After the release of Batman Returns, Warner Bros was in something of a difficult position. While they wanted to wallpaper their holiday mansions with $100 bills and Batman was the franchise to bet on, the extremely dark storyline of Batman Returns made it a harder sell to the intended audience, namely entire families. By now, they wanted something different for the next film. This coincided with the departure of Tim Burton from the franchise. Before he left, he handpicked Joel Schumacher to take over directors duties. And for good or for ill, Batman Forever was certainly different.
Batman (now Val Kilmer) is battling Harvey Dent / Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), a struggle that gets tougher when Edward Nygma/The Riddler (Jim Carrey) enters the picture, as both have personal vendettas against the Bat. Batman finds an ally in orphaned acrobat Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell), who discovers Bruce Wayne's secret and becomes Robin with the initial intent of taking revenge against Two-Face, who killed his family. As a sub-plot, Bruce deals with a budding romance with psychiatrist Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), something that naturally causes some problems because of his double-life.
The movie is brighter and the tone is softer but other than that it is considered to still be an entertaining film. Kilmer is generously comparable to Keaton, but some fans have argued that he has a stronger athletic build and physical resemblance to Bruce Wayne/Batman -- in fact, Bob Kane himself thought that Kilmer was the best Batman yet. Chris O'Donnell was strong as (although a much older version of) Robin. It's obvious that the film was attempting to appeal more to a broader audience, especially with the casting of Jim Carrey, who at the time was extremely bankable with children, and the broader attempts at humor and overall goofier plot. However, Carrey still played up the Riddler as a Large Ham, and his interpretation was considered rather favorable (except to critics that were tired of seeing Jim Carrey).
Ultimately, the film proved somewhat divisive - die-hard fans of the darker Burton films rejected it outright. The box office was still strong and overall, the film was regarded as flawed but still entertaining. Unfortunately, the flawed aspects (cartoony villain personalities, over-dramatic action set pieces) were taken to the extreme and permeated Batman and Robin, the final film in the original Batman film series.
- Adaptation Distillation: The integration of Robin merged together his younger, more carefree days with his older incarnation (before he became Nightwing) as a Deadpan Snarker Foil to Batman's Unfunny. See also Composite Character.
- Many superhero movies (especially sequels) have a hard time managing the villains origin and Evil Scheme while still making it feel like it is the hero's movie (Even The Dark Knight has been criticized on that part). This movie actually dedicates a good portion to specifically Bruce Wayne and not just "Batman stops the bad guy."
- While the Tim Burton movies are for the most part praised and loved, many people were unnerved with Batman's willingness to kill. Batman Forever manages to set up Batman's "no kill" rule rather plausibly: after killing the Joker for killing his parents, Bruce wasn't satisfied and kept killing criminals before he realized he had become a monster and learned to let go of revenge.
- Adapted Out: The main culprit who murdered Dick Grayson's family was Two-Face, instead of Tony Zucco.
- All-Star Cast
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Riddler invades Wayne Manor along with Two-Face, and there he enters the Batcave.
- Alternate DVD Commentary: Riff Trax recruited That Guy With The Glasses for it.
- DVD Podblast also took a swipe at it.
- Ambiguously Jewish: The bank guard taken hostage by Two-Face. Think you can kvetch a little more, guy?
- He goes beyond that and right into "Ambiguously Jerry Lewis' (Woody Allen's?) unacknowledged love child".
- And Then What?: Riddler's attitude to Two-Face simply wanting to kill Batman and be done with it. Bruce also gives this to Dick Grayson when the latter still won't let go of his need to kill Two-Face.
- And This Is For: When Robin confronts Two-Face. "That was for my mother!" (punch) "My father!" (punch) "My brother!" ("punch") "And this is for me!"
- Award Bait Song: Kiss from a Rose by Seal.
- Badass Normal: Dick earns his stripes well before he becomes Robin.
- Badass in Distress: But he's still new to crime fighting, and has to be rescued by Batman in the climax.
- Bat Deduction: Bruce discovers who the Riddler is through a series of riddles left to him, which he discovers is meant to indicate a series of numbers corresponding to letters of the alphabet. They spell out "M-R-E", which Bruce deciphers as "mystery" and "Mr. E", leading to the conclusion of Edward Nygma. However there was more to his conclusion than just the riddles, not the least of which is that Nygma started up a company to rival Bruce's in the wake of a crime wave from the Riddler and Two-Face, and combined with the circumstances under which he left Bruce's company, the leap wasn't hard to make.
