Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bechtloff Movie Night: Batman Forever (1995)

I'm not sure why but it seems like Batman Forever has been on TV a lot in the last month or so.  So I thought it would be worth taking another look at this. This Batman movie series had an interesting run. The first one was a damn solid movie, I would argue it was the best super hero movie ever up until that point. While parts of it haven't aged well I think it still holds up pretty damn well. The last movie in that series, Batman and Robin was an absolute abortion. I talked about it briefly on here before but I'm not really planning to do a review of it beyond saying it's actually pretty remarkable how terrible it is. But then there were the two in the middle. I think both were bad movies, but unlike the 4th one they had some merits and I think it's worth taking a look at where they went wrong, or at least where I think they went wrong.

After director Tim Burton's success with Batman the studio basically let him do whatever he wanted with Batman Returns. That turned out to be a mistake. So for the third one they decided to go in a different more kid friendly direction with director Joel Schumacher.

The first change was Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I think Kilmer did a decent job in the role. The only complaint I would have is his performance was a little boring and forgettable, but I tend to think he was doing the best he could with what he had to work with story wise.

Chris O'Donnell was of course Robin. As with Val I don't think he did a bad job, but nothing stand out about it. This pic also shows the nipples on the costume both Robin and Batman had. The jokes about openly homosexual director Schumacher literally 'gaying up' Batman and Robin pretty much write themselves don't they? The odd thing story wise is they treat Dick Grayson so much like a kid in this. I have a hard time believing O'Donnell is even a teenager and the story treats him like he's 12. It got me thinking, I bet you we will never, and I mean never, see a young Robin in a movie. First of all child actors are usually terrible, cause after all they're just kids, but secondly even if we did get a really great child actor to play a teenage or younger Robin, I bet you activist groups would be all up in arms about it promoting violence to children or some such horse shit. So we get the odd dichotomy of a Robin that looks easly 25 but the movie treats like a 12 year old.

Tommy Lee Jones is a tremendous actor and Two Face is one of Batman's most compelling and tragic villains. So what the fuck went wrong here? I feel like Jones really tried to get something out this, but he had nothing to work with. This was the typical cliched villain with no motivation beyond simply wrecking and stealing shit. Aside from "Hey I like the number two, and pairs, and opposites and shit like that" Two Face had zero personality in this. And we spent no time on his origin, his tragic, compelling, awesome origin. Nope, he's just there at the beginning of the movie being an asshole and rambling on about how awesome the number two is like an evil Sesame Street character or something. Jones might as well have played Killer Moth or Kite Man or some shit for all it really mattered.

 And of course the token love interest, Nicole Kidman as Dr. Chase Meridian. And the thing about Dr. Chace was, well she was, umm, she was there. She existed. The character was a psychologist and they tried to use her as a plot device to delve into Bruce's psyche. But for the most part whenever she seemed to be just some token titties I suspect Schumacher put in there to try and tone down the gay. Didn't really work.
A lot of people liked Jim Carrey as the Riddler. I didn't. He played it so fucking goofy, clearly inspired from the old Adam West show. I was still just a kid at the time but I was a huge fan Batman: The Animated Series. So this is how I knew the Riddler.
I knew him as a cold, calm, calculating genius, always ready to devise traps and puzzles to test his opponent's intellectual mettle. Instead Jim Carrey played him as the Joker, if the Joker was a pussy. A hyper active annoying fruitcake in a green mask who tried WAY to hard to be funny. There were a couple of moments where I thought if they would have just let Jim Carrey go a little darker it might have worked, but for the most part I considered him to be a complete failure in the role.

So to me the movie is a failure. The plot is stupid, and the characters are either completely flat or completely over the top. This movie seemed to try to be both the Adam West TV show and the first Tim Burton movie at the same time and succeeded at neither. There were times when it's almost there however, where it almost succeeds. You can see what they were trying to do. But it's still a pretty bad movie and deserves the criticisms heaped onto it. Soon I'm gonna take a look at the Batman Returns.

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