Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #8

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#8: Batman Forever

The end of the Batman movie series begins here, with the third in the Tim Burton-imagined tales of the Dark Knight Detective.

“Batman Forever” was released in 1995 by Warner Brothers, directed by Joel Schumacher, and stars Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, Michael Gough, and Pat Hingle. Special guest appearances were also made by Elizabeth Sanders (wife of Batman creator Bob Kane), Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Ed Begley Jr., and Rene Auberjonois. The movie is available on DVD either alone or in a box set, and it appears on occasion on cable channels such as TBS.

After the release of “Batman Returns”, too many people complained about the “dark overtones” of Batman. So the studio forced some serious changes. Gone was the slightly-surreal feel of Tim Burton’s Gotham. Instead we have a Metropolis-style mega-city with sharp neon colors. Also gone was Tim Burton in the director’s chair. He was forced to turn the reins over to Schumacher, although he did keep the title of producer. Michael Keaton also rightly abandoned the franchise, especially since it was his portrayal of the brooding and dangerous vigilante that served as the chief source of complaints from parents groups. He passed the cowl over to Val Kilmer.

The movie starts with Batman (Kilmer) being summoned to a crime scene full of police and crowds. He makes a very dramatic entrance, much to the delight of Commissioner Gordon (Hingle) and Doctor Chase Meridian (Kidman). They tell him that Harvey Two-Face (Jones) has taken a bank guard hostage on the second anniversary of his scarring. Batman takes the elevator (no, really) up to the middle of the bank building, where Two-Face and his goons are waiting for him. We are given a few seconds of confusing and chaotic fighting before Batman goes into the vault and is trapped with the guard. Two-Face then appears with a helicopter to haul the vault into the sky as it starts spewing “boiling acid”. Batman escapes the vault, and in a feat of absolute unrealism, manages to return the vault BACK to its original place in the bank building before climbing up the chain to the helicopter. Two-Face escapes, but not before he flies the helicopter into a statue of Lady Gotham. (Gotham’s version of the Statue of Liberty, complete with a green copper skin.)

The next day, Bruce Wayne visits one of his Wayne Enterprises labs, where he encounters Edward Nygma (Carrey). Nygma tells Wayne he has a special device that allows people to beam television signals right in the brains of viewers. Wayne rejects the notion, saying that the idea of tapping into one’s mind to affect it raises too many ethical questions. Nygma vows to prove Wayne wrong. Later that night, he ties up his supervisor (Begley) and turns on the device, which then magnifies Nygma’s mind exponentially. When threatened with being arrested, Nygma then kills his boss and fakes the footage on the surveillance camera to appear that the man committed suicide. He then resigns from the company.

Meanwhile, Wayne is getting mixed signals from Meridian. As Batman, he is summoned by the Bat Signal by Meridian so she could use her knowledge of Two-Face’s coin fixation as a way to seduce Batman. Once he starts getting strange messages, he is referred to Meridian, and asks her to accompany him to the Gotham Charity Circus, but it’s clear that she’s still fixated on Batman, even though she doesn’t know his secret.

At the circus, we are witnessed to a spectacular trapeze display by the Flying Graysons. Immediately following, though, the circus is taken over by Two-Face and his henchmen, all while televised and watched intensely by Nygma. Two-Face strings up 200 sticks of T-and-T to a rope and gives Batman two minutes to reveal himself. Wayne tries to shout out that he’s the Batman, but he’s drowned out by the noise, so he tries a more direct approach. The Grayson family try to reach the bomb, but Two-Face shoots out the ropes, killing everyone except young Dick Grayson (O’Donnell), who does get the bomb away from the building and into the water before it explodes.

Wayne takes Grayson into his manor, but Grayson clearly has revenge on his mind. As the young man gets settled in, he reveals to Alfred (Gough) his fascination with birds, and how he once “swung in like a robin” to save the day.

Inspired by the circus antics, Nygma decides to dress up in a green bodysuit and call himself “The Riddler”. He convinces Two-Face and his henchwomen Sugar (Barrymore) and Spice (Mazar) that they need him by getting him hooked on his “Brain Box”. While getting a crash-course in criminal actions from Two-Face as Riddler, he’s using the money to build his own business and sell “Brain Boxes” all over the city.

Meanwhile, Grayson discovers that Wayne is Batman and steals the Batmobile for a little joyride into the city. He insists that Batman train him and make him his partner so he could kill Two-Face, but Batman refuses, saying that killing Two-Face will not make the pain go away.

As the movie progresses, secrets are discovered, as Wayne learns more about the event that turned him into Batman, Meridian learns who she really is falling in love with, Grayson learns what it’s like to be a hero, and our villains discover that there IS such a thing as “too much”, especially when it comes to certain accessories. (I’d say more but that would be spoiling what’s left of the movie.)

Let’s just go ahead and admit it… this movie REEKS of cheese! The idea that Jim Carrey’s Riddler should be over-the-top, much like Jack Nickolson’s Joker and Danny DeVito’s Penguin were before him, was understandable given the circumstances of the story and the actor’s skills. But Tommy Lee Jones playing Harvey Two-Face over-the-top was WAY too much into camp. The people behind the film also took great pains to avoid calling him Harvey DENT, because that character was originally played by Billy Dee Williams in the first movie.

Let’s see… what else? How about NIPPLES on the batsuits? How about having Robin actually saying “Holy Rusted Metal, Batman!” and finding a lame way to make it fit into the story? How about a Bat-Jet carrying scuba gear, but not the Bat-Boat? How about the Batman making a very public appearance instead of lurking in the shadows? The safe-jacking was lame, faking the surveillance tapes was lame, the “two-hundred sticks of T-and-T” in a giant round ball was lame, driving the Batmobile like a low-rider pimpmobile was lame…

And did I forget to mention the NIPPLES ON THE BATSUITS?

There were two stories in that unforgivable mess of commercialized cheese. The first one was the story of Dick Grayson becoming Robin. The second was of Edward Nygma’s obsession to finally be a winner. Sadly, Nygma’s story got lost in the neon lights, but at least the story of Robin followed through. That was the only thing that saved the film from being a complete disaster. That dishonor, of course, would be saved for the next film.

Capes: Three capes out of five. Easily recognized characters, both good guys and bad guys, but real heroes don’t have fake nipples on their outfits.
Cheese: Extra Sharp Bat-Cheddar (4) with fake nipples included.
Books: Two books out of five. There were some good story elements, but most of the movie was pretty much fodder for overhyped music videos by Seal and U2.

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