ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Batman Forever’ (1995), Part One
Each week, Chris Sims and David Uzumeri take a look back at one of the most successful and influential comic book movie franchises of all time, in ComicsAlliance’s in-depth retrospective on the Batman films.
Chris: Welcome back to Remedial Batmanology! This week, we bid a not-so-fond farewell to Tim Burton to welcome new franchise director Joel Schumacher as we move to 1995′s Batman Forever. We’re also moving on from Michael Keaton to our new star, Val Kilmer, who sits at the center of what I consider to be the worst-acted Batman movie ever made.David: Well, Nicole Kidman is definitely an improvement over Kim Basinger, although she’s given a completely ridiculous character to play, with an even more ridiculous name.
Chris: “Doctor Chase Meridian” seriously never fails to make me smile. It should’ve won an award for Most Ridiculous Name For a Leading Actress (Non-James Bond Division).
David: And it gets that terrible Riddler line, too. “What a grand pursuit you must be!”
Chris: You know, I’d still take that over pretty much anything Catwoman and Penguin said in Returns. That does not mean that it is not horrible, which I think is this movie in a nutshell.
David: It’s just more fun than Returns. Instead of it being ridiculous because the characters have inscrutable motivations and awful dialogue, it’s ridiculous because they set out to make a ridiculous movie.
Chris: It really is a big tone shift. Despite the overwhelming success of the first Batman movie, Warner Bros. felt that Returns underperformed at the box office. They blamed the more mature elements of the plot for turning off families, as though kids and adults could not both enjoy scenes of a kleptomaniac dominatrix and Danny DeVito in filthy long johns.
David: Yeah, I don’t know if “mature” is the word I’d use to describe those elements.
Chris: Exactly. It really strikes me as weird that they thought the problem was that it didn’t appeal to kids, when the real problem was that it was a complete mess of a film.
David: It really, really was. I think Forever hangs together better, but only barely. I don’t see the seams between script drafts as much as I do with Returns. On the other hand, the Forever script aims far lower than Returns did.
Chris: Rather than compromise his vision by making a movie that made any sort of sense whatsoever, Burton stepped down and approved his successor, Joel Schumacher. Schumacher aimed for a much more straightforward story that was (literally) brighter and more colorful, and so of course he became nerd shorthand for RUINING EVERYTHING, despite everything he was criticized for in this and Batman & Robin being a pretty logical extension of what Burton did. Burton, of course, remained blame-free, despite staying on as producer.
David: And what a production it is. Val Kilmer as Batman is… well, he’s clearly doing a Michael Keaton impression, but he definitely doesn’t have any of his comedic timing. On the other hand, if Keaton were still involved, Batman would be shorter than Robin.
Chris: Kilmer was, at the time, coming off of the two best performances of his career: Doc Holliday in Tombstone and a small role as the imaginary ghost of Elvis in True Romance, but man. He is godawful in this one, and Schumacher also referred to him as being “childish and impossible” to work with.
David: Wow, really? I guess I can see that. Honestly, my biggest problem is his permanent pout.
Chris: Yeah, there’s this weird thing he does with his mouth when he’s in the mask. Keaton did it too, which makes me wonder if it was pinching their nose too tight to breathe or something, but Kilmer seems to have the expression on his face at all times.
David: That’s really all there is to Kilmer’s performance, he just stands there and pouts, and sometimes he kisses, and sometimes he walks off the stage and a stunt double does ballet with some guys in two-tone masks.
Chris: All the style and distinction he had as Doc Holliday — which I have to admit was around 90% Southern accent — is totally gone here.
Chris: He’s just bland, and almost seems completely disinterested in everything. There’s no emotion whatsoever, which makes me wonder if he was shooting for “Bruce Wayne is a guy who has repressed his emotions” and just ended up in “walking cardboard.”
David: I could see Schumacher asking him to be more of a heroic, square-jawed type. This definitely isn’t the crazy Batman of the first two movies; here he’s way more self-confident and typically heroic. The story’s main emotional arc is also about Bruce becoming more confident, but he just seems totally different from the guy in the first two movies at the very beginning.
Chris: By contrast, every other person in this movie is overacting like it’s an Olympic sport.
David: Well, I don’t think Chris O’Donnell is overacting. He’s just given the completely ludicrous task of being a, like, seventeen-year-old Dick Grayson.
