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I'm pretty sure that most everyone on the planet over the age of five is in agreement that when director Joel Schumacher took over for Tim Burton in 1994, the Bat-franchise hit rock bottom in only two films. Most often, we cut Batman Forever a little slack as not being as bad as it's brain-cell depleting successor. Having re-watched the film recently after several years, I have to wonder why. Batman Forever is actually nothing more than Batman & Robin but with the smallest hint of restraint. In the end, I can only think of two reasons why you'd ever want to watch this film a second time and since this is in fact the beginning, I'll wait a little while to reveal them. For clarification, none of them involve rubber nipples or Chris O'Donnell.

If you plan on picking this special edition up, I must recommend buying it as part of the Batman Motion Picture Anthology. That way if you happen to be in line at your local DVD retailer, you won't have to stand there holding a copy of Batman Forever for everyone to see and judge you by. Don't think you can offset it by purchasing the first two Batman films separately and holding them together, that'll only look worse. Your only excuse to buy this film should be as part of a larger box set, trust me.

Batman Forever
Feature
In Batman Forever, we find Gotham troubled by former district attorney Harvey 'Two-Face 'Dent, now a criminal after being scarred with acid which results in his split-personality disorder hence the name 'Two-Face'. Switch to Wayne Enterprises employee Edward Nygma, a major loser, who gets his invention dubbed the ‘Box' rejected by Bruce Wayne, sending Nygma over the edge. He becomes a peculiar criminal, the Riddler, and teams up with Two-Face to ruin Batman by exposing his secret identity. Their plan involves mass-producing the ‘Box', which creates fantasy scenarios in the user’s head while beaming their private thoughts back to Nygma. While this is all unfolding, Bruce Wane takes in an orphaned circus performer, Dick Grayson. Grayson of course eventually becomes Robin and the Dynamic Duo take on Two-Face and the Riddler.

It's a delicate matter to discuss the main fault of Batman Forever. The key word that comes to mind is flamboyance which is often wrongly termed as being 'gay' as in "Schumachers Batman movies are so gay." I missed out on any overt homosexuality in the film, but caught bucket-loads of flamboyance. Is that to say that there are no homo-erotic undertones to Batman Forever? Not at all, they're definitely there. I cringe to think of what possessed the Riddler to switch from his somewhat dignified green suit in the public eye to his tight-fitting spandex outfit when he and Two-Face return to their layer or what made him want to wear a glittered outfit for the finale. Combine his wacky fashion choices with his unhealthy obsession towards Bruce Wayne and you've got a character of questionable sexual orientation. I'm not trying to say that the character's gay, but we didn't have these kinds of innuendos with the Burton films.

As much as I hate to hear myself say this, a huge fault of the movie was introducing Robin in the first place, much less having him played by a much too old Chris O'Donnell. Robin may work in the cartoon, the comic book, and the 60's show, but when you try to introduce the concept into a serious live-action film, the character becomes rather idiotic. The Dark Knight needs help from a boy? Surprisingly, Schumacher toned down Robin’s costume for Batman Forever, from the bright reds and yellows to darker tones. I was stunned.

Batman Forever
Another bad blow was the casting of Val Kilmer, who looks more confused than anything else in this movie. Yet apart from O'Donnell and Kilmer’s stale performances, the casting is terrific even when the material isn't. I bet if given a better script, Jim Carrey could've been an excellent Riddler. The same goes for Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face. His character is made out to be incredibly stupid, spouting out one-liners every chance he's given. These two were portrayed with more dignity and depth in the Fox animated series for crying out loud! Here comes the first reason why you'd ever want to watch Batman Forever twice, Nicole Kidman in the sizzling hot role of psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian. Her character is the first and only Bat-babe in the series who tries to figure out Batman/Bruce Wayne and I wish we could've had more of this.

Following up on the fantastic production design of Batman Returns, Batman Forever looks... well... to repeat myself, incredibly flamboyant. In the opening scene of the film, Two-Face is holding up a bank and rather than normal police spotlights pointed up at the building, there are funky shaped disco lights circling the area... for what purpose? There's an entire section of downtown Gotham where a gang resides that's painted bright glowing neon. Oh, right... because street gangs love neon? The worst is the Riddler’s island hideout in the finale. He's got giant question mark neon lights all over the place. Did he just stroll into a local hardware store and custom order these? Where's the logic behind these insanely stupid sets? I know I'm harping on this too much, but there's a gigantic bat symbol in the bat cave. Why? Who's going to see it other than Alfred, Batman, and eventually Robin? Is it an ego thing or what?

The second reason why you'd ever want to watch Batman Forever twice would be the excellent score by Elliot Goldenthal. Instead of directly copying Elfman’s work on the series, Goldenthal uses only bits and pieces of the Batman theme and with it creates something new and exciting. The music is considerably brighter than previous scores, but then again so is the film. I wish the entire film had turned out as well as the score did.

