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BATMAN FOREVER, 1995
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring: Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones
Review by Andrew Kosarko
The third installment in the “Batman” series. Here the Caped Crusader must once again contend with two strange-looking, personality-impaired villains. First, there’s maniacal ex-DA Harvey Two-Face, so named because half his countenance has been horribly disfigured by acid. Then there’s the wise-cracking, hyperactive Riddler, whose alter-ego Edward Nygma is a nerdy, highly disgruntled ex-employee of Bruce Wayne. Together, these two masterminds plan to conquer the world with a device that not only mesmerizes users with 3-D television images, but also transports the viewer’s thoughts into the Riddler’s mind. Batman also has to contend with two other new people in his life. One is lovely psychiatrist Chase Meridian, who has fallen in love with Batman AND Bruce Wayne. Then there’s Dick Grayson, a young, orphaned acrobat who desperately wants to become Batman’s crime-fighting sidekick in order to get revenge on the man responsible for his parents’ death: Harvey Two-Face.
“Maybe, maybe not. You could say we’re of two minds of the subject. One man is born a hero, his brother a coward. Babies starve, politicians grow fat. Holy men are martyred, and junkies grow legion. Why? Why, why, why, why, why? Luck! Blind, stupid, simple, doo-dah, clueless luck!” That’s Two Face’s opening speech. That’s the high mark of this film pretty much. The only time someone really *nails* their character’s portrayl. From that point on, it’s pretty much down hill, with one exception that I’ll get to later.
The Story: Batman and Two Face are going at it. That’s right, no real origin for Two-Face. Just him and Batman battling it out over little clever crimes built around the number 2. Meanwhile, all this Batman-ism is causing Bruce Wayne to have a lack of a love life and piss off his employees at Wayne Enterprises. One of which is Edward Nigma, the Riddler, who decides to go into business for himself and suck the minds of Gotham with a 3-D TV Projector do-wap thingy. And on top of all this, drop Robin in there too. The main problem with this plot is basically the same problem as every other Batman film (Sans Batman 1989 but including even Nolan’s newer films), Batman wants to stop being Batman to live as Bruce Wayne. Normally I wouldn’t harp on it, but it’s the primary focus of this film. Batman is original because he’s one of the few superheroes who embraces his calling. Once he becomes Batman, he IS Batman. There is no looking to get out of it. If anything, Bruce Wayne is the one who falls by the wayside. Which they dipped their toe in that pool in Batman Begins but decided otherwise in The Dark Knight. It’s really boring seeing every superhero “giving up the costume” for a normal life. Save that for Superman and Spider-man, aka heroes who have their calling forced upon them. Furthermore, the villains of Two-face and the Riddler are basically just watered down Joker rip off’s after Batman Returns’ dark evil baby killing penguin made parents cause an uproar.
Acting: As stated above, Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones are enjoyable…..if they were playing the Joker. Both are upbeat and sinister. Which is alright for little kids. But for the more adult crew, it’s a little too over the top. At least for me it is. As far as Val Kilmer goes, I am one of the few people who hate him in the role. Now he’s passable as Batman. I can manage…..some of the time. But as Bruce Wayne he commands no attention from me. He just bores the hell out of me. I don’t know why, because he’s amazing in Heat. But this go around he just annoys me because he’s so boring. Nicole Kidman is the love interest and I really can’t find myself interested in her either. I honestly don’t find her attractive and it’s just a generic role. They don’t even take enough liberties with her shrink role to make her and Batman’s relationship interesting. The single greatest acting in the film, in my humble opinion, is out of Chris O’Donnell. Aside from “Holy rusted metal Batman!” He nails down Robin and Dick Grayson just the way I think he should be. You can’t tell me watching him beat the living hell out of Two Face on the rocks (That was for my mother! My father! My brother! And this is for me!) is not badass. I’m sorry. It is one of the few times Robin and badass are in the same sentence. I really wish the next installment had taken it more seriously because I think he’s the perfect Robin. He was able to bring a tragic past to the role and I’ve never really heard anyone mention the common homosexual nature that normies mock when it comes to his portrayal of the character. Sure there’s some moments where it gets implied, namely the bondage comparison of him being equal to Batman as the love interest, but that’s the script and Joel Schumacher’s fault.
Directing: Speaking of Captain Schumacher, let’s get into that shall we. Dude….you made A time to Kill. The Lost Boys. You can’t make a dark, yet not too dark for the kids Batman movie? Now I don’t blame you entirely, as the studio pressure is to blame as well. But I mean, come on. You could have tried a little. The second the electrified thug in the first scene started making the sound my little brother makes by smooching his lips together, humming and moving his finger up and down, I knew this movie would disappoint. I would like to see a “directors” cut which limited down the stupid dialogue quips and more of the “red book” subplot about Thomas Wayne’s diary and why Bruce became Batman to begin with. You had a real good chance of showing Bruce wandering off the path he chose for himself and then exploring the origin you wanted. That, and an opening of Arkham Asylum with a murdered guard by Two Face, who then wrote on the wall in the guard’s blood; “The Bat must DIE.” I mean…..come on, that’s awesome.
Cinematography: Please excuse my French, “shitty”. There’s neon lighting littered throughout this movie and it’s really annoying. It’s unnatural and not even used in a stylistic way. I can see the actual lights in more than several shots. I mean, like not accidentally in there, not part of the set, but used for lighting the scene. Come on man. This isn’t an Andy Warhol movie for Christ sake.
Production Design: See the French word above. There’s giant naked men statues littered throughout. The costumes well……we all know about the nipples. I got the idea behind it. Greek Gods. Michelangelo’s sculptures. I get it. But, you have pick or a side here. You’re either making an art movie, a good movie, or a campy mocking movie. Stick to what works.
Editing: It’s fine. Like I said, I just wish that the Red Book storyline or Two Face’s escape from Arkham had not been cut. Otherwise there’s nothing really out of place to me.Score: I’m sorry, after Danny Elfman’s iconic score, either keep it or as the Rock would say, “Bring it.” This score sucks. And I say that as someone who listens to film scores every day. Usually I can listen to most of them no problem. Sure some are better than others, but this is one that annoys the hell out of me. The use of trumpet is…well it’s just too much. You can’t do “heroic” or “dark” with a trumpet. You need a French horn for that kind of tone. This….yeah, sorry. No thanks.
Special Effects: Pretty good seeing as most stuff was done for real and CGI was only used when needed. The plane crash through the sign was good special effects and the CGI for the Nigma Box was good. It matched the tone of the film and was not something that reminded me “I’m watching a movie.”
In closing: This movie is ok for kids to watch. Which is kool. Because kids should get a chance to see a live action Batman that isn’t dark and complex as Nolan’s new film series. But you could it and still have it be good. Batman 1989 is a perfect example of this. But truth be told, this movie is aimed for kids. Kids want the happy meals, the toys, the tee shirts. That’s how you make money. Then again, if you make a quality film, you could make, oh I don’t know, say a billion dollars and then money on the merchandise as well? Oh what do I know? I’m only a person with a vested interest in these films.
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