The Batman Project: I’m Sorry But 1995′s ‘Batman Forever’ IS THE WORST
No comments yetJul 16, 2012
Once, as a little kid, I ran a particularly high fever, and as a result was forced to stay at home in bed while my dad took my sister and my brothers out for ice cream. I bawled my eyes out, because as we all know, not being able to eat ice cream is a tragedy whose scope is matched only by the crashing and subsequent explosion of the Hindenburg. Also, because when you are sick, it does not take much to send you over the edge into complete hysteria. I’ve been known to quietly sob when I have to stand up and switch out Futurama disks while ill, so yeah there’s that. Being a good dad, and also not a sadist, he promised to bring me back some ice cream. And then. He forgot. It was a cruelty and injustice that legitimately scarred me. I am only half joking. When a boyfriend says he will do something and doesn’t follow through I freak the goddamn hell out and quietly try to reassure myself that a slip in memory is not a deliberate statement about how they really feel about me. I seldom manage this successfully and instead find myself quietly glaring and saying shit like, “If you didn’t want to buy milk you could have told me, I can handle it, okay?” (See, I’m saying ‘to buy milk’ but I’m thinking “to be in a relationship with me”. It is messed up.) AND THAT’S JUST LIKE BATMAN FOREVER
Ha ha ha, but really, what if that were my segueway? Thankfully, I can do slightly better:
The only betrayal that scarred me as deeply as my father forgetting to buy me ice cream was learning that 1995′s Batman Forever OUTGROSSED BATMAN RETURNS BY QUITE A LOT IN BOX OFFICE. Seriously. I had to quietly excuse myself to vomit and cry for a while when I learned that Warner Brother’s gambit to turn their ballsy franchise focused on revenge, obsession, and disambiguation of the self into fun for the whole family was actually a financially successful. “It’s not riiiight,” I wailed while Renee Russo held back my hair and Tim Burton lit incense to banish the stink, “Tell me about it,” said Renee. “I was supposed to play Chase Meridian until Keaton backed out – then they decided I was too old and replaced me with Nicole Kidman’s boobs – which doubly sucks because she’s played Michael Keaton’s love interest before. Hollywood is fucking AGEIST.” I stopped vomiting to gasp, and then stare accusingly at Tim Burton. “Look,” he offered, “It was well-documented that I was experiencing a total depressive episode during Batman Forever, I was going through the motions. Do you really think I’d produce something Joel Schumacher directed now?” I shook my head, but I didn’t forgive him. I never will.
Batman Forever is a travesty with few if any redeeming features. Is it fun to consider how hilarious Val Kilmer probably was during shooting due to his tendency to be both a difficult guy and a method actor? Absolutely. (“Val, why are you crying at that piece of cake I gave you?” “BECAUSE MY PARENTS ARE DEAD YOU BASTARD!” “…..”) But that doesn’t take away from the two major flaws that – of the hundreds that exist within the film (Speaking of which: Dear Future Batman Scriptwriters. Should you find yourself ever writing dialogue for Alfred and you are moved to write the line, “Go to her!” please step away from the keyboard and come here so that I can punch your face forever – Batman Forever. The first major misstep – is the production design. Schumacher wanted to make audiences completely forget the world of the last films (…so he didn’t recast all the roles? JOEL SCHUMACHER YOUR LIES EXHAUST ME.) so he hired a new production designer. I don’t think it’s fair to blame Barbara Ling for the neon atrocity that Wikipedia claims is meant to evoke both New York and Tokyo while simultaneously harkening to the aesthetics of the comic in the 1950s…but she certainly didn’t help. This Gotham is broad, brightly colored, and completely unappealing. If Burton’s Gotham evoked Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Schumacher’s evoked my barf in a toilet. It is just too obvious of a world, a world where En Vogue plays hookers and where having the Statue of Liberty with the word GOTHAM brandished on her crown can exist in a sincere, real, way. It’s not a world I want to spend any time in.
This extends to the costuming as well – with some notable exceptions. Here’s the thing – Batman and Robin? They are pretty sexy. They don’t need NIPPLES PUT ON THEIR SUITS OR EARRINGS TO MAKE THEM SEEM HIP. This over-the-top effort to butch up our heroes is ludicrous. People will always slyly discuss the homoerotic implications between Bruce and Dick, and fair enough – it’s a fascinating angle. But you can’t reject that angle completely in a way that manages to be both homophobic AND sexist (By shoving Chase Meridian, talking breasts with a medical degree and a clit eternally aflame for the super straight Dark Knight down our throat at every turn) and then hold on Val Kilmer’s ass (it had to have been a stunt ass) – so perfect an ass was it) in the new sonar suit for TEN SECONDS (I absolutely counted) like it is an object worthy of abject devotion. It is enough to make your head explode. Mine nearly did. It still could. That’s a very real possibility.