Chris: O’Donnell actually isn’t bad, but man, between Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones… You watched the Blu-Ray, right?
David: Oh, yeah.
Chris: Could you see the bite marks in the backgrounds from where they were chewing scenery? Do they show up in HD?
David: You can actually hear the chewing in the rear channels of the 5.1 mix. But yeah, Jones and Carrey are unquestionably going for Batman ’66 all the way. Carrey’s doing a straight-up Gorshin impression on PCP. Nygma clearly wasn’t written as a villain with any pathos. He’s not even the standard Riddler; he doesn’t really care about outsmarting Batman, he’s just a boilerplate evil scientist who’s also completely crazy.
Chris: Carrey, to his credit, showed up and did exactly what they hired him to do. But I mean, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective came out when I was 12, and I loved it, but even at 13, I still thought his Riddler was just awful. It’s dumb catchphrase after dumb catchphrase, and while he actually puts some charm into the Edward Nygma scenes, it’s pretty hard to watch.
David: I’d love to know if “JOYGASM!” was in the script or ad libbed. I would fully believe they just put “[Just be Jim Carrey here]” for his lines.
Chris: And Jones… It’s like he didn’t want to be upstaged by Carrey, so he felt like he had to go even more over the top, even though he is wearing a purple and yellow tiger print suit. We can see you, bro. We’re not missing anything. You can take it down a notch.
David: Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face completely misses any of the character’s tragic aspects that Eckhart fairly brilliantly hit on in The Dark Knight; this is what Two-Face would have been like in Batman ’66 if he’d been included in the show. They also totally fumble the storytelling ball with regards to his famous coin; he barely makes any actual decisions with it.
Chris: Yeah, there are a couple of huge misunderstandings of it that we’ll get to. But it really is the worst possible interpretation of Two-Face. We don’t get to see his tragic fall — unless you count how we stepped down from Billy Dee Williams to Tommy Lee Jones — and we don’t get to see any sort of redemption or anything. They just boil it down to the visual and hope that’ll carry it through.
David: But yeah, we start off with a fairly standard ridiculous intro credit sequence, a hilariously fetishistic Batman-puts-on-the-suit scene complete with Anthony Weiner-style dickshot, and then telling Alfred he’ll “get drive-thru” rather than eat one of his sandwiches.
Chris: Can we talk for a moment about that opening junkshot?
Chris: One of the things that Schumacher gets a ton of hate for is the idea that he really plays up the homoerotic aspects of Batman. Now, there’s a part of me that wants to say “oh, right, because that’s the first time there’s ever been a homoerotic aspect to Batman,” but with the addition of nipples to the suit and the lingering close-up of Batman’s codpiece that’s literally the second shot of the movie, it’s pretty hard to argue that he’s not going way over the top with it. I mean, it’s ostensibly a shot of the utility belt, which is definitely one of Batman’s signature items, but there’s a lot of bulge up in there.
David: Not to mention the prominent ass shot we get later on. Homoerotic maybe, but I can’t believe the look doesn’t appeal to women, either. At least, some women.
Chris: Catwomen. Also, that line about Drive-Thru? Oh, son. You best believe that one showed up in McDonald’s commercials ad infinitum back in ’95, only outdone by Domino’s jumping on the line about pizzas in Batman & Robin.
David: Well, this entire movie was made to play well in advertisements, as far as I can tell. It was very commercially minded.
Chris: It’s actually the most unbelievable thing in this entire movie: The idea that Batman would prefer a Quarter Pounder to one of Alfred’s gourmet delicacies.
David: Well, he doesn’t say which drive-thru it is. Maybe Gotham has really nice drive-thru take-out Thai.
Chris: I’m pretty surprised Michael Gough didn’t straight up become a fast food commercial spokesman after this.
David: Dude, you and me both. I do remember him appearing in his fair share of commericals in the time period, though. Cut to Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face chewing the Hell out of scenery, as is his way, with a big speech to a security guard about the capriciousness of luck, so they can fit his gimmick in as soon as possible and then completely forget about it.
Chris: I think it’s worth noting that by the time this movie picks up, Two-Face is already Two-Face. We get an origin story for the Riddler, but Two-Face’s only comes in flashback, which I think is pretty interesting. They take a villian whose most interesting story is his origin, and they skip over it in favor of showing us how the Riddler came to be.
