Batman Forever Doubles As A Quintessential 90’s Time Capsule & An Unintentional Halloween Classic
Every year around this time, I rewatch Batman Forever because it is a quintessential 90’s time capsule that happens to be an unintentional Halloween classic. Now before you start a racket on with me about how bad the late 90’s “Bat” films are, compared to Nolan’s Dark Night Trilogy; stop. Batman Forever's Batman (Val Kilmer) has some sick fighting moves as evidenced in the film’s opening action sequence. He’s moving much more like an experienced tactician compared to Christian Bale’s wild punches and kicks. Kilmer’s Batman is also smart enough to use the annoying security guard’s hearing aid to crack open the acid-spewing safe Two-Faced locked them inside without Alfred’s help, or tech from Lucious Fox. Above all, Kilmer’s Batman shows that you can be a hardened crime-fighting vigilante who is experiencing PTSD and repressed trauma and still have your wits, like when he tells Alfred he’ll stop and get drive-thru on the way home from thwarting Two-Face. We all love that cheat meal after we cross that big thing off the to-do list.
The opening sequence of Batman Forever just screams 90’s as it looks like it was transformed from a Saturday morning cartoon and presented in live action as we get our first glimpse of a pink tiger-print wearing Two-Face as he delivers his melodramatic monologue about duality. The set pieces are large, opulent and colorful with hints of neon throughout (if that Skull gang that is parading the streets and decides to stalk that poor unsuspecting denim-clad woman before Dick Grayson shows up in the coolest iteration of the Batmobile ever doesn’t look like an episode of Electric Circus gone evil, I don’t know what does).
The cast of Batman Forever is made up of a literal 90’s It List including Val Kilmer, Chris O’ Donnell, Tommy Lee Jones and Drew Barrymore. Then there is Nicole Kidman as the sex-positive and very educated psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian, and Jim Carrey as The Riddler who has an entire apartment full of weird knick-knacks that look like they came from a MacDonald’s Happy Meal or one of those cereal box prizes that required you to send in several UPC codes.
Describing the mood on set, Val Kilmer said, “[I]t’s Halloween and we get to do whatever we want because it’s a magical world.” Halloween plays a major part in the film’s climax. Bruce Wayne invites Chase Meridian over to tell her that he is Batman (after having given up the mantle in an effort to protect Dick Grayson from suffering the same PTSD that he does). Trick or Treating also provides the perfect opportunity for The Riddler and Two-Face to get to Bruce and destroy the Batcave (Riddler having discovered Batman’s secret identity from the VR type entertainment device he created; keep this in mind when using social media and your personal devices kids; even Batman can get hacked) and they do it with tiny Halloween masks on! Two-Face’s goons attack like a mob of angry kids after you tell them they’re too old for trick or treating and there are many pumpkin causalities during the attack on Wayne Manor.
Batman Forever is also pretty true to its comic book origins. Executive Producer Michael E. Uslan felt the movie captured the feel of the writer Bill Finger’s Batman comics of the 40’s and 50’s in which we saw the first appearances of characters like Robin, and The Riddler set amongst over the top set pieces like giant pencil sharpeners. The circus scene with the Flying Graysons is also very true to the comics (though it was a mob boss who was responsible for the death of Robin’s family, not Two-Face who is actually involved in the third Robin, Tim Drake’s origin) and the scene of Harvey Dent being attacked with the acid that would transform him into Two-Face is translated to film almost directly from source material.
When the movie was released to theatres in 1995, Batman Forever broke the record for the biggest opening weekend of all time. No doubt this was helped by the fact that superhero movies were relatively uncommon, the cast was very popular and the movie had a soundtrack that boasted some the era’s biggest artists including Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” and U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” as well as contributions from Brandy, Method Man, PJ Harvey and The Offspring. There were countless promotional tie-ins that summer with numerous brands including McDonald’s and Corn Pops cereal and the movie was released on home video in time for Halloween in order to provide numerous ideas for costumes.
Batman Forever will likely be remembered more for its camp, than for its look at PTSD, repressed trauma, dual-personalities, nervous breakdowns and ahead of its time warning about our addiction to personal devices and hacking of personal information. It will also forever have an asterisk next to it as the slippery slope that lead to the complete over the top Batman and Robin which should serve as an example of the 90’s obsession with consumerism and pop culture taken too far. This, of course, is a shame, because, at its core, Batman Forever was a quintessential 90’s time capsule and an unintentional Halloween classic.