Alfred: You really are quite bright, despite what people say.
- Batman Gambit: Lampshaded when Chase tells the Riddler that Batman will come to his base to rescue her.
- Betty and Veronica: Bruce/Batman is this for Chase, and forms her character arc through the film.
- Sugar and Spice fill these roles for Two-Face.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Two-Face and The Riddler. Who's in the dominant position (as well as who chews more scenery) varies over the course of the movie.
- Bond One-Liner: The Riddler whacking his boss with a coffee pot. "Caffeine'll kill ya."
- Breakaway Pop Hit: U2's "Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me". Inverted with Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" (it was released the year before, but only became a smash hit after its inclusion).
- Broken Aesop: Bruce spends the entire movie telling Dick he can't kill Two-Face because it's wrong and won't fix anything. Finally, towards the end, Dick (as Robin) learns his lesson and saves Two-Face from dying even though it means getting captured. And then Batman kills Two-Face later, anyway, though that was probably accidental. In the novel, Batman attempts to stymie Two-Face by knocking his coin away. He catches it anyway, and then Robin calls him out on never turning the coin on himself. He checks the coin in his fist, and lets go of the girder he was clinging to. Robin then says he didn't mean to kill him, and Batman says that Two-Face just made his first choice in a long time.
- Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: Two-Face holds the entire circus hostage with the reasoning that, since the audience is filled with the richest and most notable citizens of Gotham, one of them must surely either know Batman or be Batman - while Bruce is watching the performance. He immediately stands up and tries to give himself up, but no one can hear him in the panic.
Two-Face: Surely one of you knows who Batman is. Hell, odds are one of you pasty-faced twits IS Batman!
- Bullying a Dragon: Fred Stickley threatens to haul Edward Nygma before a federal tribunal and have him incarcerated in an insane asylum after Nygma has not only disobeyed a direct order from Stickley, but also hit him in the head with a coffee pot, tied him up, and subjected him to a highly unethical and potentially life-threatening neurological experiment. And on top of all that, he fires Nygma; Edward does not take this well, and his reaction is swift and terrible.
- Calling Your Attacks: There wasn't a particularly good reason for Dick to exclaim, "Now!" just before leaping from the balcony to try and get into the Batcave.
- To give himself extra motivation, maybe?
- Because as a circus performer he's conditioned himself to respond to cues?
- Camp: This put Joel Schumacher's love for camp on display, which was a breath of fresh air after the extremely grim overtones of the previous film. By and large, the camp was mostly the good kind - there was a lot more restraint than the next film.
- For example, the Box evolves from "random accumulation of wires and junk" to "sleek glowy spinny thing", but never stops looking like a blender, in a nod to the silly props of the TV Batman.
- Canon Foreigner: Chase Meridian was created for the film. Also, Dick Grayson never had a brother (not that his brother lived very long in the movie).
- Chekhov's Gun: In the first act, Chase mentions that Two-Face's obsession with his coin can be exploited.
- Complexity Addiction: Addressed; when The Riddler offers to help Two-Face kill Batman in exchange for money to manufacture his Box devices, he convinces him that just offing the hero quickly and simply wouldn't be as emotionally satisfying as ensuring he was humiliated first by having his true identity revealed and used against him. Also referenced when Two-Face shoots Bruce Wayne, knocking him down, and as he's going to give a fatal shot, the Riddler stops him.
Riddler: "Don't kill him... If you kill him, he won't learn nothin'."
Two-Face cackles in sadistic agreement.
- Composite Character: Strangely enough, the Riddler is a unique combination of the hyperactive spandex trickster of the Silver Age and the suave businessman-like personality of the Bronze Age. This was partially explained by having his mind getting fried from using The Box; he is the trickster when in the Riddler costume and the businessman when acting as the CEO of NygmaTech.
- Also, brainwashing the people of Gotham seemed more like a job reserved for the Mad Hatter (who more casual fans often mistake for Riddler, given the latter's fondness for bowler hats in the comics).
- Robin's origin is actually a composite of two comic-book Robins; in the comics, Two-Face killed Jason Todd's parents, and that element (along with Jason's desire for revenge) were imported into Chris O'Donnell's Dick Grayson character.
- Continuity Nod: Chase to Batman: "You like strong women. I've done my homework. Or do I need skin-tight vinyl and a whip?"
