Batman (Val Kilmer), the crimefighting alias of millionaire businessman Bruce Wayne, has been called out once more as tonight one of his nemeses, Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), is causing havoc. He and his gang are holding a bank security guard hostage, and demanding that the Caped Crusader appear to save him; meanwhile, Batman is discussing Two-Face's mental makeup with psychologist Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), yet the conversation gets around to him instead. There has been a spark of attraction between them, but he cannot hang around: duty calls, and the madman must be stopped...
Batman Forever received a generally favourable reaction on its initial release, taking in a huge amount of money in its first week, perhaps because it harked back to the Adam West incarnation of the celebrated hero from the nineteen-sixties television series. This was a far jokier, less sincere variation on the character, yet while West's version had been genuinely funny and delightful, here the curse of nineties cynicism blighted every effort to make things fun, as was attempted here. Tim Burton was now in the producer's chair, and Joel Schumacher took the directorial reins, as he would with the fourth sequel, Batman and Robin.
These two films ended up awarding Schumacher the dubious mantle of worst director ever among many fans until Uwe Boll started making an impression on pop culture consciousness, but if they were surprised that Batman and Robin was as poorly conceived as it was, they shouldn't have been as the seeds had been sown in this third instalment. Just compare the presentation of Two-Face here to the way Christopher Nolan treated the villain; in The Dark Knight, he's a tormented soul messed up by his conflict between either side of his nature, but here he's simply Jones laughing his head off in a selection of loud suits. He really shouldn't fit in this gaudy incarnation of the Batman universe.
A far better fit was The Riddler, taken by Jim Carrey in the first flush of his movie success, and getting a handle on how to play - or overplay - to match the surroundings. It didn't mean his oneliners were any more amusing, but he suggested a better film than the one we ended up with as his Edward Nigma goes from lowly scientist to mad genius thanks to his idea for three-dimensional television that turns viewers mindless. How this married up to his desire to extinguish Batman was questionable, and there were too many dead ends thrown up in the script, hinting at a lot of rewrites. Not even the attempts to delve into the psyche of Bruce Wayne were in any way stimulating.
Which was a shame, because if there's any superhero who lended himself to pretentious psychological probing, it was Batman, and that was not to mention the rogue's gallery who tormented him in the pages of the comics. Here Chase's ludicrously unconvincing shrink wants to get inside his brain for the sole reason of getting inside his batsuit, though at least her unprofessionalism is acknowledged by a self-aware tone, yet after a short while that translated into smugness, not something dispelled by Kilmer's barely-trying line readings. This was the film that introduced Robin (Chris O'Donnell), but here he was surplus to requirements in a plot already overstuffed with characters, and that included Michael Gough returning to retain some dignity as butler Alfred, and Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar as purely decorative sidekicks. Batman Forever wasn't half as clever as it thought it was, and while there was room for fluffy superhero movies, they don't win over the fans who want the filmmakers to take them deadly seriously, dammit, in the long run. Music by Elliot Goldenthal.
American director and occasional writer who rather unfairly won a reputation as one of the worst in Hollywood when he was really only as good as the material he was given. Starting as a costume designer (working with Woody Allen), he went onto a couple of TV movies - screenwriting Car Wash, Sparkle and The Wiz between them - and then a feature, spoof The Incredible Shrinking Woman. D.C. Cab followed, then a couple of eighties-defining teen hits, St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys, and remake Cousins.
In the nineties, he was offered higher profile movies, including supernatural Flatliners, cult urban nightmare Falling Down, John Grisham adaptations The Client and A Time To Kill, blockbusting camp Batman Forever and the much-maligned Batman & Robin, and grotty 8MM. 1999's Flawless signalled a change to smaller scale works: army drama Tigerland, true life tale Veronica Guerin and thriller Phone Booth. Lavish musical The Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber was a Lost Boys fan) was a return to the overblown blockbusters, but it flopped, as did his conspiracy thriller The Number 23.