Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Batman Forever

  Batman Forever is neither as bad as I remember it, nor as good as I so badly want it to be. They had the groundwork for an immensely good movie, but spoiled it with a few bad apples. Does the good outweigh the bad? For once, I think it almost does. That's not to say though that this 1995 blockbuster is without some grave issues. First and foremost is it's sense of humor. Every movie has humor. It can be any kind of humor... Unintentional humor, dry humor, dark humor, black humor, gross humor... and then over-the-top Jim Carrey humor. I loath the inclusion of Jim Carrey in this, though it's probably not exclusively his fault... I can't imagine his one-liners and jokes being written at all. This stuff had to have been either ad-libbed on the spot by him, or pencilled in on the script somewhere, by him. I really don't think this kind of humor gets written. Jim Carrey is all over this movie like a stench. The stench of doom as it turns out...

  As I said with my review on Batman Returns, each Batman movie is both ranked by and remembered by it's villains. Believe it or not, it's my firm opinion that they've gotten Batman himself right 7 out of 8 times. (both Burton movies, this movie, and then the three Christopher Nolan movies). So the ruling stick by which we measure most of these movies is the villains, and ohhhh my god, these are the worst. Yes, Batman & Robin is overall a much much... much worse movie, but that was a sinking ship. This was a damn cruiseliner. You can understand the villains being god-awful in Batman & Robin, because everything else was god-awful too. Batman Forever, on the whole, is far from being god-awful. They got some things right. So in a way, the bar is raised in comparison to Batman & Robin. In fact, it's not bad at all. Yet, The Riddler and Two Face are without a doubt some terrible on screen presences.

  Firstly, they both play their roles with the seriousness of the Looney Toons. Val Kilmer has his brooding down, and everyone else is playing this straight... and then Two Face and Riddler over here have stepped right out of some twisted buddy comedy. What the hell? Riddle me this... which Batman villain kills wantonly, laughs all the time, paints everything in a specific colored motif, and gleefully delights in chaos? If you said The Joker, you're right, but this movie seems to think the answer is Two Face, because that's exactly what he's like in this movie. He's a cheap imitation of the Joker, only exceeding Jack Nicholson in how many laughs he can get in per minute. Tommy Lee Jones seems to be trying to upstage Jim Carrey the entire time.
Upstage. Jim. Carrey. Can you imagine for a second how over-the-top silly things turn out? Yeah.

  Jim Carrey himself makes little to no effort to even play the part. He's playing Jim Carrey. The funny noises, the one-liners, the physical humor, the innuendo, the pelvic thrusting, the annoying laughing... ugh. All of it. They bought Jim Carrey... they got Jim Carrey. This is NOT how the character of The Riddler should have been. Regardless whether or not he was different in the comics, the simple fact of the matter is that he's annoying on screen. Worse than John Leguizamo in Spawn. How he ended up being listed in dozens and dozens of reviews as the "sole highlight" of the movie... it... it hurts my brain. He's amazingly annoying every second he's on screen, providing only slight glimpses of true sinister behavior, it's ultimately lost behind his comic routine.
Both villains here seem to be comic relief, both competing to eclipse the other in how many gags they can pull off. The worst part about it, is that they clash with the quite serious and dark tone of the rest of the movie.

  I can't say those two are the only bad apples in the bunch, but they're the outright rotten ones. What most people don't remember is that this is the first movie that put the nipples on the batsuit. It was more prominent in the next one, but still. Regardless, I like the Batsuit a lot this time, more than the previous two. It's really cool looking. Moving on. The next bad apple is Nicole Kidman as Dr.Chase Meridian. Let me spell that out for you... D-o-c-t-o-r Chase Meridian. Doctor as in professional psychologist. Yet she behaves like a hormonal teenage girl with a full-on Batman fetish! It's an obsession with her to the point where she uses the bat-signal just to summon the caped crusader for some alone time. She throws herself at him atop the police station like a desperate lonely housewife. It's ridiculous and pointless and I can't tell if Batman is turned on or confused, like the audience. Probably both. She doesn't come across as mature, strong, or intelligent. She's the worst of all the love interests in the franchise so far. Yet she makes a serviceable damsel in distress... so there's that. At least?