The other fatal disaster of this film is the story itself. While we’ll get to that when I give you the full play by play, let me go ahead and say that originally Schumacher was going to crib the plot of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. The fact that he knew enough to know that this was a direction to go and then chose not to go that way makes me so angry. Joel Schumacher is the living definition of knowing just enough to be dangerous. There is nothing good about this script. Not one thing. The moments that made me laugh were talented actors did some heavy lifting to make it happen, not because the jokes as they were handed out were any good. Ultimately I want to sit down with Schumacher and ask him who in their right mind could not foresee the dramatic disaster of pairing Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey? I want to demand an explanation for the amount of sheer content they tried to jam into the film without actually managing to create anything of substance or worth! I want to…poop on him. But I feel like that wouldn’t be at all productive.
When the film starts the credits overlaying the action are the only indication that you have not missed twenty minutes of exposition. A crazed ‘Harvey Two-Face” half Tommy Lee Jones with a Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted haircut and half Giant Purple Wound For A Face And Also An Ugly Suit decides – at the behest of his marred gambling coin, to use a bank guard as bait to lure Batman. You have no idea that Harvey blames Batman for not saving him from the acid a mobster threw at face. You don’t learn this for another twenty minutes. During this twenty minutes you will decided that this movie is a rip off of the Fifth Element and then really get bitter that you are not watching the Fifth Element. Fun Fact: The Fifth Element is the favorite film of all of the cats in your apartment. This was discovered when you left the TV on in your apartment one day to keep them company and came home to discover them all on the couch watching it when you got home later that night. Anyway, in twenty minutes after this totally rushed sequence wherein Batman appears and uses some guys hearing aid to crack a safe they are locked in, you’ll learn about Harvey hating Batman. But then you won’t care, and that’s okay – because this isn’t a movie worth caring about. While you space out, consider how Nicole Kidman has acted with every man to play Batman on the movie screen, and also every Alfred. That’s a pretty good fact.
Schumacher’s Bruce Wayne is no Lothario focused on only on the finer things – he’s running a Max Shrek style empire, albeit in not very well if he’s inadvertently hired an obsessive would-be inventor genius named Edward Nygma. You know, E. Nymga. KILL ME. It’s right about then that I realize this movie is as ridiculous as Adam West’s Batman but with none of the sense of fun and play and all of the consumer-driven flash of the 90s. In a way, the Batman films of the 80s and even ’92 Batman hold up much, much better than this Jim Carrey-fest. Have I mentioned how I cannot abide early 90s Jimy Carrey? Let me make this perfectly clear – I think the man is insanely talented and often hilarious, but in his first earliest bids towards garnering his A-Level status there was just too much mimicry and face pulling to keep me entertained. So when you take that and make it into a character obsessed with Bruce Wayne and whining about getting enough funding for his CLEARLY BRAIN CONTROLLING DEVICE you have effectively lost me. Carrey has a handful of solid moments – most of them, when he is is alone. The scene wherein he returns home to his apartment for the first time after having killed the manager who would not support him is cool and engaging. And later on, when he is is in full-on Riddler mode and throwing a party and trying to one up Bruce by making sure he looks just like Val Kilmer, I will admit to chuckling darkly. Maybe my dislike is less of the man and more of the character he plays? I’ll be real, the Riddler has never done it for me.
While I have your attention, let me sum up the C-Story line – the Nicole Kidman story line. She plays a shrink whose has been cribbed from a deleted draft of a James Bond script. We are supposed to believe she is a strong smart woman because she is a doctor and enjoys boxing, but we never see her do anything smart or strong. She fixates on Batman immediately in a visceral and sexual way which I mean – I guess I could say she’s owning her sexuality and that’s something? She uses the Bat signal to invite him to see her boobs which earns Batman’s scolding “THE BAT SIGNAL IS NOT A BEEPER.” and then she squeezes his fake nipples, “ARE THESEEEE?” That didn’t happen but it may as well have. She’s been tossed into the mix by commissioner Gordon to help, I don’t know, profile Two-Face? She does a bad job. She literally says, “He is a whacko.” But Val Kilmer doesn’t even care. His Bruce is delighted because in Chase he’s found someone to satisfy his obsessive fixation on his dead parents (Chase helps him unlock some repressed memories that are beyond boring – spoilers: Bruce fell in a hole and saw a bat and decided to be Batman. There, I save you two hours.) and his need to have a woman try and pull him from one of the two worlds he inhabits into the light forever. The only interesting thing about Chase is that she isn’t really interested in Bruce to start, she’s more interested in Batman – because she likes “bad boys.” This made me laugh because there is literally no one who is less of a bad guy than Batman except for maybe Jesus.(….you guys I just compared Batman to JESUS.) Anyway, Bruce is all “I want her to like me…for me,” and Alfred is into her, because Alfred seriously wants to retire someday and he needs a woman for Bruce in order to do that. Luckily, Chase wises up and decides – after a naked midnight rendevous with the man in black himself, that it is Bruce she loves. Of course this leads to her smooching Bruce and realizing he is Batman. Which is a relief to Bruce because it isn’t a Batman movie unless Bruce is all I AM BATMAN!
