Tim Burton was relegated to the role of producer and Joel Schumacher was brought on as director to make Batman more accessible, more family friendly, and more toy friendly. And it shows, literally. Gone is Burton’s atmospheric Gothic vision for Gotham, replaced by an obnoxious neon-lit city resulting in numerous glaring shots throughout the film. Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) has broken out of prison, still blaming Batman for the acid damage done to his face. Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) creates a brainwave machine for Wayne Enterprises but is given the cold shoulder by the man himself.
Driven by revenge these two clowns team up, using Nygma’s brainwave machine to steal the IQ (?) of all Gotham citizens who watch TV and conquer the city. Jones and Carrey both seem to be directed simply to play various incarnations of the legendary Joker instead of their respectful characters, resulting in whacky cartoonish antics, with the latter turning in a flamboyant, obnoxious, and painful performance. A far cry from Burton’s multifaceted and wounded villains, these two are caricatures, goofballs, although Tommy Lee Jones brings enough ludicrousness (more tastefully than Carrey) that all is not lost.
Everything is far too colorful, far too theatrical, to string any momentum. Many action beats are rendered unintentionally hilarious by 1995-level CGI, that, when paired with Gotham’s outrageous aesthetic, makes for a truly head scratching experience without an ounce of weight. This holds true for the film’s heroes as well. Nicole Kidman is let down by writing so poor even her smoldering charisma can’t save her character. The less said about Chris O’Donnell the better (at least Carrey had energy). Val Kilmer is simply turning in his best Keaton impression.
Ultimately little blame lies with Joel Schumacher. He’s an outspoken Batman fan who was simply doing his job, and doing it rather well. He delivered an adventurous and kid friendly spectacle full of action, crazy neon, and “funny characters.” It’s the type of film where the heroes change costumes before the climax (on general principle as well as envisioned toy sales). Paceless, weightless, outrageous (Bat-butt!?), tasteless, characterless, Joel Schumacher still creates a whacky ball of energy loud enough to illicit a few pleasures, intentional or otherwise.