Last night on a whim I decided it would be fun to watch Batman Forever. Well I'll give credit where credit is due, my wife really felt like watching a Jim Carrey movie and since that is the only one we have, winner winner chicken dinner, she got to watch a Jim Carrey movie and I got to watch a Batman movie.
It's been at least 15 years since I've watched this movie. I know I've seen it at least once since it's release to home video, and I bought solely for the sake of having every live action Batman film in my collection, I just remember the acting being so unbearably over the top, and the neon glow of gotham being to much to bare that it would take special circumstances to rewatch. Last night the question on my mind going into a movie I almost despised was:
"did this age well like a fine wine, or did it turn to vinegar?"
The answer: it did neither. It still tasted the same, fruity and sweet with some sour notes that have you putting it back on the shelf.
I'll start with the big man himself, Batman. Val Kilmer as Batman was not terrible, mostly forgettable which is probably to his advantage. He surprisingly spends little time in the suit, and most of that time is either talking to Nicole Kidman, or the final assault on The Riddlers fortress. Mr. Kilmer played Bruce Wayne quite well though, he was a business man, a philanthropist, and he tried to have a social life, all while being a vigilant undercover Batman.
What's Batman without Robin? In this movie, he's a lot better off. I found it a little weird that Bruce adopted the 16(?) year old Dick Grayson after his parents were murdered, I find it more weird that the circus just abandoned Dick after his parents were horribly murdered. Wouldn't this be a situation where they stay together like an extended family, help him cope with his grieving, give him some remedial job to keep his mind focused until he's back on his feet and starts performing again. That sounds like a different movie all together, this is about Batman, and Batman needs his decoy in shining armor. What I'm attempting to get at is that Robin served no purpose to this film at all. He didn't help Batman out in the slightest. First he discovers the Bat Cave and steals the Batmobile, after joy riding for a bit he decides to rescue a damsel in distress, he disposes of a handful of thugs and gets the girl, but the thugs regroup and overwhelm him, until Batman shows up and scatters them like roaches. Later Batman realizes he needs a partner and they go on an adventure together, an adventure in which Robin gets the Batboat blown up, surrounded by thugs underwater, where Batman had to rescue him again, AND THEN Robin goes and gets himself captured by Two Face and put into an elaborate trap to make Batman choose between his lady love or his junior partner. In a better ending Batman would have taken the Batwing to The Riddlers fortress, even if he still got shot out of the air it would have converted to submarine form and made it to the island in record time, and The Riddler would only have Ms. Chase Meridian to ransom to Batman. So in conclusion Robin caused way more problems than he helped.
It is my understanding that Joel Schumaker was attempting to harness the spirit of the 60's Batman when making these movies, only with a mix of Tim Burton and a whole lot of neon. With that in mind it's difficult for me to accurately critique Schumaker and Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal of Two Face. If you view this movie without the 60's in mind, Two Face is a mess of a character, nothing like the character you'd expect from reading the comics or watching the animated series. Two Face is a lawyer with his own twisted sense of justice, in a nutshell. In Batman Forever he's, well, my opinion hasn't changed in the last 19 years, he's Jack Nicholsons joker with different make up, but even the clown prince of crime didn't hack up the spotlight like this guy. I'll never get over seeing D.A. Harvey Dent/Two Face pout like a four year old when his half assed attempt at killing Batman failed. Now then, if you keep the 60's in mind, he acts just as campy as any of the villains in the old show. watching The Riddler and Two Face interact was quite reminiscent of watching Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin on screen, maybe a little more hammy, but still in the same vein. I don't hold it against Tommy Lee Jones for this unbearable portrayal of Two Face, I blame Schumaker, if only he had the insight to tone it down just a little. The last thing I'll say on Two Face is that he wasn't the criminal mastermind he should have been, he was a petty thief and an over blown thug, which brings us to the real villain and the star of the movie:
The Riddler. Jim Carrey was and excellent choice to portray the riddler. HIs back story is not the best, and for someone as intelligent as Edward Nigma is supposed to be, his inspiration to turn to a life of crime was kind of weak. Bruce Wayne, his hero, gave him the time of day and asked for the technical specs on his invention, what a jerk. Here's a guy who has a mad scientist lab in the middle of a sea of cubicles, his boss ignores him but let's him continue with his research, then he meets Mr. Wayne, who shows interest in his project but doesn't give him a resounding yes. That sets him off into a world of crime and revenge. Back story aside, Once Jim Carrey finally dons the emerald suit of the Riddler, he owns the movie, and the character. He's intelligent, he's narcissistic, and he's got a plan, and most importantly, he succeeds at his plan... mostly. He finds out Batman's identity, he has the way to ruin the man who ruined his life, and he gets so close to fully succeeding, but gives in to his own narcissism when Batman tests his intellect with a riddle. It was the Perfect Riddler story.
in summation Batman Forever will live on forever, not a good movie, not as bad movie, maybe not even as cult classic, but it will always be there and not fade into obscurity. If only the same could be said for Batman and Robin. I don't know how many beers it will take for me to watch that movie.
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