I'm entirely okay with a more family friendly version of Batman. What I'm not okay with is this logic-less bright neon rave of a film we've been given. The saddest part of all is that director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman are capable of so much more and have better films on their resume than this. I truly believe that knowing what he knows now, Schumacher could've made two great Batman films that were both lighter and more family friendly without venturing into the territory he did.

Batman Forever
In conclusion, I absolutely hated Batman Forever after my recent viewing. Sure it's watchable, and maybe even entertaining if you don't use your brain, but that's not how a Batman movie should be. But it sold a lot of action figures, and to the studio, that is most important.

Video
Batman Forever is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Video quality is fantastic here, producing a sharp and artefact-free image. Colours are particularly vibrant, which is a must since this flick has more of them than a Liberachi Vegas show. Black levels are near perfect, as was the case with the previous two films in the franchise. Conclude from my compliments that if Batman Forever actually had anything worth looking at besides Nicole Kidman, it would look great. Warner Brothers has done everything in their power to make the movie look as good as it can short of re-shooting it.

Audio
My ears jammed out to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track of Batman Forever. The audio here is actually more impressive than previous films in the series. Where musical score took centre stage on the previous tracks, here the spotlight focuses on atmosphere and loud sound effects. Music stays mostly on the rear channels, while all others are used for dialogue and atmosphere. Warner Brothers does not disappoint in the technical department on these special editions, that's for sure.

Batman Forever
Extras
On disc one we have the theatrical trailer and a director commentary by Joel Schumacher. Believe it or not, Schumacher’s involvement in this special edition alone makes it worth owning. He's a thousand times easier to listen to expound upon his creation than Tim Burton was previously. In the first two minutes of the film, he addresses the rubber nipples on the costume and rather than apologize for every decision he made, he stands up for several of them which I really respect. I still disagree with him on them, but I respect him for what he has to say here. Schumacher discusses casting, stunts, visual effects, defends Batman Returns and his own film. I could talk about the commentary for several more paragraphs, so I'll wrap it up by telling you that it's one of the best commentaries I've ever heard on a DVD.

First up on disc two is 'Riddle Me This: Why is Batman Forever?', an absolutely horrid promotional featurette in the same vein as 'The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin' feature from Batman Returns' special edition. The only thing worse than the horribly filmed opening sequence (on poor quality videotape, no less) is that Chris O'Donnell hosts it. This feature clocks in at twenty three minutes. The only upside to this is that if you're looking for cast interviews, they're scattered throughout this. The only two actors to return for new interviews are Val Kilmer and Chris O'Donnell so this is where you'll find Carrey, Kidman, and Jones.

Next up we have the fifth instalment of 'Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight' entitled 'Reinventing a Hero'. Clocking in at half an hour, this basically talks about the new direction that Batman Forever was going in and the time period in Batman comic history it was based on. Most of what is said here is obvious and could be assumed just by watching the film. Ultimately, a disappointing episode of this series considering parts one through four.

Batman Forever
The best part of the second disc is the 'Beyond Batman' section, which is composed of five mini-documentaries on the production including design, Gotham City, stunts, visual effects, and music. A most convenient option is the 'Play All' feature that runs these together for a grand total of forty-five minutes. Thanks to fantastic on-set video, these are amazingly insightful looks into the production. My favourite was the featurette on the stunt-work in the picture.

Moving on, we have thirteen minutes of deleted scenes. When this set was first rumoured to be in production, word on the street was that Schumacher was going to release a darker director's cut of Batman Forever but that idea was scrapped in favour of including the deleted scenes here as bonus material. I've seen them all and there's definitely enough to justify a new cut, but it's all very difficult to watch and for one reason: Val Kilmer. The scenes are mostly of Bruce Wayne mucking around the Bat Cave and of flashbacks to his childhood. Kilmer doesn't emote very well when he's not speaking, so this material is truly a pain to watch, especially without music. There is an alternate opening with Two-Face escaping from Arkham, but it's misleading as he doesn't even make an appearance. I appreciate these scenes being included, however take a quick glance at the trailer on disc one and you'll see that more excised footage exists than what is given here.

Another feature standard to all movies in this set is a gallery of heroes and villains, made up of video biographies on the characters. They cover Batman, Robin, Chase Meridian, Riddler, and Two-Face. I find these entertaining for the insightful focus each character is given during their segment. These tell us who the character was in the comics, how they were changed for the film, and why the performer was cast in the role. Together, these total just under sixteen minutes.

Last up is the music video by Seal, 'Kiss from a Rose', directed by none other than Joel Schumacher. I found this music video to be just as cheesy now as it was when it came out, but then again, it's not Prince so I don't mind it. It is upsetting however, that the stellar music video by U2, 'Hold Me, Kiss Me, Thrill Me, Kill Me' isn't included here. It may be a rights issue since Universal released it a few years back on a U2 music video compilation DVD, but either way, I hate to see it absent.

Batman Forever
Overall
This is one of those rare times when a DVD becomes worth owning because of its supplemental features. Even though I detest this film, I believe the director commentary alone almost makes it worth the purchase price. Toss in an excellent technical presentation and more entertaining supplements, and this DVD is alright by me. You did good, Warner Brothers.


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