David: The themes dealt with by Two-Face’s fall are just too dark for what they’re trying to go for here, though. I’m not saying that as a compliment or a criticism, just a statement of fact — as much as this movie makes a big deal about spelling out everyone’s psychology, their psychology is incredible simple.
Chris: I wonder if they figured the kids in the audience would already be familiar with it from Batman: The Animated Series. And you’re right: The movie has psychology as one of its core themes (if this movie can even be said to even have core themes), to the point where Batman’s love interest is a psychologist, and he’s dealing with repressed memories and a Riddler who suddenly has mind reading powers. But it’s this crazy false setup where they don’t actually want to deal with any of the psychology involved, other than “Batman thinks Bats are scary” and “Two-Face refers to himself in the plural, because we forgot that he’s not Venom.”
David: They go for a multiple personality interpretation, except that he apparently has both personalities at once. It also totally ditches the luck angle, with the exception of this opening scene and two later bits where Harvey actually uses the coin. The majority of the time he just flips it compulsively and seemingly doing nothing with it.
Chris: Except that he doesn’t really have multiple personalities. There’s never any struggle between Harvey Dent and Two-Face in this movie, it’s all just one dude in a goofy suit. Just like how the movie tells you there’s a distinction between Bruce Wayne and Batman that’s never actually shown through any of the events or performances.
David: It’s funny that, in an attempt to reach a wider audience, they made the most insular Batman movie possible.
Chris: Second-highest grossing movie of 1995!
David: Look, let’s be fair: how much of that was the soundtrack?
Chris: Ah yes. U2′s first dalliance with super-heroes. If only they knew the tragedy that would result a mere 15 years later.
David: And Seal’s! And the Offspring’s! And the… Flaming… Lips.
Chris: You can graph the Batman movies’ soundtracks as an increasingly dramatic downward slope: Prince and Danny Elfman (awesome), then just Danny Elfman (still pretty great), then U2, Seal and the Flaming Lips (uh, okay, at least the Flaming Lips are in there…) and then you finally nosedive right into the ground with “Kiss From a Rose” and R. Kelly’s “Gotham City.”
David: “Kiss From a Rose” is a fantastic song.
Chris: Sounds like someone has fond memories of copping a feel at the Junior Prom.
David: And Batman & Robin had that pretty okay Smashing Pumpkins song. But yeah, we’ll get to that. Batman shows up at the scene and starts getting interviewed by Doctor Chase Meridian, who has been asked by Commissioner Gordon to come … help with the Two-Face case, for some reason. She proceeds to tell Batman he’s pretty crazy just like Two-Face, which is a pretty awful opening flirtation gambit.
Chris: Maybe Doctor Chase Meridian knows that she’s being played by super-hot Nicole Kidman, and feels that she has to handicap her game to make it fair.
David: Yeah, I kind of totally forgot how hot Nicole Kidman was in the late ’90s.
Chris: Also, is it just me or is Val Kilmer’s voice really high?
David: It sounds about right to me, but we also get the amazing scene where Chase says that Bruce dresses up a flying rodent, and Batman replies, “BATS AREN’T RODENTS, DOCTOR MERIDIAN” in a completely deadpan voice.
Chris: Clearly going for Adam West, forgetting that West actually had some charisma. Also, he refers to her work as “naive,” which proves that his flirting is just as bad as hers.
David: Chase also calls Batman a “superhero,” which is interesting since that term is basically the polar opposite of everything Burton was going for tonally.
Chris: Batman then pulls his classic “wait ’til someone turns around and then vanish” move, except that he just sort of lumbers out of frame, making it less mysterious and ninja-like and more hilarious.
David: Not as hilarious as him then attempting to rescue the tied-up guard in the apparently completely unconnected bank safe, which is being carried out with a crane, at which point the guard gives an Ackbaresque “IT’S A TRAP!” and Batman gets stuck in the safe. It reminded me a lot of his entrapment in Batman and Robin #16 in the interrogation room, except dumb.
Chris: I do love that the entire vault of the bank is just one big metal cylinder that isn’t attached to anything.
David: Well, why not? You might have to transport it somewhere at some point, right? …Oh wait, that completely defeats the point of a vault. So then Two-Face fills the vault with “boiling acid.”
