Sunday, December 5, 2010

Skeletons in the Closet: Batman Forever

I had a thought the other day. The thought was--I really want to watch Batman Forever but I don't want anyone to know that I want maybe I'll just pretend that I'm watching it for research purposes when in actuality I'll be laughing gleefully at how much I enjoy Val Kilmer as the Dark Knight. Yes it was a very long thought. I also realize that I just told you this thought--which is fine because I'm not afraid to hide my secret love affair anymore. That's right, I've been oddly attracted to Batman Forever since I first saw it at the Drive-In when I was a wee one. I should also note that when I was a wee one I bought a giant poster of Val Kilmer as Batman. As time grew on I got suspicious that his eyes were actual little cameras--which prompted me to get undressed in my closet. Too much information? Probably.

Of course, when I was a wee one I failed to realize how horrible a movie Batman Forever truly is. But is it? Well technically yes. The completely atrocious writing and impromptu karate laundry scene leaves very little to be desired--but like any mostly terribly movie there are some things that I believe are worth mentioning.

I don't read comic books but I have been doing quite a bit of research lately on the origins of our heroes and villains. One thing that Batman Forever does have going for it is that it's pretty faithful to the source material. From Two-Face's evil origins, to his psychosis and weakness revolving around his coin. Heck, even the details of his coin are spot on. Even Robin's entrance is faithful to a point, and perhaps most appreciative is his throw back costume--added nicely into the mix by tweaking a story about circus performers.

Even The Riddler who although his origins were changed a bit, still maintains that sinister need and desire to make Batman battle "death traps" as a test of will. These are riddles and traps that he deems impossible to solve--which oddly enough sounds very similar to another villain we all know--Jigsaw.

Yes, you cannot deny that Batman Forever respects at least the greater portion of the Batman legacy. For what it's worth, the earlier Batman films seem to be much more focused on maintaining a world similar to that of the comic books. This is evident in the loudness of Gotham city and the loudness of our villains costumes. Two Face is eccentric and looks like a pimp while his burn scars resemble purple Gak.

This annoyed me at first as I thought back to how stunnigly realistic Two-Face's burns were in The Dark Knight. But really, Batman Forever was just honoring what was outlined in the comics. Batman Forever feels more like a comic book which by all accounts should have been the secret to its success. However due to what is largely poor execution, the film is sadly washed away with the filth of Batman and Robin.

Another surprising thing to admire is Jim Carrey as he plays Edward Nygma.

I will agree that Jim Carrey's performance as The Riddler is at times severly annoying--but think back to his portrayal of kooky scientist Edward Nygma. It's actually one of the better performances out of the whole movie. There's something so sad about his love affair with Bruce Wayne and yet so creepy at the same time. His obsession and how utterly destroyed he is when Bruce turns his proposal down is the calm before the storm. Like many have said, Jim Carrey is actually at his best when he is at his quietest. The brief scene of him as the slobbering Nygma is a reminder that Carrey is playing the character with much more depth than we once thought.
He adds a certain Single White Female note of uncomfortableness that is always appreciated in my book.

And finally there is Val Kilmer. I read somewhere once that Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton tied for 2nd place in the best Batman contest, behind Christian Bale. What I love best about Val Kilmer's performance is his distance. He's not a smarmy, schmoozing person in or out of the bat costume (coughGeorgeClooneycough). He has a dark side that although is hidden when he is Bruce Wayne, it also is still visible behind the rich man's facade. He's got issues, he's got a past--he's not an alien, he's just a regular guy. Kilmer's Batman isn't outwardly tempted by beautiful women, and he's certainly not quick to make friends. Yes, his eventual love triangle with himself, Nicole Kidman and himself as Batman remains a thorn in my side---but he was still dark and distant while doing it at least.

