In 1995, Batman Forever arrived in cinemas to become the third entry in the Batman Anthology. The film continued the story laid out in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), but this time took a new direction in both style and tone.
Under the watchful eye of director Joel Schumacher, the new direction for Batman Forever was to lighten up the Batman movies, while introducing new villains and new a hero in the form of Robin. Robin was introduced as Batman’s new crime-fighting partner, with a portion of the film’s story dedicated to setting up his origin.
By the conclusion of Batman Forever, Batman was no longer a solo hero, he was part of the Dynamic Duo. This was a stark change from the previous Batman movies where the Dark Knight clearly liked to work alone.
But here’s the rub – Batman Forever introduced Robin, yet the movie wasn’t called Batman & Robin. That particular title was reserved for the fourth entry in the Batman Anthology – the movie that included Robin but introduced Batgirl.
So, hang on a minute, if Batman Forever introduced Robin, why wasn’t it called Batman & Robin? And more importantly, why was Batman ‘forever’? What does that title even mean?
OK, there is a very simple explanation for Batman Forever’s title and the answer lies within the film’s story itself. Read on and I will fill you in.
A new direction for the Dark Knight
Throughout the story of Batman Forever, Bruce Wayne is seen to be struggling with a repressed memory from his childhood. He suffers from recurring and confusing flashbacks to his past and he is also unsure of where his future lies as a caped crusader.
In previous movies he felt compelled to rush into the night to fight crime, but as the years have gone by, he’s no longer sure if that’s the right decision. He finds himself in a position where living two lives is becoming problematic and maybe being Batman isn’t the answer.
In his personal life as Bruce Wayne, he begins a new relationship with Dr. Chase Meridian. However, Dr. Meridian is infatuated with Batman, which is not good news for Bruce.
At Wayne Manor he provides a home to Dick Grayson, who is orphaned during a deadly encounter with Two-Face. Yet even with Dick living under his roof, he keeps his life as Batman a secret.
At the office, Bruce is receiving a series of strange riddles – riddles that are aimed at Wayne and not Batman. Yet the riddles are coming from the Riddler, a costumed adversary who is working with the Dark Knight’s enemy, Two-Face.
And then there’s Two-Face, a former friend of Bruce Wayne’s and a former ally of Batman’s. Yet now, Two-Face despises Batman and this makes it difficult for Bruce to deal with.
Regardless of whether he spends his days as Bruce Wayne or his nights as Batman, the Dark Knight has various ongoing problems and the two different sides of his life are overlapping. It is becoming too much for Bruce/Batman to focus on and he considers hanging up his cape and cowl for good.
But things change towards the end of the movie, when he works through the flashbacks he’s been having over his childhood. He comes to the realisation he has managed to avenge the death of his parents and he can reconcil being Batman with being Bruce Wayne through choice, not through guilt.
This is further cemented when Bruce/Batman has to make a split decision concerning both aspects of his life. In a final showdown with the Riddler, where the lives of his girlfriend and partner hang in the balance, Batman has to choose between saving Chase (representing the Bruce Wayne side of his life) or saving Robin (representing the Batman side).
He feels that it is impossible to choose one over the other and opts to save them both. Why? Because as he later tells the Riddler, he is both Bruce Wayne AND Batman, not because he has to be, but because he chooses to be.
It is in this moment he decides to keep his cape, effectively making the decision to remain as Batman ‘forever’. So, the title of the movie refers to Bruce’s decision to remain as Batman, regardless of the problems it causes, because that is who he is and who he now chooses to be forever.
Batman goes fourth
So, that explains why Batman is ‘forever’ and partway explains why the fourth movie then had to be titled Batman & Robin. You see, with Bruce making his decision to continue being Batman through choice, and not through guilt or a sense of commitment, he was ready to be a different kind of Batman for future films.
This new Batman – represented by an even lighter tone in Batman & Robin – was now ready to work with a partner and embrace a new outlook on crime-fighting. The best way to reflect this new path was to title the next film, Batman & Robin, to demonstrate this change.
OK, so it could have easily been called Batman: Partners or maybe even Bat-Family, but Batman & Robin was the more logical choice for a title as the film focused heavily on the Dynamic Duo’s relationship. Batman may have accepted a partner, but he still needed to work through the reality of trusting someone else – a plot point that became significant in that fourth movie.
The title ‘Batman Forever’ might seem like an odd one at times, but it made sense in the context of the movie. And the same goes for Batman & Robin.
So, next time someone asks you why Batman is forever(?) you can give them the answer. Batman is forever because that’s the choice he made – to continue crimefighting long after he avenged the death of his parents, not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Thanks for reading.