He actually does this in a room full of people when Two-Face takes over the circus and threatens to blow everyone up unless Batman shows himself. Of course since everyone is screaming about how they are all going to die, his bleats go unheard. Then I forgot everyone because Jesus Christ I need a minute – Chris O’Donnell was HOT once upon a time! I may have paused the film to seriously analyze his career trajectory and figure out why he is not George Clooney – is it because he looks like a sexy dad? I mean, I can’t be the only woman into that. Chris O’Donnell is movie good-looking and not the worst actor. Why he is not like, Brad Pitt famous is a mystery, and though my argument holds very little water – I am blaming it on his time spent as Robin. The moments of this movie I loved came courtesy of Dick. He appears a lithe acrobat with his family, and then takes center stage in story line B, all brooding and riding on a motorcycle and stealing the Batmobile and calling Alfred ‘Al’! When he peaks his little head back into the arena and sees that Two-Face has killed his whole family – I lost it! Then I rallied because Val Kilmer was all “I KNOW THE PAIN OF DEAD FAMILIES TOO! OMG BE MY FRIEND!” Then, when Dick is lured to Wayne manor and made a ward of the place (The oldest teenager on record, right? That man is clearly thirty years old.) and explains the origin on his nickname of Robin to Alfred? LOST IT AGAIN! And later? When Alfred all sassily appears with a burger and some milk on a tray to trick Dick into staying at the manor? I SERIOUSLY STARTED CRYING AGAIN. Alfred and Dick = the best! I wish they were dating, or at least that they were real people whose exploits I could watch, chin propped on hands, daily, forever. LOVE. Alfred loves Dick so much! Even after Dick steals the Batmobile, Alfred is still all “Bruce. This kid. Is you! HIRE HIM!” and makes a fancy costume for him! Because they are best friends! It takes Bruce a while to come around, but he does, because of how he obviously must. And then Batman, Robin, and Alfred have a threesome, while outside Nicole Kidman screams and rams her boobs against the windows in a futile manner. I know, right? It was weird.
Once all the angst is sorted, Batman and Robin decide to save the day and defeat Two-Face and the Riddler. I could care less about this. It is worth pointing out that poor Tommy Lee hasn’t really got a good handle on his Two-Face. If memory serves that will change in the next flick. It is mildly entertaining to watch Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazer play his dual girlfriends, Sugar and Spice. It really, really made me want to go back and time and demand that the two of them are given a TV show – because you guys, that is a show worth watching. Oh wait, that is the Don’t Trust the B – THANK YOU TELEVISION. Other highlights include Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey wearing diamond tiaras and dancing together and Jim Carrey learning how to punch a guy. It could not have been worse. Also, in a blink and you’ll miss it moment, you’ll catch Nicole Kidman’s real feelings about Jim Carrey when he drags her out onto the dance floor. Nonspoiler: She does not care for that ONE BIT.
At the end of the movie, everything works out and I found that I own The Fifth Element on DVD! Everybody wins. The final moments of the film are interesting as they introduce Arkam, Gotham’s hospital for the criminally insane and – in the movie sphere anyway – CRIMINALLY under-utilized! I have a couple of recurring dreams, and one of them features Arkam prominently – thanks for the mental scarring, Frank Miller! While they are uninspired moments of Jim Carrey flapping his crazed arms around, furious that his mind-box-device has been destroyed (the only prescient moment in the film – the notion of a mind-controlling 3D television box, which I must at least give a parenthetical nod to.) they did get me excited for Friday – BECAUSE GUYS IT IS ALMOST ‘RISING’ O’CLOCK! Check here everyday this afternoon as we wrap up this series! I am going to miss it!