- Bruce also subtly alludes to killing The Joker in the first movie when he tells Dick, who is adamant about killing Two-Face for the deaths of his family, that he knows from experience that killing for revenge won't bring him any peace.
- Cool Car: 'Cause chicks dig the car.
- Cool Plane: The Batwing.
- Create Your Own Villain: Bruce Wayne created the Riddler by turning down Nygma's brainwave manipulation ideas. In addition, Batman couldn't save Harvey Dent from getting a glass of acid in the face and becoming Two-Face.
- Cut Edward Nygma a Check: Played with. He tries to make money honestly but after being rejected and funding it with Two-Face's crimes he still makes billions on "The Box" technology. If he wasn't obsessed with Bruce Wayne and Batman he could have lived a comfortable life.
- Darkest Hour: Say what you will about the "lighter and softer," but in this film Batman comes closer to defeat than he does anywhere else in the series.
- Death by Adaptation: Two-Face.
- Death by Secret Identity: Both Two-Face and Riddler aren't able to do much with their information, which is disappointing since The Riddler had all that tech to broadcast Bruce's secret, but he went insane instead. And Two-Face was even unluckier.
- Disney Villain Death: Two-Face.
- Damsel in Distress: Chase Meridian
- Double Entendre: The Schumacher films were infamous for this.
- Evil Is Hammy: Both villains. Hard to know which one overacts the most.
- Evil Is Stylish: And part of style is appreciating style.
- And a little further on, as Carrey/Nygma ADMITS his costume is a bit nuts...
Riddler: (To Dr Chase on his suit with flashing neon question marks) Like the jacket? It keeps me safe when I'm jogging at night.
- Failed Attempt At Drama: Alfred reminding Batman to pack a sandwich.
- A pretty blatant product placement tie-in ("I'll get drive-thru" was on every channel in 1995), but still in-character from Alfred.
- Femme Fatale: Invoked Trope by Nicole Kidman playing Dr. Chase Meridian as a stereotypical 40's film noir heroine, with a raspy voice and seductive mannerisms. Subverted because she is not evil or even morally ambiguous; she is just fascinated by people with Split Personality.
- Foe Yay: As Entertainment Weekly wrote in 1995, Edward Nygma/Riddler's obsession with Bruce Wayne/Batman makes one wonder...
- Foot Focus: There are at least three different close-up shots of Chris O'Donnell's bare feet in the scene where he's hanging up his laundry.
- Form-Fitting Wardrobe: First appearance of the bat-nipples. Good God, the frikkin' bat nipples
- The bat buns. Apparently, the bat-suit comes with a bat-wedgie.
- Jim Carrey's Riddler spandex is a little TOO form fitting...
- Gatling Good: The 1950 Buicks with pairs of miniguns on their hoods.
- Girl of the Film: Dr. Chase Meridian (the only Girl of the Week that wasn't lifted from the comics).
- A God Am I: The Riddler quotes these words exactly in regards to the power his mind-reading "Box" devices have granted him. (He then does some lampshading: "Was that over the top? I can never tell!")
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Any scene featuring the Riddler and Two-Face.
- Hero Ball: Lampshaded by Two-Face after Robin saves him.
Two-Face: Good boy. The Bat's taught you well. Noble. (draws a gun) Stupid, but noble.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Nygma has a base on Claw Island ("subsequent supervillains will have to make do with building their bases on Gumdrop Island, or Fluffy Bunny Atoll.")
- If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him: Robin's decision at the climax of Forever regarding Two-Face is based on this trope -- he winds up captive due to sparing the villain.
- Words of wisdom from Bruce:
"... but your pain doesn't die with Harvey, it grows. So you run out into the night to find another face, and another, and another, until one terrible morning you wake up and realize that revenge has become your whole life. And you won't know why."
- Humorously averted by Riddler: "No! Don't kill him! If you kill him....he won't learn nothin'!"
- In Name Only: Two-Face in this movie is more or less the Joker in personality, with Tommy Lee Jones even giving a performance similar to Jack Nicholson's.
- Large Ham: Besides the villains, Bob Kane's widow as Gossip Gerty, Gotham's resident Joan-Rivers-up-to-eleven.
Gossip Gerty: OHHHHHH! There's Bruce Wayne! Brucie!
- Lighter and Softer: Compared to the first one, and jarringly so compared to the previous installment.
