Awesomeness coming you're way! | Batman Forever [VHS] | Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones
Batman Forever [VHS]
Tommy Lee Jones
Warner Home Video, 1997
average customer review:
based on 261 reviews
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'60s BATMAN Re-interpreted for the '90s
A lot of Bat-fans give this movie flack for being a throw-back to the campy Adam West TV show, but a movie shouldn't be judged for what it isn't, but how well it achieves what it is trying to do. And this one delivers.
First thing noticed is the fast-paced directing, with quick, action-oriented editing that reminds one of the early Bond films. The action is relentless, and the movie is never boring. It reminds me of Guy Hamilton's short-cut plot developments in "Force 10 from Navarone".
At the same time, the viewer will notice that Gotham is no longer mono-chromatic, but a bright, vibrant city with expansive, monolithic architecture that disturbingly dwarfs the inhabitants, much like Stalin's Russian architecture in the '50s. Yet, the lights tend to highlight the shadows. The dizzying, elevated roadways and balconies are spectacular and a little frightening at the same time, like the landscape of a claustrophobic dream.
One instantly notes that Danny Elfman's great score is no longer used. However, the new soundtrack does just as well for this fresh take on
, with surrealistic, disonant notes and a Wagnerian grandeur. Supporting the great sets and costumes, it makes for a terrific, "Wizard of Oz" type experience.
And objectively speaking, the character development, depth and interaction are far better than in the previous 2 outings. There's quite a bit going on here and the cast does a great job of making it all seem believable in spite of the outlandish goings ons.
If you gotta pay homage to the goofier '50s and '60s comics, this is the way to do it. Obviously, some would rather that such developments were kept out of the movies, but it is hard to ignore how the Batman comics had been for a quarter of a century. And I really can't think of a gritty, "realistic" way to introduce a silly character like Robin.
That being said, one problem with this movie is the inclusion of 2-Face. In the '60s, this character never made an appearance in comics or TV as it was felt that he was too grim for the campy, child-friendly dreck that the Dark Knight had become by then. Yet, this movie used him as just another zany villain like the Riddler, and any true fan would find this treatment of this most tragic of Batman villains unforgiveable. I almost docked this movie one star for this, but I've left it to counter some of the unfair bashing it gets by fanboys simply for reminding them of a period in Batman's history that most would rather forget. And Carrey's Riddler was disturbingly, aggressively bizarre. In fact, his performance was almost as good as Frank Gorshin's from the TV show, the only villain from the old series to actually project a sense of sneering, sardonic menace.
My fav Batman movie is "Dark Knight"(great representation of the best modern comics), 2nd is "Batman" with Keaton(atmospheric take on original, film noir '30s comics), and this one reviewed is my 3rd favorite(for successfully balancing the darker aspects of the modern comics while paying homage to the camp years). You see, I don't demand that they make the same movie over and over again. I'm capable of opening my mind and enjoying the different versions for the various kinds of experiences they offer. Those that don't do the same are missing out on a treat.
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Some have called me the number one
fan in the world since I used to publish a Batman "fanzine" back in the 70's and 80's. I was a fan long before the Batcraze of even the Adam West era. Of all the Batman movies produced so far, this one more clearly defines the persona of the Caped Crusader, save the movie serials from the 1940's. And while it does deviate from the history of the character, it does present itself as being able to stand upon it's own merits. Needless to say, I am not too happy with "artistic license" that promotes profit over accuracy. Still an enjoyable movie.
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Awesomeness coming you're way!
This is a pretty good
movie. It has some of my favorite bad guy in it. They are Two- Face and The Riddeler. I think Jim Carey makes a good Riddeler.
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Look at it for what it is
. The first Batman movie that was not directed by Tim Burton, and did not feature Michael Keaton in the lead role. Because of this, the tone of the movie is very different. It is noticeably less dark than either of the two Burton films. Batman Returns got a lot of parental backlash because it scared the crud out of many younger kids. With this movie, Joel Schumacher tried to make a Batman movie that the kids could enjoy, while still appealing to adults. The result is kind of a go-between between Burton's two previous movies and Batman and Robin. This movie starts to revert back to the camp of the 60s television show, but they still put in some dark subplots, like Bruce re-living his parent's death, or Robin losing his family and wanting revenge. Most fans will criticize this as the prelude to Batman and Robin, and the end of that Batman movie series, but I still think this movie has some qualities to it.
The plot has a lot of things going on. Two-Face, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is introduced in the opening scene. He wants revenge on Batman (it is never really explained why, does he blame Batman for his condition?) and he pursues this vendetta throughout the story. The Riddler, played by Jim Carrey, is obsessed with mind control. He invented some kind of box that beams television signals directly into the human brain. He can then read people's minds, and extract information. Bruce Wayne initially rejected his idea, and so Riddler harbors a grudge. Batman, played by the bland, emotionless Val Kilmer, is reliving his parent's death in his dreams. He is starting to doubt if he wants to continue to be Batman. He is also starting to date Chase Meridian, played by Nicole Kidman, probably the only actor in this movie who knew what she was doing. Robin, played by Chris O'Donnell, makes his first appearance onto the big screen. His parents were killed by Two-Face, and he wants revenge. Bruce takes him in when he has no place to go, and begins to guide him. In my opinion the plot had too many subplots. There just wasn't enough time to develop one individual character.