Look, Batman Forever tries right? It even tries to include cute little homages to the comics, the holy rotted metal for instance, Robin's costume, and of course the inside peek at Arkham Asylum. Batman Forever in many ways is like Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A film that was much more in line with what the book details right down to the Oompa Loompa songs--yet something about it just feels like too much. It's a nice reminder that movies can't always be like their source material because the source material is a different medium. It won't translate the same way. Of course one wonders that if Batman Forever had some better writing, could it really have been a contender?

Phew okay enough tooting Batman Forever's horn, let's get out all the bad stuff.....

I LOVE how 90s this movie is. Black lights?! I feel like we're in the backroom at Spencer know the room with the drawings of marijuana leaves and mushrooms. Nothing says Saturday afternoon like going to Spencer Gifts and seeing your shirt turn blue!

So wait a minute...Edward Nygma's invention was just 3D? How disappointing. I really thought it was some giant wave of the future. Now that I know I can get the same effects by slapping some 3D glasses on and avoiding the threat of my brain leaking out--I think I can finally get rid of Edward's terrible giant headpiece that's gathering dust in my closet.

Karate laundry time! Man, Chris O'Donnell how did you get so cool? More importantly, how did you have the time to fine tune your art of karate laundry while you were fine tuning your art of highly dangerous trapeze stunts?

After all these years I still find Drew Barrymore's cameo to be so random. And look it's Debbi Mazar too! Strange.

I really can't handle the awkward love triangle in this. And also, how stupid are people that they can't figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Let's think...who could possibly have the money to be a superhero with super expensive bat mobiles, and bat planes and bat boats? I mean come on...and then when Robin shows up? Oh that's funny...Batman now has a young man as a sidekick...Bruce Wayne just took that young man Dick Grayson into custody....what a coincidence!

I also can't handle the fact that we are suppose to believe that Nicole Kidman is a psychologist. She uses words like "wacko" to describe a patient and takes her clothes off the moment Batman blinks. I've seen some stuff in my day and while Nicole Kidman isn't as unbelievable as Denise Richards was when she played a nuclear scientist--she is still questionable in my book.

Well, there you have it. Batman Forever is a terrible movie but I still maintain that it does hold a few things to appreciate. At least it's not Batman and Robin okay? OKAY?!


The Mike said...

Oh, Andre. You complete me.

I watched this almost daily back when it was on HBO all the time and I was a teen. I never once thought "man, this is a good movie!", but I just could not turn away. I was pretty disappointed by Burton's Batman flicks, actually, so this one at least reminded me of that cheesy Adam West Batman I once loved.

You're dead on about Carrey as Nygma/Riddler and Kilmer. And I'm soooo happy you mentioned the random two-face room with Mazar and Barrymore, which still just baffles me.

My favorite thing from all four of the Burton-line Batman flicks, though, is Michael Gough as Alfred. I so wanted him to become my third Grandpa and guide me through life. I'll watch any of the 4 flicks just for him on occasion.

So yeah...I kind of love it too. I admit it.

Andre Dumas said...

Ah I know the Mike this is why we are married!
Oooh Alfred! Didn't you just cry in Batman and Robin when he was sick and stuff?
He really is one of those highly awesome old men that you just want to put in your pocket, and take out whenever you need guidance....
(Tim Gunn is my other one)

Greg said...

Interesting review.

I actually enjoy this movie except for one thing: Two-Face. Two-Face is my absolute favorite comic book character and I hate his portrayal as Joker-lite. Tommy Lee Jones was a great choice to play the character but he didn't get the personality and what overall made the character tick and shine, though that should go to the direction more than the actor. From what I recall, Jones did in fact want to play the character like how he is in the comic book but instead was told differently by the director which was a shame.

Andre Dumas said...

Aw yeah I forgot to mention in my bad things section that Two-Face oddly gets out shined by The Riddler towards the end. Even his death scene is quite lackluster and anti-climatic. It's like he came in with this strong presence (an annoying, and over the top presence but strong in that respect) and then suddenly you see him in the corner and say, oh hey Two Face, didn't see you standing there! Very strange indeed.

