was more antihero than villain and it was decided that the numbers needed evening out. Wisely, Robin was removed from Batman Returns. This sage decision was reversed for Batman Forever. There was a reason why Christian Bale said he'd quit as Batman if they cast Robin and it's probably Chris O'Donnell.
O'Donnell represents those perpetual teenagers of 90210 becoming a Stand By Me wannabe and again is miscast. Robin is eager to learn and aid Batman in the comics and grows to want his independence as Nightwing. Batman Forever's Robin is antagonistic, impatient, dislikeable and more of a hindrance than a help bent on avenging a bomb induced trapeze disaster. If you think that's bad wait until 1997.
Batman Forever is a confused mess, designed to help Kenner toys boost it's balance sheet and give Warner Bros a light, family friendly franchise. There's too much going on, a nonsensical plot straddling commercial desires and reaching for MTV and the Friends generation. Bizarrely, it got an Oscar nomination and an immediate sequel despite the shoddy CGI and disinterested leading man. It's a sad indictment that U2 being on the soundtrack isn't the worst thing about a film.
In The Dark Knight Harvey Dent says 'the night is darkest just before the dawn.' In 1997 we'll see just how right he was.