100 Days of Superheroes- Day 28: Batman Forever (1995)
What gadget is hidden within the bat nipples, I wonder?
“What kind of man has bats on his brain?”
Out with the old and in with the new is what they say. The success of the first two Batman films was not enough to keep Burton and Keaton tied up to the project. Though involved in early pre-production, they eventually walked out the door to move onto other things. This left the franchise hanging until Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer entered the scene. As a result some people try to consider the next two films “reboots” or part of a different mythology. The unfortunate truth though is that Schumacher makes it very clear that this is a bonifide sequel to the Burton movies, with such references to Catwoman and the Joker.
That’s where the real problem with the film begins. Burton has a very unique film style that is weird, dark, twisted, and hard to replicate. He’s a difficult act to follow because of his visionary finesse, but he is also hard to sequel because anyone would look like they are trying to copy him. And that is what Schumacher’s films feel like. They reach for that bizarre quality found in the Burton movies but painfully miss the mark. He just does not have the skill to work as an efficient Burton imitation.
The film itself feels a lot lighter and more upbeat than the darker, more brooding Burton Batman’s. It almost seems like the studio was trying harder to make it more kid friendly and appealing to a younger audience. This is a miscalculation on the character of Batman, whom many today might still argue should be R rated films. When too childish, the entire central concept falls apart, and the character looses his grip.
The plot follows a while after the events of Batman Returns. Between the two films a man by the name of Harvey Dent is mutated and driven insane. He blames batman and ends up in an insane asylum. The movie starts with Two-Face’s return and his resumed war on Batman. To make things worse one of Wayne Enterprises lab techs also goes out of his mind and decides to try to take down his idol Bruce Wayne. With both of his identities threatened, Batman gets help from a teen in tights to take down the baddies.
The one and only thing that this Schumacher film does better than the Tim Burton ones is in the depiction of the character of Bruce Wayne. Burton practically ignored Wayne in both his films, limiting his screen time and focusing more on his alter ego Batman and the villains. Schumacher corrects this a little bit by injecting more humanity into Bruce and as a result, Batman as well. He redoes the origin story completely (in flash backs) and adds more character development as he struggles to understand why he remains Batman.
Val Kilmer is the exact opposite of Michael Keaton. He is a fairly good Bruce Wayne but a weak Batman. This is probably more attributed to the scripts and less by any merit of the actors. Kilmer may come off as a little too young for the role and at times overly melodramatic, but his Wayne is still a more interesting and loyal interpretation than that presented by Burton and Keaton, even if Keaton is still the superior Batman. Kilmer just doesn’t have the intimidating presence needed for the nighttime crusader.
Both Jim Carey and Tommy Lee Jones really are kind of lame in all of this. They play everything painfully over the top with an annoyingly constant maniacal laughter. The Riddler is a bit more interesting than Two-Face, because rather than targeting Batman he is after his alter ego Bruce Wayne, unaware of the connection between the two. Still he is practically a cartoon character and not in a good way like in the Mask. His character is also uneven, ranging from just a twitchy scientist one minute, to a borderline homosexual evil genius the next.
Two-Face meanwhile just rips off Jack Nicolson’s Joker performance. He is constantly laughing and has all too similar mannerisms. What Tommy Lee Jones is lacking in comparison is originality and a good script. The character makes a half hashed entry into the franchise with a TV explained origin and a “we don’t really care” attitude. The most accurate aspect of Two face is also forgotten.
In the comics he had a torn conscious. One semi-good, one evil. With two minds about everything, Two Face relied on a coin to make moral decision for him. Here Two Face still has the coin but it is almost ceremonial more than anything else. Two Face often ignores the result of the coin and/or will flip it multiple times to get the result he wants. He is 100% foul and there is no sign of a brighter side of him. The film doesn’t even make the effort of explaining the coin.
Then there is always the groans about the introduction of Robin into the series. Yet, in all honesty, it wasn’t that bad. Robin is an integral character in the Batman mythology so it makes sense to include him sometime. Here at least they provided a somewhat believable backstory for him (even if it is different from the comics). Robin is an athletic prodigy who does acrobats for the circus. After stopping a bomb going off he has a run in with Batman, who takes in the orphaned 28 year old. What he should have said was, “get a job you lazy bum”.
The only problem I really had with the character of Robin in the film was the fact the actor (Chris O'Donnell) wasn’t great and he did nothing significantly useful after getting rid of the bomb. Honestly I would have kicked the kid out of my batcave after he stole my car. But instead good ol’ Bruce keeps him around to blow up his boat and get kidnapped as well. He contributes nothing useful as an actual sidekick.
The main romantic interest, Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), is just kind of annoying and unlikable. She uses emergency lights to signal Batman and dresses up in slutty cloths in an attempt to seduce him. It just makes me want to punch her in the face, much less root for batman to save her.
Then the final note that must be made is in the music. Where Danny Elfmen composed one of the most memorable Comic Book scores, here they replace it with Elliot Goldblatt‘s new awful music that fails to both fit the movie and capture the dark eeriness that is Batman.
Overall Batman Forever just becomes yet another addition to cursed third Superhero film collection. The villains are annoying, the plot forgettable, and the supporting characters unlikable. The only redeeming qualities are in the effects and the more in depth look at Wayne’s character. In the end it is still a dud, made all the worse when put against the Burton movies. Oh yeah, and Batman has nipples on his costume…..well sh*t.
FINAL RATING: 3/10- (30%)
Previous DAY 27: The Mask-
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