By Jim Foote
I am going to go point by point, hitting fast and hard (TWSS) to provide you with enough information/evidence to "show you the way."
Of course one is 1995's Batman Forever and one is 2016's Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
You can view my official review of BvS at the following link: Batman V Superman Review
I'm going to use a 5-point layout through sheer comparison and you'll know Batman Forever is superior. Plain and simple.
1. Overall Presentation
With BvS, you watch that trailer and know almost beat for beat what the story is and will be. After everyone saw Doomsday, people got pissed and they double backed. Well, they tried to. Reports were coming out how Doomsday isn't the ending and is just what propels the movie towards the third act. No. People saw the trailer and shouted a collective, "what the hell?"
Forever is bright, it's zany, it's a trip. By the time Batman & Robin comes along, they went FULL camp. Here, you get a sense it's still transitional. It has deep, serious moments. Then, it has Robin doing karate laundry. BvS is dark... it's loud... it's heavy. It comes at you, punched you in the gut, yells at you to "get the fuck up," and then kicks you for good measure.
There was also a big problem with the marketing and advertising for BvS. Who the hell was this movie for? You made a movie bringing Batman and Superman together... and little kids can't even see it because it's far too brutal and adult. It's Batman and Superman. I got into Batman first via the Adam West show when I was like not even five. Superman hit me a few years later when I watched the Sunday matinee of Superman II on WPIX (Channel 11 in New Jersey). But don't bring your kids to see this one... or else they'll see Bats and Supes straight up kill people. More on that later.
Forever, keeping with its more family and child oriented style, had major promotions at places like McDonalds (with those glass mugs I wish I still had). BvS has a bunch of pissed off action figures with weapons loaded on the Target and Walmart shelves. And you know what? They aren't selling. Who the hell is going to buy a Jason Momoa Aquaman figure when we haven't even seen Aquaman?
The way to sum up Forever in the presentation is that beautiful green question mark. As much as you think you know going into it, you have all these questions because of the unknown. Watching that BvS trailer... I had only one question. "Shit. They really made this thing?"
Batman kills. We know this. But it's not just that he kills. He openly kills A LOT of people. I believe Josh's count was over 20, at least. Say what you want, but a murdering Batman isn't Batman. Superman, I didn't have a problem with him killing Zod in Man of Steel. The problem I had is millions of people have died... but Zod threatens a family of four, so suddenly Superman has had enough. That's bogus.
Superman first shows up in BvS during Lois' African getaway (where they shot Jimmy Olsen in the head... without saying he was even Jimmy Olsen). What does he do when forced with a hostage situation? He super speed-flies into the terrorist, sending him head first through a huge cement wall. That guy is dead. Superman just killed a civilian. Then, during the court house explosion... Superman doesn't even try to do anything. He accepts the explosion, and that's that. It's like when The Comedian was talking shit to Doc Manhattan in Watchmen. When Comedian shoots a woman who said was pregnant with his baby, Manhattan acts appalled. Comedian points out Doc could've done whatever he wanted. He could've stopped it. He didn't. Neither did Superman.
Ah, I'm getting pulled in that Kevin Costner Tornado. Back on topic.
Batman Forever's Batman doesn't kill. There's a video where someone supposedly tallies Batman's kill count. Let's take a look, shall we?
Batman didn't kill them. Two-Face did. Moving on.
Batman is still being chased down an alley way. He finds out it's a dead end, shoots a grapple hook, and the batmobile scales the side of the building. The goons behind him, hit the wall and explode. They all die. Batman was being chased. He didn't put the wall there, nor did he force the goons to drive into said wall. However this is taken as Batman killing, is beyond me. But there is one thing I haven't addressed yet.
"Batman kills Two-Face."
I push back a bit at this one. I can at least admit it's a little shady, but think about this. Face has the jump on Robin. Robin's dead as a doornail. To stop him, Batman gives Harvey a little monologue and tosses a bunch of coins in the air. We don't know that Batman was trying to kill Harvey. All we know is Robin was done and Batman distracted Face.
