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When Tim Burton re-invented the Dark Knight back in the 80's he took some aspects which made the original Adam West TV series fun but added a moody-looking Gotham City and treated the DC hero seriously, almost like a detective from an old film noir thriller. The goofy kid-friendly humour was replaced by Burton's trademark darkly comic tone and what we got was one action-packed, stylish, unique, funny, clever blockbuster and one of the best comic book movie adaptations ever.

The sequel, Batman Returns, "Burtonised" the concept to the max giving Batman a more gothic setting, a disgusting villain, a sexier, troubled love interest, Pee-Wee Herman, a circus gang, Christopher Walken and a penguin army. It was great: darker, snowier, Christmassier, Burtonier. It remains my favourite to this day.

Then came Joel Schumacher's turn in the director's chair...

We all know how that turned out in the end but looking at Batman Forever today: it's honestly not bad. Sure it's more kid-friendly, brighter, sillier, definitely closer to the old TV series but as a Batman film it does hold up and remains entertaining as hell. For all its OTT cartoonishness, it gets a lot of things right.

For one thing, the introduction to Robin couldn't have been done better. Far from the whiny git he is in Batman & Robin and far from the silly-ass kid we knew back in the day, Chris O'Donnell's Robin is a character we can actually identify with and root for, even when he is acting childish. Furthermore, Val Kilmer may not be quite as likeable as his predecessor but physically he looks the part and in general does a great job. His love-interest Dr Chase Meridian, played by Nicole Kidman, is about as indecisive as a girl can get but in a film all about dualisms I guess that fits in very well. She is good, though, managing to be smart, sexy and give Bruce Wayne a lot to think about in terms of helping him deal with the guilt for his parents' death.

I should point out that, as criticized as Schumacher's take on Gotham City may be, it actually kinda works here and I do find the neon-lit, Dick Tracy-style look of the city quite appealing. It's eye candy and far from Burton's grittier (read: better) portrayals but it works and although the director goes way overboard in the next film: here it does the job.

Then there's the villains.

Jim Carrey is The Riddler in what is probably some of the easiest casting in comic book movie history and makes past incarnations of the character look positively dull in comparison. And you thought The Mask was cartoony? Did The Mask ever wear all-green spandex and run around screaming "JOYGASM!"? Didn't think so. This is Carrey at his most manic and although having The Riddler be this obsessive, nutty, genius mad scientist is a good idea, no-one is this outwardly insane. As much as I still like Carrey's Riddler, he does go a little too far here and one does wish he'd toned it down just a tiny bit. The big surprise, though, has to be Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face.

How much drugs did they give this guy?

Seriously, I have never seen Tommy Lee Jones this wacky. Ever. The guy is bouncing off the walls, trying to out-Joker Jack Nicholson in a part that really shouldn't have been played like that in the first place. Now, as nice as it was to see what Two-Face would have been like in the classic 60's show, it really was a mistake to turn him into another Joker when Jim Carrey already boasted enough energy for a thousand Jack Nicholsons.

Just think of it...

A THOUSAND Jack Nicholsons...

Other not-so-good things include the plot which really feels right out of a cartoon and leaves Two-Face with very little to do besides rob banks, jewelry stores and laugh maniacally. It's absurd from start to finish and it makes the whole Rha's Al Ghul magic immortality pool thing look like a true story. The jokes/puns are often distracting, Jim Carrey is louder than the Batmobile's ass and the bat-nipples... well they're bat-nipples.

It's an uneven film and definitely a step down from the Burton/Keaton outings but on the whole it's completely entertaining, a lot of fun and, with Burton still on producing duties, there's still a sense that Warner Bros. still wanted to make something half decent. Sit back, relax and let the campiness begin.

No joygasm but certainly not bat.

(I mean not "bad")

1 comment:

  1. I have a soft spot for this movie. Jim Carrey as the Riddler; who else could do that better?


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