Movie review: Batman Forever (1995)

In this Batman movie, Tim Burton has been replaced by Joel Shumacher and Michael Keaton by Val Kilmer. The set is still dark but the gloomy, brooding gothic nature is lightened by the dialogue. I was a bit put off by the cheesy lines in the movie. Batman Forever is aiming for a slightly different feel than Batman or Batman Returns.

For example, Alfred mentions that he would like to send a sandwich with Bruce on his outing as Batman, to which Batman replies that he will just go through the drive-through if he needs something to eat. In another case, the current love interest, Dr. Chase Meridian retorts, “Hot entrance”, when Batman swings into the initial scene. Batman responds during one of the many times Chase throws herself at him, “Are you trying to get under my cape?”

This movie introduces Robin (Christoper O’Donnell) and explains the backstory of how he came to be Batman’s partner. In some respects, his story parallels Bruce’s.

Bruce is plagued by dreams both asleep and awake of his parents’ murders. He rejects Dick’s (alias Robin’s) desire for revenge until finally he crumbles, admitting that every man has his own path to walk.

The duo take on two villains: Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and the Riddler (Jim Carrey). It was never really explained how Two Face metamorphosed from Harvey Dent, the district attorney of Gotham (played by Billie Dee Williams in Batman).

Unlike the first two movies, this sequel doesn’t really sport social commentary on the role of women or the relations between the sexes. In fact, the movie seems to go backwards in this regard. Yes, the love interest is depicted as a doctor, one that is into boxing and rock climbing—a career woman with  brains and physical brawn. Only we don’t really see either brains or brawn in the movie. Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) is again another damsel in distress that must be saved by Batman.

Initially, Chase is drawn to Batman, not Bruce. Actually, she throws herself at Batman again and again, inviting him at one point to her boudoir at midnight. And Batman shows up on cue. Rather than being a strong, independent woman à la feminist tradition, Chase is a strong woman only in the sense that she pursues Batman/Bruce Wayne and is sexually direct with him. Is this the evolution of feminism? And Bruce/Batman is smitten, starstruck in the presence of this strong woman in the same way that he was in the presence of Catwoman in Batman Returns.

If I had to pick my female foil to Batman, it would be Catwoman. She portrayed the complex role of women and the relations between the sexes that is still playing out in some ways today. Chase, in my mind, is perhaps a step backwards, where strong means being sexually aggressive.

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