And let's remind you in this movie, Bruce has a monologue he gives to Dick about not killing and the dark road it sets you on. Don't remember? Check it out. I'll wait.
If this were BvS, Bruce would've been, "Well... I already killed him. Yeah. He's dead."
Plus... it exemplifies the Batman/Robin relationship here is more developed and powerful than Batman/Superman in the Snyderverse. This has gravitas. You see the realization on Robin's face when Bruce tells him his parents were killed by a maniac. In BvS, we get Batman suffering PTSD from hearing the word Martha. My question is... if he ever met a random woman named Martha, did he go into shock or start seizing or something?
Oh... and Batman saves a criminal in this one.
- Wayne Enterprises scenes
- Arkham Asylum
- Batman not trying to kill his eventual partner
Two-Face and The Riddler vs. Alexander Luthor Jr. and Doomsday
Now I'm going to look at the villain tag-teams of each film. There IS a point to this... and it's going to hit you like a shot in the head. Two-Face, in Forever, has a 100% accurate origin to the comic. Dark Knight didn't even do that. Think about this; only one film has ever done is origin correctly... and it's Batman Forever. Not to say I didn't like Eckhart's Harvey Dent (I did), but it's a completely different origin. I had someone on Facebook try to tell me what happened to him in The Dark Knight was accurate. I'm just sitting there going, "umm... nope."
The Riddler is quirky. Jim Carrey is half brilliant and half "what the hell." That goes without saying. Having said that, he exudes a charisma The Riddler should have. And regardless of how you feel about the portrayal or Riddler's origins in the movie, we still know their motivations. We know why the conflict is happening and why they want to kill Batman or end Bruce Wayne.
BvS is a different story... and this is one of my favorite arguments against this movie, which most people either completely ignore or don't realize. We don't know Alexander's motivations. He mutters on a bit about flowers, makes a few devil and God comments, and pisses in a mason jar. We still don't know why he hates Superman, why he hates Batman, and what his plan really is?
Well... there's a whole other theory including Darkseid that I won't go into. I will say, our fellow writer/reviewer extraordinaire Josh predicted this pretty early on: he's being possessed by Darkseid and it's not really him. If you look at it that way, things start to make a bit more sense. Problem is... we don't know. It's all over the place, so you can't grasp it.
But going back to Alexander. For the record, I'm not calling him Lex. He even says his father was/is Lex. He's Alexander Jr. So Alexander has no real reason to hate Supes in this. Why does he? Because he's Luthor and Luthor hates Superman, right? THAT is the problem. We project any preconceived notions or what we know about the characters' histories into this movie to explain things that weren't explained in the movie itself. We are filling in the blanks based on what's come before. But let's explore that a little.
In this universe, Superman hasn't been around for like more than 2 years. It may be about 1 and a half. If something between him and Alexander had happened within that time frame, fine. BUT SHOW IT. But it hasn't. Furthermore, Batman and Superman have actually met/battled for about a day or so. But, because MARTHA, they stop and be best buds. Then, at the end, Bats says he failed him in death and will honor him in life or some shit. Point is... that moment wasn't earned. The big moments are never earned. They make sense to us because we think, "well Batman and Superman are friends!" But this universe never shows that. Never. Same way they never show any actual conflict with Luthor and Superman to build up. I'm going to draw a parallel between wrestling, just as I did in my BvS review... and this goes for both Luthor and Doomsday.
Say you have a new wrestler, let's call him Jack Action. He debuts and is perfect. Flawless. He's beating guys left and right, climbing on the card. Well, he accidentally causes someone else to lose in a ten man match, but nothing really happens. It happens again and again, until Jack Action and the other character, let's call him King Ladnam, finally meet in battle. You've built that up. You've given the characters a reason to fight.
We don't get that with either Luthor OR Doomsday. Luthor is already there, already hates Superman (even though he has no reason to other than who he is in the comics) and that's all. Doomsday is shoe horned, randomly, and not having to do with the actual Doomsday from the comics. He's just there, goes through no one else to get to Superman and the fight is over quite quickly. There's no build up. You haven't earned any of the moments.
