Batman Forever

Batman for... a while at least.
"Courage now, truth always...."

I know, I've been working up to this for a while, and now here it is! A special Saturday Tagline for you all today, and I'll be talking about a very difficult topic that we all have to try and cope with. Sometimes it can be difficult to admit to yourself that an old, trusted friend has become somebody else, and it can be even more difficult to confront THEM about it. That's how I think we all felt when we saw Batman Forever. We were two good Batman movies in, maybe felt like we could rely on those good times, and then... this happened. Thank Warner Brothers for that. They decided after the release of the fantastic Batman Returns that it hadn't grossed enough money, and that if it were more "mainstream" it would do better. To this evil end, they gave Burton and his Gotham City the boot out of the director's chair (though Burton had been lukewarm about even doing a second Batman) and tapped Joel Schumacher to direct, with Burton restricted to producing. This film struck a completely different tone from the previous two, with villains so flamboyant that they make Jack Nicholson's turn as the Joker look positively subdued. This movie also introduces the character of Robin, portrayed here by Chris O'Donnell, although originally Marlon Wayans was cast. Presumably he was replaced because Hollywood is intensely racist. Anyway, the most important swap out here was Michael Keaton, who opted not to appear in another Batman because he didn't like the new direction (though apparently he still considers himself to be the ONLY Batman), was replaced by Val Kilmer. Now I enjoyed Top Gun at least as much as the next guy, but that is not an equation with equal values on both ends of it. That being said, Val Kilmer is still a much better Batman than George Clooney. Squaring off against the new caped crusader are Two-Face (portrayed in explosively red tiger-striped fashion by Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler/Edward Nigma (here played by Jim Carey). It seems like the common wisdom is that unless the primary villain is the Joker, there must be at least two villains on the stage at any given time (and in The Dark Knight even there was still Two Face) Okay, the stage is set, now let's talk about this FANTASTIC MOVIE

My favorite movie couple.
The film begins somewhat in medias res, with Batman immediately engaging in battle with Two Face and his two face themed gang of criminals/bank robbers/general goons. The general impression to be gained here is that Batman is a bit outgunned and outnumbered, and that he could really use a best bud sidekick to help him crime fight. I think that the core issue with that is that a lot of the conflict and core of the previous two movies was that Batman was perpetually alone, because of the dual life he led. This was somewhat alleviated in this movie as Batman attempts to come to grips with his own fears and motivations, and while the execution isn't great it was at least a somewhat seaworthy concept (this conflict, or any relevant character conflict, is notably absent from Batman and Robin). Still, it seems like more and more people are in on the big "secret" and that becomes a problem too. Anyway, there are a lot of really awesome "WORLD'S GREATEST DETECTIVE" moments in this film, particularly at the beginning of the movie when Bruce Wayne first meets Edward Nigma (who works for him) and is presented with two facts that anyone with a pulse could immediately glean. 1)Edward Nigma is legitimately batshit bonkertowns 2)He has created a device that lets him hijack people's brains and mess with their thoughts. As a bonus 3)He has a really weird name that just makes him SEEM like a villain. Now I understand that you can't get out in front of every supervillain origin story, but I really think that once you begin contending with some mysterious deaths and a villain manipulating people's brainwaves, that maybe, just MAYBE you'd remember the bizarre, some would say DISTURBING interaction you had with a guy named EDWARD FUCKING NIGMA. I guess that might be a little Monday Morning Football, but I think it is a reasonable suspicion.

Who like... makes all this stuff for these guys? Don't the guys
commissioned to make a million neon light ?s get kind of
suspicious that maybe their client is the fucking Riddler?
In addition to the primary good guys vs. bad guys plot, there's of course a romantic sub-plot between Batman/Bruce Wayne and Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) and also Batman's messed up childhood trauma. In addition there's also ALSO another sub-plot, about Robin and him coming to grips with the death of his family and whether or not he should pursue bloodlusty vengeance against Two Face. What you might be gathering is that this movie is packed to the nosebleeds with characters and sub-plots, and it gets kind of crowded by the time they're all piled on. I think it would be reasonable to suggest that either of the villains could occupy their own movie if you really wanted to make it work, and that trying to cram this much into an even two hours is just not a good idea. You end up with... well Batman Forever. It's also clear that no one learned anything from this movie, as the origin story for Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is more or less identical to the Riddler's, only one of them involved electric eels or something stupid. People really need to be nicer to downtrodden mentally unstable scientists is my point.

Quick everyone look bored!
Now there's just no two ways to slice it: this movie blows. It is admittedly not NEARLY as awful as Batman & Robin, but that is saying very very little for it. The most you can say is that Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carey seem to be having a really good time hamming it up as bad guys, but beyond that I found very little to redeem this film, as it is a ridiculous and ham-fisted mishmash of plots and characters that sort of relies on the audience already knowing who all the characters are. This movie also introduces the famed nipplesuit, as well as those stirring bum/package close ups we all know and love. They scream superhero. There are also some really spectacular early CG sequences of Gotham that look like cutscenes for a Command & Conquer game, so that's something to look forward to. Despite it being a piece of trash, this movie actually DID gross more than Batman Returns, which is absolutely despicable.

That's it for today! Join me again next week as we all drown in snow, and in the meantime enjoy this:

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