But I agree. His persona in Batman Forever does not hold one shred of his "other" side. There is no remnant of his political self--it's all just one crazy blob. Not very "two-sided" in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I like the review but I have to pick some nits. Batman comics aren't anything like this. Nolan's movies have been the closest to the comics. Other than that, you've done a fantastic job as usual.

Dod said...

Oh, how I love this review.

And as an avid comic collector, I am obliged to comment.

I always thought this was an unfairly-maligned movie. Kilmer made a great Batman. I always believed it's how Bruce Wayne is portrayed that really measures success, and he did a great job. O'Donnell wasn't bad as Robin - they were headed in the right direction. Well, before Nipplegate, anyway...

The laundry scene reminded me of a Hong Kong film called Dreadnaught, with Yuen Biao. Character does the same laundry routine, but finds out that is how he learned a specific kind of kung fu without realizing it.

Comparison to Spencers Gifts? Priceless.

Really, Two-Face & Riddler are classic, complicated villains (who both had recent runs as "good guys" in the books). Always thought Carrey was a bit over-the-top, but he did channel Frank Gorshin at times.

Andre Dumas said...

I meant in the character's backstories and the bright colors of the costumes and Gotham city--minus the black lights....things feel more cartoonish here while in Nolan's it's a very real atmosphere, and depiction.

Andre Dumas said...

Thanks Dod! Jim Carrey's Riddler is totally over the top--as expected I suppose. Man, I always know who to turn to when I need Kung Fu references explained heheh

Dod said...

I devoured old Hong Kong movies during the 90's. Been meaning to re-watch a lot of them.

I have to go now. Sudden urge to shop at Spencers.

kindertrauma said...

I know how you feel! It is a well known fact around these parts that I cannot change the channel if "Batman & Robin" is on the tube. I think it is the funniest movie ever made and Thurman's Ivy is just hilariously ridiculous. Love it.-Unk

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

Okay, now I feel like a dork because I always kinda thought that Batman Forever was the best Batman movie, before they got all seriously good with Batman Begins and Dark Knight. Forever is fun and wild and Val Kilmer has really good teeth and Nicole Kidman is is all breathy-talking and sexy. Just good times all around, I have always loved it. And now I need to watch it.

Spooky Sean said...

I remember that Seal song they had for the soundtrack to Batman Forever.
I heard it at work the other day, and for some reason I like the song. I really hate that I like it, but I like it nonta'less.

Unknown said...

When this came out I was in love with it...going so far as to say it was my favorite Batman film...which was clearly my teenage mind acting douchey. Years have passed and neither Forever or B&R hold up well at all. On the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, the Nolan films are darker and more dramatic, leaving the Burton films in the middle and Shumacher films in the garbage.

White Lightning! said...

I remember going to the movies to see this; I had actually won tickets from a local radio station!
And I LOVED the U2 song that went with this movie.

Nice review!

Andre Dumas said...

Haha oh Unk you and me both. After I sat through Batman and Robin recently, I thought about re-evaluating my life. Then I changed my mind because there are few better pleasures in life than hearing bad Mr. Freeze quotes on a Saturday night...!

Michele- watch it! It does offer up a certain something in terms of nostalgia for me. but yes I was marginally obsessed with this when I was younger. The poster sealed the deal for me.

Sean- the Seal song is still one of the best songs in the world ever. Period.

Jay- that is true. Ooh our simple minds thinking that this was filmmaking at its greatest. Sigh.

Thanks White Lightning! I can't believe you won a radio station contest, did you have to be a certain number caller? Answer a trivia question? Man, I was always so jealous of people winning radio station contests.....

Va Fleming said...

This is great! I am glad I am not alone in the enjoyment of bad batman movies! I had the same realization, but about Batman and Robin. Check out my review if you are interested here:

Andre Dumas said...

Thanks Va Fleming! I look forward to reading that. Thanks for stopping by!