This also plays into Dark Knight Returns, the main inspiration for the flick. The reason Batman and Superman's fight works so well is they've known each other for YEARS in that world. They WERE best friend butt bodies. Now, they're on opposite sides and have to fight because there's no other solution. (It also proves that Superman not trying to arrest Batman in BvS is more bullshit.) So we've earned the moment and they duke it out. Here, there is no such friendship and no build up. It's all so forced because "reasons."
Getting back to the difference between Face/Riddler and Luthor/Doomsday is simple. Face and Riddler actually act like their characters should. Luthor doesn't and Doomsday is not the same one from the comics. He's just not.
There's a reason when most people watch Luthor in this new film, they either think Joker or Riddler. None of them think Lex.
Doomsday grows spikes in place of injuries, has heat/fire eyes and breath, and seems to emit some kind of pulse/energy blast when he gets angry and "hulks out." None of these things are synonymous with the actual Doomsday. He also looked like one of those bad CGI vampires in I Am Legend, then like a Michael Bay Ninja Turtle. Look at Doomsday in the comics...
Robin is a better character than Superman
That popped pretty well, didn't it? Superman's my favorite character, but he's just not THAT Superman in these movies. He's not bright. He's not hopeful, even though the S stands for hope. Ugh. But if comparing these two movies, Robin has a stronger arc, his story is quite clear, and he has the pay off because of the build.
Robin's parents are killed by Two-Face. Not the best origin, but let's look at in the context of the movie. Family is dead, and he's all alone. He goes to Bruce, when he finds out who he is (by way of an awful scene) and asks him to help kill Two-Face. That's when we see the clip posted above. I won't post it again, but something very important is said. Robin draws that line of separation, saying Bruce hasn't had to experience anything like that. A maniac didn't kill his parents, his family. Except Bruce reveals a maniac DID kill his parents, his family. That moment of realization brings the two characters together, where they eventually form a partnership. That moment was earned. They gave a great reason to show similar paths.
In BvS, their mothers have the same name. That's legit it.
There's a rumor saying Superman will possibly be the villain in Justice League Part One, maybe if not the villain then at least some transformation of the character will happen. People are saying, well, "when he comes back, he'll be the real Superman everyone knows."
So what you're saying is I have to stick my head in the sand and wait three movies just to get Superman to be... Superman?! That's horse shit and you know it. Robin showed more struggle and a powerful arc in Batman Forever, choosing against revenge... choosing against killing. Why? BECAUSE OF THE GOD DAMN BATMAN.
In terms of other characters, there's not much. BvS had a lot, who were often over shadowed or not given enough. I enjoyed Jeremy Irons, Larry Fishburne, and Gal Gadot. Problem was, they were barely in it.
Kidman vs. Adams
Not much should be said for either character. Kidman's Chase Meriddian... Meridean? Who cares, she's not even a comic character. She's a shrink and yet can't realize how screwed up in the head she is. All she wants to do is sleep naked in this big scary mansion like place and screw Batman.
But Amy Adams' Lois... holy hell. She is a damsel in distress in BvS, and Lois should NEVER be a damsel in distress. She'll take a swing at ya'. Not this one. This one's actions are dependent upon two things. First, does Superman need to save someone? Put Lois there. Second, how do we advance the plot because nothing makes sense? Have Lois do it. She throws the Kryptonite Spear in the water, thinking, "shit... this could kill Clark. Better get rid of it." Then, with no provocation, dives back in to get it. Why? Well because they need it in the fight against Doomsday (even though she's nowhere near any of them) and because she needs to get trapped so Clark can save her.
At least Nicole Kidman never tried to be anything more than the character was meant to be and wasn't ruining the entire essence of a comic book character.
3. Tone & Universe
BvS is all darkness. It's bleak. It's cynical. It's dreary. It's a singular toned piece. One of the reasons the Batman Superman dynamic works so well is the contrast between the two. Batman is darker. He broods. Dude dresses like a damn Bat. Superman is bright, we look up to him, and he flies high. In the film, however, it's not dark and bright. It's dark and darker. They're both brooding and pissed off.
