After having a lukewarm response to Batman Returns, I wasn’t sure how I felt about a third entry. Rumors floated around about what characters would be featured in the film and what actors would play them. Two that I remember very clearly reading in Wizard Magazine was that Robin Williams was being approached for the Riddler and Marlon Wayans for Robin. Robin Williams felt like a solid choice, even though picturing him in green spandex was not a pretty sight.
Marlon Wayans was someone whose work I enjoyed on In Living Color. I thought he was a laugh riot. But seeing him as an action star was difficult. He was a comedian. That said, I was willing to give it a go. Trust the process, you know. Honestly, I really wish they had committed to casting him in this role, as I feel it would have helped push black representation in comics and possibly films ahead just a little sooner and perhaps it would be much farther than it is now. But I guess the controversy was not something the studio wanted to deal with. Cowards.
Rumors continued and news came in saying Burton was out. Then Keaton was out. So who would direct this film? Who was going to be Batman? Funny enough, back in the 90s, having an actor committed to a role like that wasn’t a big deal like it is today. Solid continuity can really make one yearn for a returning cast. Here, they were like, “Val Kilmer is Batman now,” and we were all like, “Ok.” Simple! If only we knew what fandoms would wrought 30 years later… the bastards.
As soon as I heard Jim Carrey had been cast as the Riddler, my interest in the film increased immensely. I was a massive fan of his work at this time and was committed to seeing all of his movies when they were released. At this point, I was sold on this flick. That said when I first watched it, I was a bit torn. There were things I liked and things that I loathed.
Jim Carrey as the Riddler was at the top of my “love-it” list. I was really only familiar with the Riddler in the form of Frank Gorshin from the 1960s TV series, so a goofy Riddler was on-point. I was aware of the animated series version that leaned more in-line with the comics, but I wasn’t able to watch that show as much back then. I am excited to see the new version in the Batman. I’ve had a desire for that type of Riddler for some time now.
Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face was kind of an, “ok I guess,” thing with me. I was really only familiar with him at this point in time due to the film version of the Fugitive, which is a fantastic movie by the way. However, he doesn’t really feel like he’s into it at all. And this is further compounded by the fact he apparently loathed his co-star, citing the now famous phrase, “I cannot sanction your buffoonery.”
“Get fucked Mr. Jones,” would have been my response. And you’d think that Billy Dee Williams would’ve had a lawsuit on his hands, seeing as how he had a clause in his original contract to play Two-Face in a future Batman film. But when you opt out of a role in the sequel, then you don’t have a leg to stand on. Made up for it in Lego Batman though, right?
Val Kilmer was a great Batman, but not so much Bruce Wayne. He didn’t quite nail the duality of each role in my opinion. But you have to give it to him for cracking jokes in the most Batman way possible. It felt right. It’s a damn shame what’s happened to him. If you’ve not seen the documentary Val, put it on your list of things to watch.
Michael Gough is great as usual. Nicole Kidman is unfortunately nothing more than eye candy, lusting over Batman throughout. She may have had more to do in the overall plot, but the theatrical cut did not do her character justice, more on that later. Chris O’Donnell does a decent enough job as the “not a kid but for some reason needs a guardian” version of Dick Grayson. I had really grown to love the animated series version and was excited to see Robin on screen, treated seriously and not as a joke. While one could roll their eyes about the “holy rusted metal, Batman,” line, they needed to get it out of their system. It was expected of the character after all this time. Just rip that bandaid off.
Taking over for Danny Elfman in the music department was Elliot Goldenthal, who has a decent filmography in the music department but not one score I can tell you I know outside of this one. His work here is very fitting and one of the highlights of the film in my opinion. He transitions from an intense superheroic theme to a dramatic noir piece then on to a silly and quirky tune, all fitting in the scenes in which they belong and all working in tandem. It’s pretty impressive.
Now, it has come to light over the last year or so that a 3-hour director’s cut of the film exists in the world. Obviously, Warner Bros. denies this but seeing how well the “release the Snyder cut” campaign worked, why on Earth would they claim otherwise? This cut of the film apparently digs deeper into the trauma of Bruce Wayne, which would explain his sudden need for therapy and in turn giving Chase Meridian a true purpose in the film. The film is meant to be much darker than the cut we’ve all seen.
However, something about that doesn’t feel right. Joel Schumacher has stated that his approach to Batman was to create a “comic book” movie, meaning he had this old school view of what comic books were. Which makes sense considering he was in his 50s when he directed this. He saw the bright colors and the camp and wanted to translate it onto the big screen. I bet if he could have done the blue and grey Batman outfit, he would have.
At one point in time, I considered Schumacher one of the worst filmmakers because of his work on Batman. Over time I have changed my stance, realizing that was coming from a ludicrous place of anger. His vision of Batman just clashed with mine and that’s ok. There are different takes on the same character allowing for one version to be right for someone. If you can enjoy them all, fantastic! If you only like one specific take, then embrace it and enjoy it. This film is one I can find little pockets of joy in, but it’s not a favorite of mine.