Many of the motivations for these characters are either underexplained, or just plain silly. For instance, it is never really revealed what Bruce's dream is about. In the novelization, he remembers as a kid looking in his father's journal and reading that the reason his parents were murdered is because they were taking him to the movies. He feels guilty about this, and understandably so. In the actual movie, however, this is never revealed. Bruce is talking to Nicole Kidman, and he is about to tell her. Then they start making out. This entire plot point is never mentioned again. The Riddler, after having Bruce Wayne reject his idea, turns into a supervillian. He goes completely insane and decides to kill his boss and steal everyone's mind. Two-Face, whose back story is only revealed in a brief video clip, is way too silly. He does his best worst Joker impersonation in my opinion, and is always jumping around laughing and cackling like a lunatic. Harvey Dent is supposed to be one of the more tragic characters in the Batman universe, but here he's just a joke. He doesn't really come across as evil. Along those lines, I didn't care much for Jim Carrey's performance as the Riddler. He's just playing his roles from The Mask and Ace Venturra all over again. He, along with Two-Face, is far too silly to be viewed as a villain. But I suppose it fit with what they were trying to do: make a lighter Batman movie that was mainly aimed at kids.
Val Kilmer made an adequate Batman, I guess. The problem was, he did his Batman growl throughout the entire movie, whether he had his mask on or off. And he seemed bored with the role, like he was about to fall asleep. Say what you want about George Clooney's performance, at least he seemed like he was having fun with the role. One positive thing I have to talk about, which doesn't really reflect Kilmer's performance, is the action scenes. The action scenes are much better this time around. I know some of the scenes were cheesy, like the scene with the bank vault near the beginning, or the part where Batman drives the Batmobile up the side of the building. But I mean the hand-to-hand stuff. Of the three actors to play Batman in the 90s movie series, Val Kilmer is really the only one who can play an action hero. In Michael Keaton's movies, the action scenes were not very good. This was caused primarily by the fact that Michael Keaton is not much of an action hero. There were other reasons, such as the restrictive batsuit (which was finally changed in this movie) or the fact that Tim Burton cannot direct action scenes very well (this isn't a knock on Burton. He's a good director, action just isn't his genre). But wheras Michael Keaton was kind of small and skinny, Val Kilmer was big and muscular, which you kind of need to be to beat up seven or eight guys by yourself. The fight choreography was pretty good this time around. People might say that I'm spending too much time focusing on the action scenes, when there is more to the movie than that. But seriously, Batman is supposed to be one of the best martial artists in the world. In Burton's movies, I could have beaten that Batman in a fight. Don't get me wrong, as far as performances go, Kilmer's performance is not equal to Keaton's. But with all the mistakes this movie made, it's good to know they at least did this one small detail better.
The character people usually tend to regard as the low point of the film is Robin. Because of these movies, many people to this day cannot stand Robin, and regard him as a worthless character. That is simply not true. Chris O'Donnel is not playing Dick Grayson, he's playing Jason Todd, the second Robin. Jason was a whiny cry-baby, who got so intolerably annoying that they killed off his character. Dick Grayson is not supposed to be this big of an annoyance. He's supposed to be an interesting character, and kind of a foil for Batman. Robin was originally created because the writers of the Batman comics were worried that Batman was becoming too dark. So they created a young character to be youthful and lighthearted and brighten up the story. That could have worked very well for what they were trying to do with this movie, make a Batman movie that more kids could enjoy. Robin is supposed to be a very likeable character, and instead we got someone who rivals Anakin Skywalker as the insufferable protagonist.
Whining about his dead family, lording it over Bruce after he saved his life, and ordering Bruce to train him to be his partner. Many people say they hate Robin in general, simply because of these movies. If that is you, I ask you to reevaluate your opinion of Robin. He is a pretty interesting character, they just messed him up here.
In conclusion, this is a very average film. It is considered a bad movie, because many people misunderstand it. It is kind of silly and campy, but they wanted to make it a movie for kids to enjoy. They really tried to find a balance between being dark and creepy and being silly and cheesy. In my opinion, they did a pretty good job, for what they were trying to do. It wasn't like the following movie where they went completely insane and did the most outlandish things they could think of. The most important question to ask yourself when watching a movie like this is "was I entertained?" And yes, I was entertained. I've even gone back and watched it a few more times over the years.
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A question has been nagging at me ever since the first Batman movie, and "Batman Forever" makes it inescapable: Would Bruce
...Wayne continue his keen interest in crime fighting if he didn't get to wear the
costume? The opening scene plays like a commercial for a rubberwear shop, and throughout the movie, the dominant images are of fetishistic gear: The belt buckles, boots, gloves, capes, masks, and of course, the cute little dime-sized nipples on Batman's and Robin's chests. When Batman tries on his new prototype costume late in the movie, and there's a closeup of its gleaming buttocks, the audience chuckles knowingly.
