Last time, in Part One: we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Batman Returns, now for our descent into Hell…
Batman Forever (1995)
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Val Kilmer (Batman), Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Jim Carrey (Riddler), Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Nicole Kidman (Dr. Chase Meridian), Michael Gough (Alfred)
Plot: Batman and his new sidekick Robin must face the combined forces of Two-Face (former district attorney Harvey Dent, who blames Batman for the courtroom incident that scarred his face) and the Riddler (Edward Nygma, a former employee of Bruce Wayne seeking revenge for being justifiably fired), and their device that is going to steal all of the information from all of the brains in Gotham. Or some stupid crap.
Erik Smash: I gotta admit, this entry is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. Even so, I totally get that it’s not a good movie and more importantly why.
I first saw this one, in theaters, as a kid, so I was kind of their core demographic at the time and it worked, because I enjoyed the hell out of it. Since then though, looking back as an adult, it’s easy to see it’s flaws, which are numerous to say the least.
It’s not even the fact that it’s more “comic book-ey” that bothers me, but more the lack of any coherent logic. The opening sequence is kind of cool: I got a chuckle out of Batman’s “drive through” comment and I REALLY loved Two-Face’s opening monologue, but the movie begins to falter almost immediately with Tommy Lee Jones’s overacting. At times he seems truly menacing and at other times he seems like a bratty kid, but mostly it’s Tommy Lee Jones doing a Jack Nicholson impression.
One thing I’ve noticed about these movies is that Gotham looks less and less like a city, and more and more like a cardboard set. Furthermore, I’m not all that fond of the new Batmobile, it’s supposed to be a stealth vehicle, so the flashy neon doesn’t really scream practical to me. Also, some of the dialogue is a tad painful, as is Commissioner Gordon’s complete and total uselessness.
I was kind of willing to let all that slide though, because I liked the way this movie opened right up with an action scene, like a Bond movie. Different style, different actor, different director, fine – I can deal with that as long as they don’t go all Roger Moore Bond. Little did I know this would lead to the next entry in the Bat-franchise, which would make Moonraker look like The Empire Strikes Back.
It kinda sucks we didn’t really get much of a Harvey Dent / Bruce Wayne back story that could’ve deepened the movie and actually added some weight to it, but no – he’s just another wacky bad guy, but this time, instead of dropped in a vat of acid, or dropped in a penguin-infested sewer, or dropped out a window into a cat-infested alley way, he took an acid-laced Starbucks to the face. Oh yeah and when did he turn white?! In the first one (the good one) you may remember, District Attorney Harvey Dent was introduced as Billy Dee Williams – yes, Lando Calrissian himself. And what’s up with his outfit? I get the two sides theme and all, but Cheetah, leopard, and zebra print?! I just don’t see this guy walking into a taylor shop and custom-making this monstrosity just to express his schizophrenic nature. Worst thing about the way they handled Two-Face’s character though?
The way he gets punked out by The Riddler… Jim Carey’s Riddler.
Speaking of – right after that somewhat promising action-packed intro we’re introduced to one of Wayne Tech’s employees – Jim Carey, I mean Ace Ventura, I mean The Mask, I mean Edward Nygma, kind of…
As a fan of the comics, I really like The Riddler. I especially like the way he was portrayed in the Animated Series – as a cold, calculating mastermind. Not this time though, nope, they hired Jim Carey, who (being 90’s Jim Carey and all) takes it beyond even the campy self aware cheesiness of Frank Gorshin’s performance in the 60’s. He makes more jokes than The Joker! WTF?
He’s not only the most unbelievable super villain in movie history, his plan is worse than Lex Luthor’s plot in the first five Superman movies! He wants to ‘steal’ people’s ‘brain waves’ from a device attached to people’s TVs… Huh??? No, seriously, please explain the SCIENCE behind that statement.
If I was Batman, I’d be like ‘good fucking luck Nygma’, before macking on ‘Doctor’ Chase Meridian.
This entry also introduces Robin (who he adopts as an adult?) and once again proves that Alfred is simply terrible at his job of keeping Batman’s secret a secret. Chris O’Donnell isn’t all that bad as ‘teenage’ Dick Grayson, he and Val Kilmer do a good job playing off each other. In the same way Catwoman was eye candy for the male audience in the last movie, I’m told that Robin plays that role for the ladies this time around. Fair point. In all honesty though, I can’t imagine them actually pulling off the kid sidekick thing any other way.
