Back in March, Noisey ran a piece entitled “Fuck ‘Trainspotting’! ‘Batman Forever’ Was the Soundtrack That Truly Epitomized the Nineties”, wherein J.R. Moores put forth the opinion that the Trainspotting soundtrack is highly overrated, while Batman Forever’s is highly underrated. He’s coming from a British point of view, but he does make the very astute observation that Batman Forever “wrestled the Dark Knight from the sweaty clutches of graphic novel-reading grownups and rightfully handed him back to the kids.”
A good portion of that is due to the fact that the soundtrack is an absolute mix of madness. While there’s the massive hit of Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose,” that’s really the pop music outlier in an otherwise crazy mix of covers (the Offspring taking on the Damned, and former INXS frontman Michael Hutchence doing Iggy Pop), alt rock, and hip-hop. It also features one of the few not-terrible things U2 did in the ‘90s.
While U2 started off the decade fairly well, releasing Achtung Baby in November of 1991, it was followed by Zooropa and Pop. Both albums sold well and charted well, but were sort of regarded as the epitome of bloated rock ‘n’ roll excess, especially in the wake of their associated tours. Also, even as a casual fan of the band, as a teenager, I could easily recognize that “Numb” and “Lemon” were kind of weak in comparison to the likes of “One” and “Mysterious Ways.”
Given the band’s flirtation with dance and electronic music during the latter half of the decade, it was kind of surprising to hear them release “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” in 1995, as part of the Batman Forever soundtrack. The song was — while definitely processed as all hell — a full-on rock ‘n’ roll song. It’s got insanely catchy guitar work from the Edge, strings, and Bono being a fully nutso character.
The animated music video is absolutely bonkers, and this sentence from the Wikipedia entry on the song sums it up nicely:
“It features the band performing in Gotham City, with Bono battling between two of his alter-egos from the Zoo TV Tour: ‘The Fly’ and ‘MacPhisto.’ The band also chases the Batwing, using a yellow supercar and their guitars as flamethrowers.”
Yup. It’s basically an anime nightmare. If you read up on the whole Zooropa tour, and discover that Bono was essentially getting all music hall for its various legs, playing these different characters, the video makes a little more sense, but at the time of its initial airing, I had no fucking clue as to why Bono changed into the Devil after getting ran over by Elvis.
There are also various clips from the film, which is sort of overloaded, but arguably the most comic-booky of all the Batman films. Like Moore said in his article, it’s absolutely for the kids. I saw it in the theater and remember being pretty thrilled with it, if a bit irritated that Tommy Lee Jones’ and Jim Carrey’s respective portrayals of Two-Face and the Riddler were basically just variations on Jack Nicholson’s Joker from the first Tim Burton film. Say what you will about Batman Returns, but the Penguin and Catwoman are singular characters within the franchise.
It’s interesting to note that “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” was basically the only really rock ‘n’ roll thing the band would release for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t until 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind and its lead-off single, “Beautiful Day,” that the band would really return to those chiming guitars and anthemic choruses with which it made its bones. It seems rather appropriate that the one acknowledgement of that history would come smack-dab in the midst of their 40-year career.