It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
A question has been nagging at me ever since the first Batman movie, and "Batman Forever" makes it inescapable: Would Bruce Wayne continue his keen interest in crime fighting if he didn't get to wear the Batman costume? The opening scene plays like a commercial for a rubberwear shop, and throughout the movie, the dominant images are of fetishistic gear: The belt buckles, boots, gloves, capes, masks, and of course, the cute little dime-sized nipples on Batman's and Robin's chests. When Batman tries on his new prototype costume late in the movie, and there's a close-up of its gleaming buttocks, the audience chuckles knowingly.
Batman would be a sensation in any leather bar, but "Batman Forever" is at pains to show that he has heterosexual tastes. Nicole Kidman plays Dr. Chase Meridian, who sounds like a bank, but is, in fact, a student of abnormal psychology. She's powerfully attracted to Batman the moment she meets him, and wonders what he's looking for in a woman: Would it help, she wonders, if she carried a whip? She's thrilled that Batman reads her books ("Not every girl makes a superhero's night table"), but less than thrilled when her date for the Gotham Charity Circus is boring old bachelor Bruce Wayne. Maybe the clothes do make the man.
This theme - the girl in love with the image but not the reality - is also standard in the Superman series, where Lois Lane chases the Man of Steel, but rejects Clark Kent. What's new in "Batman Forever" is that Batman himself (Val Kilmer) has to do a little seduction. At the circus, young acrobat Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell) saves the crowd by rolling Two-Face's TNT bomb into the river. His family is killed during this process. Bruce Wayne, impressed by the orphaned young man, invites him to stay at Wayne Manor, but Dick is a rebellious motorcycle freak who wants outtathere - until Wayne shows him his collection of bikes, including priceless old Harleys and Indians. The subtexts in this scene are so deep, you have to wade through them.
The plot of the movie involves the embittered Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), a former district attorney who is deranged after half his face is scarred by acid. He's mean, but not brilliant. For brains, the movie provides Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey), who uses a computer program to name himself the Riddler, and who hooks up with Two-Face to steal lots of loot to finance his evil scheme.