Why Doesn’t Jim Carrey Riddler Have Eyebrows in ‘Batman Forever’?
Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies are famous for their unique sartorial choices; nipples on the Batsuit, pronounced codpieces, and so on. Perhaps their general ostentatiousness obscured what has to be one of the strangest — yet least observed — costuming choices in any Batman film: Jim Carrey’s eyebrows in Batman Forever.
Or rather his lack of lack of eyebrows.
This whole situation defies explanation so images will be required. First, here is Carrey in his introductory scene as Edward Nygma, a quirky and ambitious scientist at Wayne Enterprises who has invented a new kind of hyperrealistic television. As you can see, Nygma is a bit disheveled, but he nonetheless possesses a normal human face with normal human eyebrows.
Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer) finds disturbing implications in Nygma’s technology — as well he should. It turns out Nygma’s “Box” can transfer the viewer’s brain power to its creator, enhancing his intellect and giving him the uncontrollable urge to talk like Ace Ventura. When Bruce Wayne rebuffs Nygma’s pitch to roll out this “Box” throughout Gotham City, the inventor quits and plots revenge. After witnessing Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face in action, Nygma decides to become a costumed criminal himself. Eventually, he picks the name “The Riddler,” with a green and black ensemble covered in question marks.
Nygma debuts his new alter ego by crashing a dinner party at Two-Face’s lair. When he shows up, he looks like this:
Notice anything strange about Carrey’s look as the Riddler? Here’s another angle:
In the span of a scene, Jim Carrey’s eyebrows have vanished. Edward Nygma has eyebrows. But for some reason, the Riddler does not.
My first thought was “Huh, that’s weird, Jim Carrey’s Riddler has no eyebrows. Why would he shave his eyebrows to become the Riddler?” But here’s the thing: Jim Carrey did not shave his eyebrows to become the Riddler. A few scenes after his transformation into the Riddler, Nygma hosts a lavish black-tie affair. And in that scene — and in every subsequent scene where Carrey plays Edward Nygma —he has eyebrows.
Look, there they are again.
Then a couple minutes later, when Nygma puts his Riddler costume on again, his eyebrows vanish.
This is the Riddler’s ultimate riddle: Why does he have no eyebrows?
I looked around and couldn’t find a suitable explanation. The closest the late Joel Schumacher comes to explaining it on the Batman Forever DVD commentary is in the first scene between Riddler and Two-Face. Here’s how he describes Carrey’s look as the Riddler:
Jim’s makeup, believe it or not, was harder to do than Tommy’s. Because there’s an attempt here to make his face almost perfect, like a doll. And that takes a lot of time, because it’s subtler than doing the prosthetic on Tommy’s face.
I have two daughters, so I live in a house full of dolls. And all of their dolls — every Barbie, every LOL, every baby — has eyebrows. And who thinks of a “perfect” face as one with no eyebrows? Well, Joel Schumacher, I guess.
Whatever the reason Schumacher equated no eyebrows with the “perfect” look he wanted for the Riddler, he decided to give Carrey a prosthetic to cover his real brows. In fact, a few years ago makeup artist Rick Baker auctioned off many of his famous works — and the items up for bid included not only the masks he made for Carrey to wear in Batman Forever, but the eyebrow covers as well. One set sold for a whopping $632.
Admittedly, there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that goes into every superhero movie costume. Michael Keaton’s Batman always wore dark makeup around his eyes under his helmet, yet we never saw him apply it and he never seemed to remove it either. In one infamous moment in Batman Returns, Keaton is very clearly wearing makeup in one shot and then it vanishes in the next when he goes to rip off his mask to reveal his identity to Catwoman.
This is just one of the things an audience is supposed to accept in a superhero film. But once I noticed Riddler’s (lack of) eyebrows, I couldn’t stop staring at them. I became fixated on trying to understand them — if not from the perspective of the filmmakers then at least from the perspective of Edward Nygma. Why would he go to all this trouble?
Nygma’s Riddler already wears a mask and dyes his hair orange; did he think that hiding his eyebrows would obscure his identity more? If he was so worried about people recognizing him, maybe he shouldn’t have talked like a standup comic on speed both in and out of his costume. That’s sort of a dead giveaway. Even Bruce Wayne uses a different voice to talk as Batman.
A few years ago, we learned about a three-hour director’s cut of Batman Forever that Schumacher assembled in the early days of editing the film. This version is described as “much darker in nature” with more focus on the “emotional and psychological issues that led Bruce Wayne to decide to become Batman.” At the time this cut’s existence was revealed, Warner Bros. said they had no plans to ever release it. I only hope some day they change their minds — and that amongst the extended sequences, they include a scene where excessive use of the Box technology makes all the hair fall out of Edward Nygma’s eyebrows. Otherwise, I just don’t get it.