tek's rating: ½

Batman Forever (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers!

This is the third movie in the Batman franchise. It came out in 1995, and I feel like I probably saw it in a theater, but I'm not 100% sure. I definitely had it on VHS. And I'm writing this review in 2019, after watching it on DVD. It's the first film in the franchise not directed by Tim Burton, though he did produce it. This time the movie was directed by Joel Schumacher. It's also the first movie in the franchise where Batman was not portrayed by Michael Keaton; this time the character was played by Val Kilmer. Another cast change is Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, one of the movie's villains. In the original Batman, Harvey Dent (who would later become Two-Face) was played by Billy Dee Williams. (I would rather have seen him play Two-Face in this movie than Jones, but then again... there are problems with the way the character was written, so I kind of feel like Williams dodged a bullet.) Another major change is that this film is much lighter in tone than the first two movies. In fact, for a large portion of the movie, I thought it was much too cartoonish. There's also a new Batmobile (about which I feel neutral), and a new Batsuit (which many people mocked for having nipples). Aside from that, the soundtrack wasn't as memorable as the first movie's, although the closing credits include a couple of memorable songs: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me by U2 and Kiss from a Rose by Seal (the latter of which is much better, IMO).

Anyway... I do have to admit that Two-Face played a much bigger role in the movie than I remembered. The other villain is the Riddler, aka Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey), who I remembered as the primary villain. Before rewatching the movie, my only memory of Two-Face was basically his laughing at Riddler's antics, and generally seeming not to have any plans (or brains) of his own. But it turns out my memory was quite faulty. In fact, Two-Face probably does more in this movie than Riddler does. The movie begins with Batman foiling Two-Face's latest evil scheme, though the villain does manage to get away. It's during this scene that Batman meets a psychiatrist named Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), whom Commissioner Gordon had called in to help profile Two-Face, or whatever. She's also obsessed with Batman, both as a potential case study and as a romantic interest.

Later, Bruce Wayne inspects an R&D department at Wayne Enterprises. The person conducting Bruce's visit is a supervisor named Fred Stickley. (Ed Begley Jr.) Well... there's a scientist named Edward Nygma, who shows an invention of his to Bruce, over Stickley's objections. It's a device that can beam TV signals into people's brains, to make them feel like they're inside the show they're watching. When Nygma insists Bruce give him an immediate answer on whether to move forward with the project, Bruce says no. This devastates Nygma, who had had a sort of obsessive admiration for Bruce before that. Now his obsessiveness turns to hatred. Later that night, Nygma tests his device on Stickley, and finds that it has the side effect of draining Stickley's intelligence and increasing Nygma's own intelligence. (This did not, however, lead to Stickley becoming any less intelligent, as one might expect. More importantly, I feel like Nygma's subsequent plans involving using the device to drain the intelligence of pretty much everyone in Gotham didn't seem to increase his intelligence at all, which is weird.) Anyway, after his first test with Stickley, Nygma kills the supervisor and makes it look like a suicide.

Later, Bruce meets Chase, and invites her to the circus. There, a family of trapeze artists called the Flying Graysons are performing. Part way through the act, Two-Face replaces the ringmaster, and he and his gang intend to blow up the circus unless Batman reveals himself. (He's obsessed with killing Batman, whom he blames for the physical and mental scarring that made him what he is.) Bruce tries to reveal his identity, but the crowd is too noisy. So he slips away and starts fighting the gang. Meanwhile, the Graysons also fight the gang, and try to get rid of the bomb. The youngest of them, Richard, aka Dick (Chris O'Donnell), manages to dispose of the bomb, but his parents and brother are all killed by Two-Face. (In one of very few plot points that are actually serious.) After that, for some reason he's supposed to go live with Bruce. At first he has no desire to stay, he just wants to go find Two-Face and kill him. But he does end up staying, and eventually discovers the Batcave. And... eh, there's a whole bunch of plot stuff I don't need to go into, but ultimately he becomes Batman's partner in crimefighting, calling himself Robin. And he does have to decide whether to follow through with his desire for revenge, or accept Bruce's advice not to go down that path. (Also at one point, he delivers my favorite line of the film, one of the things I've always remembered best about it: "Holey rusted metal, Batman!")

Meanwhile, Nygma had been watching the circus on TV, and was delighted by Two-Face's performance, which inspired him to create a villainous alter-ego for himself. Of course, he eventually came up with "the Riddler." Soon after that, he finds Two-Face's hideout, and introduces himself. Oh, and I should mention Two-Face has a pair of scantily-clad assistants, one dressed in white and the other black. I don't think their names were ever mentioned in the movie itself, but they're called Sugar (Drew Barrymore) and Spice (Debi Mazar), who I guess are meant to equate to the good and bad halves of Two-Face's personality. (Although honestly, Two-Face doesn't really seem to have a good half, anymore. He just flips a coin to determine whether to let himself act on his evil impulses or not. There's no indication that any part of him actually wants to refrain from doing evil. And while Sugar may have the appearance of being more innocent than Spice, she never really shows any interest in doing good, nor reluctance to do bad.) Anyway... I've got to say, most of the time up until this point, I found Edward Nygma rather annoying, being the most cartoonish aspect of the movie (which is saying a lot). He was basically in full-on Jim Carrey mode, in the worst possible way. But once he became the Riddler, I actually started enjoying his shtick a lot more. I'm not sure if it's because of his costumes, his increased intelligence (and confidence), the way he twirled his cane, or because his ridiculousness was just more fitting the Riddler character than a normal scientist, or some combination of these things. But he definitely seemed to have greater style as the Riddler. He convinces Two-Face to help him pull off crimes to get enough capital to start his own tech company, to mass produce his invention, in exchange for helping Two-Face learn the true identity of Batman. (I think it's at this point that the writers largely abandon the original conceit of the device being used to increase intelligence, in favor of using it to steal people's secrets.)

Anyway, of course there are more battles between the good guys and the bad guys. And romance develops between Bruce and Chase. And in the end, Nygma is committed to Arkham Asylum, which is the first time in this franchise that we've seen that happen to a villain. (It's always seemed to me one of the oddest aspects of this particular franchise that villains tend to get killed off, rather than committed.) Oh, and there's a brief appearance by a doctor at Arkham named Burton (René Auberjonois).

I guess I don't know what else to tell you. It's really a major step down in quality from the first two movies, but I actually don't think it's a bad movie. You just have to adjust your expectations. Okay... the first few scenes might have been kind of bad, but I really think it gets better as it progresses. At least it's a fun and funny movie, and I like the cast. I definitely think Two-Face should have been better written... but I guess that's what we've got The Dark Knight for. (And even Batman: The Animated Series, for that matter.)

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Batman * Batman Returns * Batman Forever * Batman & Robin