Batman would be a sensation in any leather bar, but "Batman
" is at pains to show that he has heterosexual tastes. Nicole Kidman plays Dr. Chase Meridian, who sounds like a bank, but is, in fact, a student of abnormal psychology. She's powerfully attracted to Batman the moment she meets him, and wonders what he's looking for in a woman: Would it help, she wonders, if she carried a whip? She's thrilled that Batman reads her books ("Not every girl makes a superhero's night table"), but less than thrilled when her date for the Gotham Charity Circus is boring old bachelor Bruce Wayne. Maybe the clothes do make the man.
This theme - the girl in love with the image but not the reality - is also standard in the Superman series, where Lois Lane chases the Man of Steel, but rejects Clark Kent. What's new in "Batman Forever" is that Batman himself (Val Kilmer) has to do a little seduction. At the circus, young acrobat Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell) saves the crowd by rolling Two-Face's TNT bomb into the river. His family is killed during this process. Bruce Wayne, impressed by the orphaned young man, invites him to stay at Wayne Manor, but Dick is a rebellious motorcycle freak who wants outta there - until Wayne shows him his collection of bikes, including priceless old Harleys and Indians. The subtexts in this scene are so deep, you have to wade through them.
The plot of the movie involves the embittered Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), a former district attorney who is deranged after half his face is scarred by acid. He's mean, but not brilliant. For brains, the movie provides Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey), who uses a computer program to name himself the Riddler, and who hooks up with Two-Face to steal lots of loot to finance his evil scheme.
The Riddler's scheme is one of the more amusing aspects of "Batman Forever," considering that the movie is being distributed by Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner, which owns HBO and other cable outlets. The Riddler wants to put a copy of "The Box" on top of every TV set in Gotham.
This device is not exactly an Internet provider. It works by sucking up the brain waves of its users, transferring them to the Riddler, whose own I.Q. expands at dizzying speed.
Although the first two Batman movies were big winners at the box office, there was a feeling after "Batman Returns" (1992) that the series had grown too dark and gloomy. Batman was a reclusive neurotic, his enemies included the deformed Penguin (raised from childhood in sewers), and the movies tried for a marriage of superheroes and film noir. That didn't work: The message of noir is that there are no heroes.
Tim Burton, director of the first two brooding Batman films, steps up to producer for "Batman Forever," and the new director, Joel Schumacher, makes a generally successful effort to lighten the material. There are more clever one-liners for Alfred the butler (Michael Gough), lots of laughs for the Riddler (played by Jim Carrey like a riff on his character in "The Mask"), and even sitcom moments like the one when Alfred tells Bruce Wayne that the "young master" has run off with the car. "The Jaguar?" asks Wayne. "No, sir. The other car." The movie looks great, of course; Gotham City is a web of towering spires, bridges and expressways, planted in a swamp of despond. Boardrooms and laboratories look like German Expressionist sets, and the charity circus could come straight from Murnau's "Sunrise." There are neat gimmicks, like the Riddler's brain-wave helmet, and neat stunts, as when the Batmobile climbs straight up the side of a skyscraper. And there is a consistent visual motif: two hands clasping in a firm grip. Dick Grayson is caught in such a grip by his acrobat father during a dangerous trick, and later the shot is repeated to show that Bruce Wayne is now his surrogate father.
But somehow Batman still doesn't come alive. Val Kilmer is a completely acceptable substitute for Michael Keaton in the title role, but in all three of the movies, Batman remains shadowy and undefined. The movies exist for their villains, who this time both seem to be playing the same note; the Riddler and Two-Face alternate in overacting, until the pace grows wearying. There is no rhythm to the movie, no ebb and flow; it's all flat-out spectacle.
Is the movie better entertainment? Well, it's great bubble gum for the eyes. And younger children will be able to process it more easily (some kids were led bawling from "Batman Returns," where the PG-13 rating was a joke).
I liked the look of the movie and Schumacher's general irreverence toward the material. But the great Batman movie still remains to be made. Here is the most complex and intriguing of classic comic superheroes, inhabiting the most visually interesting world, but somehow a story hasn't been found to do him justice. A story - with a beginning, a middle and an end, and a Batman at its center who emerges as more than a collection of costumes and postures. More than ever, after this third movie, I found myself asking, Who was that masked man, anyhow?
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When Tim Burton and Michael Keaton announced that they'd had enough of the
franchise, director Joel Schumacher stepped in (with Burton as coproducer) to make this action-packed extravaganza starring Val Kilmer as the caped crusader. Batman is up against two of Gotham City's most colorful criminals, the Riddler (a role tailor-made for funnyman Jim Carrey) and the diabolical Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), who join forces to conquer Gotham's population with a brain-draining device. Nicole Kidman plays the seductive psychologist who wants to know what makes Batman tick. Boasting a redesigned Batmobile and plenty of new Bat hardware, Batman
also introduces Robin the Boy Wonder (Chris O'Donnell) whose close alliance with Batman led more than a few critics to ponder the series' homoerotic subtext. No matter how you interpret it, Schumacher's take on the Batman legacy is simultaneously amusing, lavishly epic, and prone to chronic sensory overload. --Jeff Shannon
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