Sometimes a singular tone works. But if you're going to have a flick be 100% serious and 0% humor, it shouldn't be a Batman/Superman flick.
BvS is setting up a universe in which you're not sure if kids should see it. If I had a kid, I would not bring them to see this movie. It pains me much to say that, but it's too brutal. Batman Forever, while it deals with some adult issues... it has fun with it. It's playful. It's over the top. Is it perfect? No. But it doesn't have to be. Batman Forever didn't owe this world a thing.
Both movies actually lay the ground work for a bigger universe. BvS is very direct and some would say the setup of later events takes precedent over the Batman/Superman story itself. They bring in Wonder Woman, some guy in Iron Man armor, floating head doctor, and some guy in a Loreal commercial.
Forever doesn't do much, but they DO two things mostly unnoticed. One, they mention Metropolis. This is a world where Superman exists. Would we have gotten him in this if the franchise didn't explode? Maybe. Maybe not. Also, Robin refers to it as a "superhero gig." That's the first time in any of the Batman flicks, Burton included, he's referred to as a superhero. It opens the world for others. But again, it's more playful. They throw in little nods, have fun with it, but don't let it hinder what they're trying to do.
BvS makes it a priority and the story suffers. Perfect example. Superman's best pal, Jimmy Olsen. He was in BvS, we just didn't see the introduction (it was cut). Olsen is the photographer working with the CIA in Africa who gets shot in the head. Why? Well Snyder said there was no room for Olsen in their universe and he wanted to have fun with the character. I hope he never wants to have fun with me.
Ultimately, it comes down to one thing with the tone and universe set up. Batman Forever, even in its campiness, feels like your main canon Batman. BvS plays like an elseworlds story. Maybe that's okay with you. There's a reason a lot of people who like this movie liken it to elseworld comics. But... when you're laying the foundation for your big movie universe, you don't set it up with an elseworld tale. You just don't. Take a look at the actor who plays Jimmy, so you know to look for him next time.
4. Music & Soundtrack
BvS and Forever, again, have a very major difference in their setup and execution. Just as I said with tone, BF is way more fun, over the top, and light hearted. There's more variation in what you'll hear in terms of score or any of the sound/music within the movie. BvS will hammer the same scores and themes over and over, until you have to just cover your ears and hope it ends.
Im BvS, there's a shoe horned scene where Bruce sends Diana an email with his findings of Alexander's secret files. In those files, we see Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman herself. Yes, kids, Luthor knows everyone's identities from the start. We really earned that, didn't we? We know this is supposedly an important scene, since you're introducing several new characters. The film needs to hammer in a very loud pulsing score. DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNN DUN DUN DUN over and over again. It's as if they were sitting in the studio thinking, "hmm... how else are they going to know this is important! WE NEED MORE DRUMS!" Do your ears bleed? They will.
The only piece of music I really enjoyed and felt it was a welcomed change of pace, was Wonder Woman's theme. Check it out here.
Batman Forever is facing an uncontested battle with actual songs/a soundtrack. As far as I know, BvS doesn't have one. They just have score by Hans Zimmer. That's perfectly fine, but the point is variety. BvS doesn't have it. It's not memorable outside of, "damn this is loud and repetitive."
Forever had an entire soundtrack. The Offspring, The Flaming Lips, Method Man, and Massive Attack are all on the soundtrack, giving it a legit feel. But even then... they do have two juggernauts.
The song is so memorable and widely loved (or hated, depending if you have no soul or heart), it's what a lot of people think of first when asked about Batman Forever. When I first decided I was going to write this article, I asked a friend of mine what he remembered about Batman Forever. Two things.
1. Jim Carrey
2. Kiss From A Rose
But hey... it's a Batman movie, right? BvS IS a Batman movie before it's a Superman movie, and not just because his name appears first. So, if these are both Batman movies, we should compare his main theme, right? Listen for yourself, below.
Rotten Tomatoes is a tricky one. Some people have all the faith in the world and others condemn it. Suffice it to say, it's more about looking for what you want to see before you see it. If RT agrees with what you think, it's great. If it doesn't, it sucks.