Instead of the ‘old chum’ comradeship of the classic Dynamic Duo, Bruce and Dick have a somewhat antagonistic relationship at first, and it might be one of the stronger parts of the movie. Another strong scene is the flashback to Bruce’s parents’ funeral and young Bruce falling into the cave. Unfortunately scenes like that are overshadowed by Robin shouting “Holy rusted metal Batman!” and Batman saying “chicks dig the car.”
Batman Forever is also littered with goofy riddles that somehow lead Bruce to figuring out that Edward Nygma is the Riddler… duh. But of all the craziest moments in it’s entirety, the film really jumps the shark though when the Batmobile drives up a wall… to escape a pouting Two-Face. Trust me, I wish I was kidding.
Towards the end, there’s a scene where Two-Face and the Riddler break into Wayne Manor upon discovering Batman’s identity (they trick Alfred as Halloween trick or treaters). Riddler trashes the Batcave and blows up the new Batmobile (thank god!) Problem is, this could have been a pivotal moment – Bruce has to face his enemies unprepared, as they infiltrate his home, BUT instead the scene is mostly played for laughs as Jim Carey grabs his balls and says “Joygasm!” They really dropped the ball here. Then the Bat-boat AND Bat-wing are introduced only to be reduced to smoldering wreckage within a minute of screen time (because toys).
All in all though, it is ultimately an entertaining movie, if you take it for what it is. At times, it’s stylistic, colorful, and funny, just make sure to leave your brain at the door. As a Batman movie though, it leaves A LOT to be desired.
ComicZombie: I have to disagree with you on the ‘guilty pleasure’ statement you made, unless you also count getting stabbed in the face with a rusty screwdriver a ‘guilty pleasure’. This movie is a pile of shit.
‘Director’ Joel Schumacher wanted to take the franchise more in the direction of the 60’s TV show, which is such a monumentally poor decision it makes me wonder if Warner Bros was even paying attention to the production, or if they were too busy rolling around on piles of cash, laughing maniacally.
The day-glo Gotham just does not work for me at all, and neither do any of the production or casting choices, with the possible exceptions of Nicole Kidman and Val Kilmer. Tommy Lee Jones hams it up as Two-Face, although I have the feeling that is a result of trying to match Jim Carrey’s energy and the ‘direction’. Jim Carrey is trying to channel Frank Gorshin, but through like a million hits of speed.
Chris O’Donnell is about ten years too old to play Robin, and even forgiving that he’s just… there. He doesn’t add anything at all to the movie (same with Kidman, but I digress). This is the first time in 30 years that we get to see Batman and Robin together on screen, and THIS is what we get? Kilmer does what he can, but it’s not enough. The job he faced was the equivalent of being tossed overboard from a ship with your hands and feet bound, a weight tied around your neck, and your arms and legs broken, and being told to outswim the ship.
The dialogue and ‘plot’ are so horrible that I can’t believe they were what was originally intended. I figure there was a decent script, and Schumacher was like “Bah! Not enough crotch shots! Too logical! Away with this competence!”
As you mentioned, the Riddler’s scheme is so ridiculous, so hackneyed, so.. STUPID… that it’s just absurd. Nothing about this train wreck makes sense or is the least bit engaging.
Why does Bruce Wayne have a tunnel from his OFFICE CHAIR to the bat cave? Seriously!?!?
The only thing, and I mean the ONLY thing I get a kick out of in this movie is the insane logic Bruce uses to break down the Riddler’s ‘clue‘:
Bruce: “How about… Mr. E?”
Bruce: “And another name for mystery?”
Bruce: “Mr. E. Nygma… Edward Nygma!”
It reminds me of the logic used in South Park.
If you enjoy good, serious Batman, then skip this trash. If you like picking apart shitty movies with your friends, then you’ve hit gold… well, silver. Gold is next. Ohhhh, is it next.
Batman & Robin (1997)
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Starring: George Clooney (Batman), Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Alicia Silverstone (Batgirl), Uma Thurman (Poison Ivy), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mr. Freeze), Jeep Swenson (“Bane”), Elle Macpherson (Julie Madison), Michael Gough (Alfred)
Plot: Fuck you, that’s the plot.
Comiczombie: One of the most awful, poorly conceived, poorly made movies I’ve ever seen (at least movies with studio backing). Killed the franchise dead as hell and killed a number of careers.
