Cert: 12 Runtime: 121 mins Director: Joel Schumacher Starring: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough and Jim Carrey
Riddle me this, riddle me that, who’s afraid of the big, black bat?
Day 3 we look at the dark ages of the cinema of Batman, with Burton now gone Joel Schumacher is the new man in Gotham. My days this for me was the beginning of the end for Batman. The Dark Knight (Val Kilmer) of Gotham City confronts a dastardly duo: Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and the Riddler (Jim Carrey). Formerly District Attorney Harvey Dent, Two-Face incorrectly believes Batman caused the courtroom accident which left him disfigured on one side; he has unleashed a reign of terror on the good people of Gotham. Edward Nygma, computer-genius and former employee of millionaire Bruce Wayne, is out to get the philanthropist; as The Riddler he perfects a device for draining information from all the brains in Gotham, including Bruce Wayne’s knowledge of his other identity. Batman/Wayne is/are the love focus of Dr. Chase Meridan (Nicole Kidman). Former circus acrobat Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell), his family killed by Two-Face, becomes Wayne’s ward and Batman’s new partner Robin the Boy Wonder.OK, so Burton was butted out for being too melancholic and dark to the extend that the audience could no longer identify with the characters, so in comes Joel Schumacher, a directer of questionable skill, to bring a more lively feel to the franchise. Well, he succeeded but he also started the beginning of the end for the original Batman franchise. His campier approach to the source material is indeed fun to watch (at least in this installment) and for what it is worth really quite entertaining. You do get the feeling, however, that he had been curbed just a bit so as not to make the franchise succumb into camp and silly one-liners. Too bad the producers didn’t continue to hold him back because I, for one quite enjoyed this installment into the Batman series.
Michael Keaton chose not to return as Batman because he wanted to prove that he had the versatility to play something else than Batman. Val Kilmer was cast as the lead instead and wanted to play the character in the same vein as Keaton, with a great measure of seriousness (much to Schumacher’s dismay who already wanted to go all out camp) and for what it is worth I actually think Kilmer managed to pull of a reasonable Batman. I don’t think he holds a candle to Keaton but an adequate performance. He balances Bruce Wayne out quite a bit and never becomes as manic or as brooding as Keaton was. In light of the obvious return to the camp values of the 60’s series Robin was introduced. Not so much to lighten the tone (hardly necessary) but more to give the Bruce Wayne character some new interesting challenge. Chris O’Donnell got the part (ahead of Christian Bale, how weird is that?!) and while not the most talented of actors he is kind of fitting as a sidekick. As the new love interest Nicole Kidman was introduced and she is smoking hot. Her character is really kind of pointless but she serves her purpose as eye candy perfectly. Two new villains are introduced, Two-Face and The Riddler in the forms of Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey. Jim Carrey is a riot to watch. Not really faithful to the original character but fun, fun, fun. His performance is much in key with what he was known for at the time. Overacting wildly and while he pulls it off, the other villain is not so lucky. Tommy Lee Jones is painful to watch. While Carrey pulls the overacting off Tommy Lee only aggravates and annoys. While Carrey was not really faithful to the original character he still stayed within the limits. Tommy Lee (not really his fault I suppose) completely goes against everything the character stands for in one little scene where he repeatedly flips his coin to get the outcome he wants. Something he stated earlier to be the only true justice. This kind of alteration to the character is just not acceptable.
The action is decent, not as tense as in the original movies but fairly entertaining. The action was dumbed down quite a bit and some more or less ridiculous sound effects were added but they were fun to watch. Now I’m not saying that Michael Keaton had the perfect physique to play Batman but they film makers had the good sense not to let him show of his torso in full screen. They do this in one scene where you can quite obviously tell that Kilmer’s physique was inferior to Chris O’Donnel’s. I’m not a film maker myself but I’m pretty sure something like that will ruin the credibility of a man who is supposed to be able to fight something like fifty people when his sidekick is stronger than him.All in all Batman Forever is not an excellent let alone even a good film. The direction is lacking and some of the characters were obviously miscast. But somehow I cannot bring myself to hate this movie (like I hate Batman & Robin – worst movie, no wait, worst thing mankind has ever created) because it is so much fun and make no pretension of being otherwise. Val Kilmer is solid and one half of the villains is fun to watch. I did/do, however, dislike the general direction the franchise took with this movie and its sequel proved to be everything a movie is NOT supposed to be.