- There have actually been arguments put forward that, in many ways, this movie is as dark as the Burton films. Bright neon makes the city look garish and ugly, at least as much as the gothic look of the older films. In many ways the Gotham shown in this film is an almost Blade Runner-esque dystopia obsessed with looking glamorous and getting away from reality. One comic artist specifically complimented the use of neon and bright colors, figuring that a town run entirely by greed and crime would look like Las Vegas, ie Sin City.
- It's also more psychological than the first two, going into greater depth on why Bruce is Batman, his realization of what the superhero lifestyle has done to him, and the possibility that he might give up the mantle.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: A common complaint regarding the Schumacher films was trying to work in as many villains and good guys as possible (apparently trying to top the 3 villains in Returns), often with little rhyme or reason.
- Lock and Load Montage: The opening suit-up sequence.
- Loves My Alter Ego: Dr Meridian with Batman over Bruce. Subverted when she changes her mind mid-movie, then again when she learns his secret.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Done hilariously with "Bad Days", while we see for the first time where Edward Nygma lives.
The Flaming Lips: You hate your boss at your job/But in your dreams you can blow his head off!
- Mad Scientist: The Riddler.
- Meaningful Name: Chase (she chases Batman) Meridian (the balancing middle). Also the aforementioned Edward Nygma as in..E. Nygma or...enigma. Also Mr.E or Mystery
- Merchandise-Driven: A big reason the films decided to lighten up was to make it easier to sell them and related products to families. Some also think the growing character count was due to this.
- Monumental Damage: Two-Face crashes a helicopter into the Statue of Liberty (more precisely, its counterpart in Gotham City, but still...), making its face look a lot like his.
- Mood Whiplash: It can be for some viewers. The film bounces back and forth between the zany antics of Riddler and Two-Face and the Dark and Troubled Past of Batman and Robin.
- Ms. Fanservice: Nicole Kidman in her hottie prime naked under a silk bedsheet. Don't question, just enjoy.
- Mythology Gag: There are a few of these regarding Robin. The "holey rusted metal" bit is a reference to the '60s show, and when pondering what his superhero alias should be, Dick Grayson considers "Nightwing". The Flying Graysons outfits are almost identical to the original Robin costume.
- Also one to the greater DCU, when Bruce mentions the circus must be half way to Metropolis.
- Robin's conflict with Two-Face is a reference to Jason Todd, the second Robin in the Bat-comics, who was confronted with the same decision.
- One of the alter-egos Nygma came up with was "The Puzzler", who was a villain the 1960's Batman series.
- The exterior shot of Nygma's apartment shows that it's located next to a sign advertising the Criss-Cross Cleaning Company. In his first comic appearance, the Riddler hijacks a similar sign to pose a riddle to Batman.
- Napoleon Delusion: The Riddler goes insane and believes he's Batman.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: Batman tosses a bunch of silver dollars at Two-Face, losing his signature one amongst them. Another Mythology Gag, as something very similar happened in Batman the Animated Series.
- Non-Indicative Name: Why are they calling a blender-shaped mind manipulator a "box"?
- Television's often called "the idiot box," isn't it? Also, "The Box" is just a brand name...it's nondescript enough to be the most talked-about item on the shelves.
- Orgasmic Combat: Bruce makes this mistake when he overhears Chase's kickboxing practice. He needs to get out more.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Dr. Chase Meridian is apparently proficient at boxing with a punching bag and succeeds in keeping off Two-Face's goons for some time, but still has to be rescued by Batman like ye olde Damsel in Distress.
- The Other Darrin: Two of them!
- Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton.
- Tommy Lee Jones replaced Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. The studio had to buy out Williams' contract, as his contract included him playing Two-Face, but the studio wanted to go with Tommy Lee Jones instead.
- The Paid for Harem: Two Face's molls, Sugar and Spice. (You know... Debi Mazar and Drew freaking Barrymore!)
- Race Lift: A very strange example. Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent in the first film, which was in itself a race lift from the comics where Dent was nominally white (his exact appearance depended on the artist, sometimes he was vaguely Italian). This movie is supposedly set in the same continuity as the first film but Tommy Lee Jones was cast to play the character. So this is an example of a reversed race lift in the same continuity.
- The Sadistic Choice: The Riddler poses one to Batman at the climax: either save Chase or save Robin (a choice that also represents his two personas: Bruce and Batman). Obviously, he manages to rescue both, although the movie tries to admit a bit more realism by having Batman make the second catch damn close to reaching the Spikes of Doom.