Rubber lips, Bat credit card (expiration date: Forever! Get it? GET IT?), more ice puns than you can possibly imagine, ice skates in boots, NIPPLES ON THE COSTUMES, progressively shittier story, acting, design, direction, action, dialogue, plot…. it just goes on. There is NOTHING redeeming about this huge piece of shit. Everyone involved, from Schumacher to the interns getting everyone coffee, should be ashamed and afraid to show their faces in public. Fuck this movie. Fuck it.
It’s been out for 18 years now and I find that I’m still getting MADDER about it, despite the saving grace of the next three movies on our list.
Seriously, fuck this movie.
Erik Smash: Oh man… where to begin…
I was going to try and be a devil’s advocate here to try and defend its ‘redeeming qualities’, but that’s just the problem, I really couldn’t find any. Batman and Robin is practically a spoof. Kinda like how Star Trek IV was a comedy, except at least that one was funny, tastefully done and fit in within the canon. This movie on the other hand craps all over the source material… and the previous movie… and comic book fans… and movie fans… and the entire cast…
It’s kinda like the producers thought, “Ok that last movie made a lot of movie, let’s do it again, but make it even more for kids, make it in half the time, sell more toys, and add even more villains!” Thing is, you can make a Mr. Freeze movie, you can make a Poison Ivy movie, but you can’t make a movie where those two characters team up AND throw in Bane just for the hell of it.
I feel bad for everyone in this movie, because they really didn’t have much to work with: George Clooney plays Batman this time around – well he plays Bruce Wayne in cosplay. Chris O’Donnell reprises his role as Robin – except he’s more of a whiny teenager in a Nightwing costume. Alfred is once again played by Michael Gough and sadly might be the best actor in the entire movie. Alicia Silverstone plays Alfred’s niece, blonde college drop out, Barbara Pennyworth (not Barbara Gordon) – and for no reason at all, conveniently becomes Bat-girl.
Mr. Freeze is inexplicably played by Arnold Schwarzenegger who turns him into a pun obsessed mad man in one of the dumbest costumes in movie history, seriously soooo mis-cast. Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy should’ve been brilliant, but she turns in the absolute worst performance of her stellar career. Then you have “Bane” – whose played by some wrestler guy who grunts a lot and turns one of the greatest, strongest, and most cunning Batman villains into a dumb linebacker who moves (and thinks) slower than a sloth.
The very first shot of the movie is almost cool (no pun-intended, no really) – as the WB logo morphs into the Bat symbol from the first film, then it freezes and shatters (cool moment over) only to be replaced by a flying red neon ‘Batman and Robin’ symbol.
Right from the start you know this movie has problems. It opens pretty much the same as the last movie, but something seems… off. The Batcave is suddenly A LOT more colorful and there’s now “Robin Logos” everywhere. The new “Batmobile” takes everything that was wrong with the last version and amplifies it. You could see this thing coming from a state away. It’s like a one vehicle light parade on crack with a… see through spinning engine? Only ONE seat? No shielding? No canopy?! Not only is it a moving target, it looks like one fender bender would turn into a pile of shattered china. The original ’66 Batmobile looked a thousand times better than this!
The first couple lines of the movie are downright terrible, but I’d be willing to let it slide if THE ENTIRE SCRIPT wasn’t haphazardly cobbled together from awful dialogue, crappy one liners, and the cheesiest puns this side of the craft factory. Then we see Robin’s bike, the Red-Bird, emerge from the same driveway thingy that the Batmobile came out of, which doesn’t make any sense, but it gets worse: the bike is encased in a neon coffin that when opened makes a Robin symbol over the Bat-symbol to reflect the movie’s logo, just in case we were confused which movie we were watching? The logistics of this entire set up doesn’t make any sense. Are they expecting visitors? Are they putting on a stage play of their exploits for the world to see? The only people who are ever going to ‘appreciate’ the way Robin’s bike makes it’s entrance are Dick Grayson and Alfred, because Batman is already well on his way to the crime scene in his no passenger vehicle, while Robin awaits his motorcycle’s slow reveal.
Next we cut to Batman driving down the longest (illuminated) gothic-style tunnel I have ever seen in his glow-in-the-dark Batmobile, in his shinny, nipple-adorned, blue bat-suit. Clooney pulls up a video screen right above his steering wheel where ‘Commissioner’ Gordon appears on Skype to beg for Batman’s help and explain the plot to the audience. I find it really funny that Batman is finding out which villain he’s heading to beat up en route. “There’s a new villain in town! He’s frozen the antiquities wing. He’s turned the security guards into ice. He’s calling himself, ‘Mr. Freeze’.” Yeah, he actually calls him a ‘new villain’. Even Freeze later refers to himself as the villain.