  Kidman is just under Carrey and Jones as the third worst bad apple, but not as bad. Though I can't believe Alfred actually says she's "wise" at one point. She's confused and man-hungry. She ends up not knowing whether she wants Bruce Wayne or Batman. This actually causes Bruce some turmoil. He has a Clark Kent complex over the crazy chick with the badly written lines which she legitimately seems to be rushing through. Anyways, she tapers off as the movie goes on and her total screentime isn't that much, which is good. She adds nothing to the movie anyways. Now lets start in on the positive. I think Val Kilmer is a fantastic Bruce Wayne, and a great Batman. He looks badass in the Batsuit, and dapper as Bruce Wayne. The fight choreography is actually fairly solid, I'd argue the best in the franchise thus far. The gadgets are sleeker and shinier, and the henchmen are a dime a dozen.

  There's plenty to like in Forever, from how they handled Robin's origin's, which in my opinion was done quite nicely- to his dynamic with Bruce Wayne. Great stuff that's often overlooked. Granted, it is hard to see that there are some perfectly good performances, action, and dare I even say... nuance, but it's all there. It's just outshined (literally) by all the bright neon and CGI renditions of Gotham. I really dig the look of the film, even if it is a bit too colorful. It's cheesy, but in a goodway. Like a Will Smith summer blockbuster. Nobody goes in expecting high art, but if you let it, it can really be enjoyable. The same reasoning can only be applied because there are actual merits to this movie. You can't tack on the 'summer blockbuster' excuse to anything and get away with it. (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Last Airbender, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I could go on...)

  Granted there are some silly parts... the villains seem to magically come up with random motif ridden hideouts and elaborately decorated lairs overnight, and Chris O'Donnell is a bit hard to accept as Robin at first, but I think he tries his damnedest to be sincere and authentic in the role. His pain and desire for revenge ends up seeming more genuine at times than Jim Carrey's evil streak ever is. Val Kilmer has his moments of stiffness, and the script calls for some hokey little gags, but the qualities of the actors behind the protagonists shines through (with bright neon, of course). I felt like most of the cast and crew were legitimately trying to make a cool Batman movie, and I'll be damned if it isn't at least really entertaining. There are some shots in this one, visually, which rank among some of my favorites in the entire franchise. Batman leaps off some tall structure to catch up with Two Face and his goons down below, and the camera follows Batman down as his cape glides him down with style. Not to mention the heroically gothic theme adds a sense of urgency and adventure to the movie, I found myself humming it long after the credits rolled.

  This movie has plenty of actual good acting, and some genuinely exciting moments. It's fun, so much so that it meets it's own flaws head on. It's neither overshadowed by it's shortcomings, nor does it ever completely overcome them. It's on the level with them, which means it's still a fun movie if you can accept it for what it is. Batman Vs. Jim Carrey and Imitation Joker. Which actually sounds pretty crazy. I had a good time with Batman Forever, and I think it's easier to digest than it's predecessor. It also really tries to get into the character of Bruce Wayne. Thus far it's the first movie in the franchise which tries to understand really why he's Batman, and the psychology behind it. Granted, it's handled with kid gloves... somewhat, but it's still interesting. In the attempt, if nothing else. There's also some recurring imagery which I found striking and meaningful. Overall, there's more to chew on than anybody would like to admit.

  I know half the internet might wanna burn me at the stake for ranking one of the Joel Schumacher directed Batman movies over a Tim Burton one... but in my humble opinion, Returns and Forever are completely on par. I just prefer Forever. Tough. Deal with it. I think it deserves a second look. After Batman and Batman Begins, Forever is now my third favorite Batman outing.

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