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TAC Reviews...Batman Forever

 

Gotham City’s criminals just don’t get the message that if they conduct their crimes in the Batman’s town then he is going to foil them. Harvey Two-Face and the Riddler join forces in order to bring down the Dark Knight once and for all. This time the dark and gritty realism of the Gotham City under Tim Burton’s direction has been replaced by a brighter and more colourful portrayal that seems to have been lifted from the pages of a comic book, although, not a comic book I’ve ever read.

 

Batman Forever Poster

 

Despite being a pretty decent sequel Batman Returns did not make as much money as the original Batman, and so Tim Burton was to be restricted to producer for the sequel. This basically led to Keaton leaving the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman and to cut a long story short lead to Joel Schumacher taking over directing.

 

I wasn’t against the change in style, I have occasionally wanted to say to Tim Burton “Okay, you like gothic stuff, we get it”, so perhaps a new tone would give the audience something we hadn’t seen before. I didn’t really know much about Val Kilmer so did not have an issue with him stepping into the titular role…however, before we get into the analysis, how’s life treating the Dark Knight??

 

Not surprisingly Batman (Val Kilmer) is still waging his war on crime and attempts to stop former District Attorney Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent (Tommy Lee Jones) during a hostage situation where he is briefly confronted by Dr Chase (Nicole Kidman). The lawman turned insane criminal is seeking to…guess what…yup…destroy Batman. During the high rise battle Two-Face is able to escape, fortunately Batman is able to rescue the hostages without loss of life.

 

Meanwhile Edward Nigma (Jim Carrey), an employee at Wayne Enterprises, has developed a device that allows signals to be transmitted directly into the human brain. He is completely obsessed with Bruce Wayne and approaches him to share his invention but Wayne rejects the invention telling NIgma that ‘it raises too many questions’. Nigma is heartbroken and after murdering his boss, he forges a suicide note and resigns vowing vengeance against Wayne.

 

Wayne goes to meet Meridian Chase after a riddle is left at his office then house (by Nigma) and after a brief conversation invites her on a date to the circus. During the date Two-Face crashes the show and attempts to get the elite of Gotham to reveal Batman’s true identity by threatening to detonate a massive bomb, Wayne tries to offer himself up, but in the panic and confusion caused by the bomb, no one hears his confession.

 

The Flying Grayson acrobatics team try to get to the bomb. But it is their youngest member Dick (Chris O’Donnell) that manages to get the bomb out of the building, and throws it into the river where it safely detonates. Unfortunately Two-Face lashes out in anger and kills his family leaving Dick as the only survivor.

 

Nigma reinvents himself as the villain Riddler as together with Two-Face works to uncover the true identity of Batman. Wayne offers an olive branch to Dick, inviting him to stay with him at Wayne Manor until he can get back on his feet. During his time at the Manor, Dick accidently discovers that the man who is trying to help him following his parent’s death is none other than the Dark Knight himself.

 

The transition from Returns to Forever was not exactly the smoothest in the world, and after the gothic style of Burton it was probably inevitable that the following director would try to put his own stamp on the franchise by completely changing the style. The previous Gotham City could have been a real place, but here all of the characters as well as the city itself are all larger-than-life. There is no way in the hell that any of these people or this place actually exists but this is a fictional movie so we can forgive the realism, or lack thereof, because a fictional world can be anything it wants to be.

 

Gotham no longer resembles any city and is designed to make it appear as though it has been lifted from the pages of a comic book. The effect of this gives the film a greater appeal to younger audiences because as we know if something isn’t bright and colourful then American audiences can not focus on it…that was unfair…I’m not saying Americans are stupid you are just not as advanced as the rest of us, but then nothing on this planet is as advanced as me so we all have our flaws.

 

Anyway, apparently Warner Brothers felt that the previous version were too violent so did not have as much appeal as a more child friendly film would have, therefore the change in the look was done to gain a wider audience but also robs the film of its realism.

 

Val Kilmer takes over from Michael Keaton as Batman, and in this film he is obsessing about a red book that has something to do with his parents’ death. It seemed that Wayne has found peace with himself regarding his parent’s death but obviously he wasn’t brooding enough so the filmmakers pulled a red book out of their asses to give him a reason to obsess. He seeks help from psychiatrist Dr. Chase Meridian who is fascinated by the psyche of Batman, and believes that whoever Batman is then he is ultimately torturing himself and is forced to be the Dark Knight not because he wants to but because he feels he has to. Do we think that she will ultimately discover Bruce Wayne’s true identity?? Well, considering every love interest Wayne has had in the previous films has ultimately discovered who he really is it should come as no surprise that Chase finds out by the end.

 

Both Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon (Michael Gough and Pat Hingle returning to their roles from the previous films) are present as Batman’s allies. The presence of the two of them indicates to me that this is considered to be part of the same canon as Batman and Batman Returns because if it is not then why have these two actors returned rather than being recast??

 

Whilst Kilmer is decent enough as Batman, and Kidman is certainly attractive enough to be the film’s eye candy, it is the portrayal of Two-Face and Riddler by Tommy-Lee Jones and Jim Carrey that makes Batman Forever worth watching.

 

The presence of both costumed villains is a little excessive and unlike Batman Returns in which the film could deal with having both Penguin and Catwoman and tell both of their stories. Batman Forever would not have suffered if only one of the two villains was portrayed instead of cramming them both in. It is obvious that neither of these actors are taking their roles especially seriously and are determined to have as much fun as possible playing the over the top villains, but that is absolutely fine here. The film is tongue-in-cheek so it makes sense for the actors playing the villains to be equally tongue-in-cheek and as over the top as everything else in the film.

 

Seriously though how real life were they supposed to be when they look like this…??

 

 

During the film Dick Grayson naturally discovers who Bruce Wayne is, in possibly the most retarded way…he falls through a movable cabinet landing in the Batcave…but hey-ho and decides to become his costumed partner so he can avenge the death of his family by becoming Robin in honour of his parents. Apparently at some point in the past Dick’s brother’s line broke and Dick flew in “like a robin” and saved him. Personally I would rather fly in like an Eagle, or a Condor, but okay…flew in like a robin so naturally Dick decides to adopt the name for his alter-ego. Dick Grayson was a child in the comics, but fortunately, he is not portrayed by a child in the film which for me at least would have been a step too far. His original costume even fits in with the outfit worn by the Boy Wonder in the comics before becoming a little more badass for the finale against Two-Face and Riddler.

 

On the whole Batman Forever is as different from Batman and Batman Returns as it could possibly be. It is the sheer joy and enthusiasm that Jones and Carrey bring to their roles that makes this film a delight. But the fans of the gothic Tim Burton films will not be happy about the fact that Gotham doesn’t look real, the classic Batmobile has been redesigned, and Batman himself is more of a pantomime hero than the tortured hero Keaton portrayed.

 

I still like this film though and whilst it is not as good as Batman or Batman Returns it has enough fun and energy running through it for me to give it a Thumbs Up.

 

 

7/10 - Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey make this film; both are obviously enjoying themselves, and make Batman Forever effectively a live action comic that will appeal to younger audiences but might make older fans wish it has stuck to the gothic style of the previous two.

 

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© Chris Sharman