But there's something to be said for when a film has over 200 or maybe even 300 reviews. Film is subjective. It's personal. I'm a big fan of Mannequin 2: On The Move, even though it's a big crap movie. People would think I was joking if I said I liked it. But... this is about the pairing of Batman Forever and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and which is better. Well, I think Forever is, so obviously I'm going to not show Rotten Tomatoes because surely more people liked BvS, right?
Another big tell of a movie's success isn't necessarily box office actual numbers. In terms of movie studios and making money, sure. However, think about this. You don't know what you think or how you feel about a movie you haven't seen. You could go into a bad one thinking it will be good and go into a good one thinking it will be bad. Whether you're right or wrong, the money has been paid and has already gone to the box office numbers.
So what's the kicker? How much is falls in sales week to week. If a bad movie really is bad, more times than not, you'll see a big percentage in the fall. Word of mouth can be crippling to a movie. It also kills repeat viewings for a lot of movie goers. Let's check out the drops from the first three weeks.
Another factor is the budget. To make money back on a movie, you have to make twice as much as your budget. BvS has been rumored to have both a 250 million and 410 million budget. Through advertising and its big stars, I'd imagine it's closer to 410. But... for the sake of this, let's cut it in half and say about 330. So, BvS would have to make about a billion dollars to turn a profit. It won't reach a billion. It's dying a fast death in the US and it has no large markets awaiting release anymore.
On the other hand, Batman Forever, only had a 100 million budget. It made almost 340 million worldwide... and that's in 1995 ticket sales. Forever more than tripled its budget. BvS is just trying to turn a profit. Bottom line, Batman Forever is a more successful movie in terms of ticket sales.
Finally, in the world of franchises, studios are always looking to what's next. If one movie is successful and makes them money, then can go right to the next one. They look for sure things, dependable movies that turn into dependable franchises. Batman & Robin killed theirs. Even though the followup killed it, Batman Forever was a huge success... enough to get another film green lit. If it weren't for the fights of Schumacher, Kilmer, and Jones... maybe Kilmer would've stayed and we would have a different Batman & Robin. One can dream, can't he?
BvS, however, is only either turning away some fans or fueling more suspicion about the future of the DCCU. Suicide Squad, their supposed beloved baby, has now fell victim to reshoots as a result of people saying the universe is too dark for BvS to have the singular tone of the universe. That presents a large problem. If anything, SS should be dark and over the top. It shouldn't be light hearted. The problem wasn't with DC giving movies providing a darker look. The problem was choosing that as the singular tone basis for all characters, most notably Superman. But now, because of BvS, future movies are changing and the universe, which seemingly had very solid footing... well maybe the ground is rumbling a bit.
Batman Forever kept the train moving. BvS has started to make some loud noises and we may have to change trains altogether.
Some people don't like Superman. Some think Batman should kill. Some don't care. Some prefer elseworld stories as opposed to the traditional characters we've known before. But they still made some head scratchers. I'm fully convinced Snyder either doesn't get Superman or doesn't like Superman, therefor he's trying to change the character into something completely different. Maybe it's Ultraman, I don't know.
Batman Forever is treated as largely a joke nowadays. But if you look a little deeper into it, you may see something different. Sure, it's not without its flaws. Tommy Lee Jones didn't play nearly enough Harvey Dent, and went possibly more over the top than Carrey's Riddler. I think the story would've meant a lot more had Robin been played by someone a little younger. Take the guy who's playing Spider Man, Tom Holland. Imagine if a kid like him played Robin. It would mean so much more. But even with his faults, this Robin was a better, more fleshed out character than Superman in BvS.
In almost every way, Batman Forever is superior to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Pacing. Story. Sound. Use of characters. Comic accuracy of said characters. Tone. Trailers. Marketing. Family presence. Box office.
BvS, years from now, will be looked upon like The Phantom Menace. People wanted to love this movie so much, they can't tear themselves from the fantasy yet. If you truly love it, that's all you. But I'm willing to bet a large amount of fans will come around.
Batman IS FOREVER. BvS isn't.