- The novelization, by Peter David, subverts it entirely. Batman catches the unconscious Chase, then looks for Robin, only to not find him entirely. He wonders if he could've fallen all that way, that fast, and calls out "Robin!" in despair. Robin, having braced himself on the inside of the tube, replies "Whatcha want?"
- See You in Hell: Two-Face says this to Robin while hanging from a ledge. Robin responds by rescuing him and saying, "I'd rather see you in jail!"
- Sexy Coat Flashing
- The Shrink: Dr. Meridian is undeniably smart and perceptive, but too often can't see the forest for trees. She refers to Edward Nygma as "a wacko" for being obsessed with Bruce Wayne, but fails to realize at first that she has a similar fixation on Batman!
- She treats "wacko" as an actual psychological term, and apparently in this universe it is, since she goes on to list the symptoms- ie. homicidal obsession. She has no plans of killing either Bruce or Batman, at all, nor is she anywhere near that obsessive or self-centred, so no, her fixation is completely different.
- Sissy Villain: The friggin' Riddler. He's so flaming it's amazing his hair doesn't catch on fire.
- Split Personality: Very, very prominent in the movie. Harvey Dent / Two-Face would appear to be the obvious example, but we don't really see much of it in the movie. Edward Nygma / The Riddler seems to be showing the symptoms as well (and, at the end of the movie, goes batshit insane, believing that he is the Batman), and Bruce Wayne / Batman visits Dr. Chase Meridian, who discusses and lampshades the trope to him.
- Stalker with a Crush: Chase Meridian is a rare heroic example. Edward Nygma/The Riddler can be seen as one of these, too - at least if you believe the Foe Yay theory.
- Chase is just intellectually curious (maybe more than normal) and romantically attracted; Nygma is an actual stalker, posting sinister mail to his target, having photos and newspaper clippings of them all over his office and home, and dealing with their rejection by plotting to show up, humiliate and eventually murder them. The worst Chase does is hijack the Batsignal, which she semi-justifies by talking about Two-Face's psychological weaknesses.
- Storming the Castle: The invasion of Riddler's base.
- Technical Pacifist: This is actually the first film of this series to portray Batman as this, rather than someone who is outright killing mooks.
- Ten-Minute Retirement: Bruce pulls this after realizing Chase wants him over Batman.
- Two-Headed Coin: Two-Face, as always. Here, however, he keeps flipping the coin until he gets the outcome he wants, making it a Double Subversion.
- Maybe. As seen on the Fridge page, there's a theory that he was counting each clear shot at Bruce as a separate attempt deserving a separate toss.
- In the end Two-Face forgets his shtick entirely, and Batman has to remind before he Just Shoots Him.
- Maybe. As seen on the Fridge page, there's a theory that he was counting each clear shot at Bruce as a separate attempt deserving a separate toss.
- Un Confession: Bruce Wayne tries to announce his identity as Batman to a circus tent full of people in order to stop Two-Face from releasing his massive bomb, but nobody hears him over the screams of the panicked crowd.
- Verbal Tic: With the exception of a single line, Two-Face constantly refers to himself as "we."
- Villain Song: "The Riddler" by Method Man.
- Villain Team-Up: Two-Face and The Riddler
- Villain with Good Publicity: Edward Nygma becomes this when he uses the profits from his alter-ego's crime spree with Two-Face to start his own company and his "Box" devices become hugely popular.
- Villainous Breakdown: Due to various circumstances, Edward Nygma/The Riddler gets increasingly loopy throughout the film. Not that he wasn't clearly demented at the start...
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Edward Nygma is clearly one at first, since he only wants to patent and market his virtual-reality invention - without approval from his superiors, if necessary - to spare the people of the world from "being brutalized by an uncaring reality" (which is a correlative to his own loneliness and sense of worthlessness). It's not until he accidentally discovers that "The Box" can extract information from human minds that he decides to go down the Complete Monster route.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lampshaded.
Riddler: If you shoot him, he won't learn nothin'.
- Why Won't You Die?: After Batman survives Two-Face's attempt to incinerate him (in one of the most awesome Not Quite Dead moments Batman has ever had, as he comes running out of the fire, leaving Two-Face and his Mooks jaw dropped), Two-Face, now mad with frustration screams: "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST DIE!?" and fires a grenade at the support Batman was standing on, causing the entire structure to collapse and bury him. This might have actually worked, had Dick not come along to pull Batman out of there.
- You Killed My Family: Robin and Two-Face.