And it’s less than three minutes into this crap fest…
The entire sequence that follows is simply painful to watch. The entire museum looks fake, the extras are so unconvincing, the “special effects” are laughable, and even the ice itself looks like plastic. When Batman and Robin show up, Batman kindly introduces himself to Mr. Freeze, and Robin makes a perfect Robin symbol as he busts through the wall on his bike. Wait, where did those ice skates come from? If he’s a ‘new villain’ why did they come prepared to take on a cold-themed bad guy? Mr. Freeze himself looks absolutely terrible. Like really really bad. His face is painted blue, his teeth glow, and his shinny silver suit looks like it was ripped off a Cylon from the 70’s. His ‘ice gun’ looks like one of those big super soaker squirt guns wrapped in tin foil.
Not only does Mr. Freeze not look like Mr. Freeze, he certainly doesn’t act like him. What really pisses me off is that they attempted to use the tragic backstory about Freeze’s cryogenically frozen wife, that Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created for the character when they revamped him in the Emmy-Award-winning episode of Batman: the Animated Series, “Heart of Ice” which has more emotion, gravitas, and character development than anything in this entire film. Mr. Freeze is apparently there to steal diamonds, because for some fucking reason his shitty suit is powered by… you guessed it – diamonds. Last time I checked, diamonds weren’t a source of fuel, nor do lasers make things cold, but I digress.
Even if Mr. Freeze is trying to go the eco-friendly route, there’s so many other alternative energy sources. Why make it powered by something as expensive and rare as diamonds? He’s apparently also motivated by his kinky desire to freeze everything, just because. He seems genuinely happy when Batman and Robin show up, just so he can debut his hockey-themed minions and share his various punny jokes. Why is Mr. Freeze cracking jokes? Of all the villains in Batman’s rogues gallery, Mr. Freeze does not strike me as the funny type, in fact he’s typically portrayed as an unemotional, cold-hearted bastard.
Poison Ivy is introduced monologue-ing with words like ‘Drats!’ and ‘Foiled again!’ Her origin is even more cliche and goofy than her dialogue. A character referred to as ‘Bane’ (but couldn’t be further from his comic book counterpart) is also introduced just to become Ivy’s moron lacky. There’s also this crazy, wild-haired mad scientist (played by Lionel Luthor from Smallville), who in all honesty might be the most intriguing villain in the piece, they should’ve made him Hugo Strange or something. He’s simply there for exposition though as Poison Ivy suddenly rises from the ground and explains, “They replaced my blood with aloe, my skin with chlorophyll, and filled my lips… with venom!” as she kisses the fugly dude, to death.
At points just when you think it might get better, it gets worse. There’s some truly excruciating moments throughout. Like how the brand new observatory is built atop a massive naked dude statue, Bane says four lines – one of which is “Workey work”, Poison Ivy has a (choreographed) musical number in which she seduces an entire room of old rich dudes, Coolio has a cameo, there’s a sequence where Dick and Barbara race a biker gang (above the rooftops of Gotham’s skyscrapers?), the Robin signal, Poison Ivy’s hair, the new Bat-suits at the end of the movie are even worse than the main ones (speaking of – our heroes go all the way back home to change while Freeze freezes the city), the bat-snow-ski???, the way they un-freeze the city, and Mr. Freeze has a change of heart and (conveniently) gives them the cure to Alfred’s sickness, which happens to be the same disease as his wife, which… wait a second, isn’t that the reason he was freezing the city to hold ransom, or some shit???
You know what, it’s not even worth ranting about anymore… One good thing that did come of this? The studio scrapped this series completely, eventually leading to a gritty reboot in Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece of a trilogy.
CZ: You know, I was going to go on a huge rant about the nipples on the suits, how stupid the costumes look (especially after the change), Batgirl in general, and how utterly intolerable Robin is in this ‘movie’, but you summarized everything pretty well, and I just don’t have it in me to talk about this fucking crap fest any more. I will summarize by saying I hope Joel Schumacher goes to his grave knowing hundreds of thousands of people hate his movies.
Next time on ‘Holy Bat-movies!’ – Part 3: The Good Ones! (thank god)