Chris: This might be the dumbest thing about this movie. Not that Two-Face has a deathtrap full of boiling acid, but that he’s pumping it into the vault.
David: The vault he’s stealing. For the money in it.
Chris: Exactly. I mean, he even says that he wants the money AND to kill Batman. But his plan to kill Batman will also destroy the money. Conclusion: Two-Face is stupid.
David: Well, maybe he only put the acid in two of the compartments that opened, and theoretically he could later flush the vault out of the acid and retrieve the money from the unopened compartments? Except that’s dumb. And insanely difficult to set up in the, like, five minutes he had with the vault before Batman showed up.
Chris: But the compartments in the vault are made of metal. Which the acid would eat through.
David: But then why didn’t the acid eat through the doors of the compartments they’re in? And how did Two-Face keep it at boiling temperature? Are there hot plates in there?
Chris: I mean, I get that we’re not supposed to be trying to figure out this plan, but eight minutes into this thing and we’ve already seen that this is a movie that doesn’t really understand the characters and now doesn’t understand fifth-grade science. Though I will admit that I do like the guard’s “OHHHH NOOOO, IT’S BOILING ACID!”
David: Yes, Batman then uses the dude’s hearing aid to crack the vault door. Which, I mean — what kind of vault can you not open easily from the inside? Why would they even make a vault like this? It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Chris: The hearing aid, which the security guard has because it’s necessary for the plot even though he looks like he’s about 27. Maybe 30 at the most. Man, also, where is all this acid COMING from?! I mean, enough acid to fill up the vault would require a container about the same size as the vault itself, right? But there’s nothing except the vault itself, being carried in mid-air by Two-Face’s helicopter.
David: Batman magically deposits the safe exactly back where it came from with the dude riding it like Slim Pickens in Doctor Strangelove — this happens — before hitching a ride on the helicopter and causing Two-Face to straight up murder a dude.
Chris: I really do like that he puts the vault, which is now full of boiling acid, right back where it is, positioned so that it cannot possibly be opened without unleashing a torrent of acid onto the person standing in front of it. All in a day’s work for Movie Batman! During the helicopter ride — only slightly less dangerous than the one at the Gathering of the Juggalos — we also get a bigger look at Schumacher’s version of Gotham City, which I have to admit I like. It doesn’t have quite the industrial gothic style of Furst’s designs for Batman ’89, but there are these massive statues everywhere and these huge old-style Dick-Sprang-esque advertisments on the buildings.
David: And the gigantic Ocu-Wash eye, which is clearly supposed to symbolize the ever-watching eye of God.
Chris: And everything — everything — is lit by spotlights and neon, right down to the villains’ guns.
David: I really, really, really respect Schumacher’s devotion to neon here.
Chris: Design-wise, I feel like it’s actually a nice departure from the bland sound stages of Returns, and a not-so-nice departure from the red-skied Art Deco cityscape of the animated series. It’s clearly meant to be an evolution of the look of ’66 — Schumacher even uses the famous “Batman Angle” almost constantly — and the overall effect is this weird, multi-colored dreamscape that I kind of like.
David: “Weird, multi-colored dreamscape that I kind of like” pretty accurately describes my overall reaction to this movie. I mean, this flick is definitely one for the Black Casebook.
Chris: It really is.
David: It goes completely off the rails near the end, especially with Nygma’s magic rising brainwave phallus tower. That place is seriously something out of a Final Fantasy game.
Chris: Also, Two-Face crashes his helicopter into the ersatz Statue of Liberty and messes up half of its face, which I guess was his actual plan? So that’s, what, three separate plans in five minutes?
David: After jumping out of the helicopter with a parachute that has a bloody red and black yin/yang symbol on it!
Chris: Two-Face is all about branding.
David: Honestly, you could replace Two-Face in this movie with the Joker and it would make just as much sense. If not more. Wayne then goes on a tour of Waynetech, where he meets Edward Nygma, who has combined a blender and a chemistry kit to create a brainwave reader/writer. He also has a completely inexplicable fixation with being Bruce Wayne’s best friend. Like, this guy’s name might as well be Stan.
Chris: Nygma’s device is a blender full of Aquarium rocks.
Chris: My favorite part of this scene is how Wayne refers to a bunch of dudes in cubicles as a “factory.”
David: They’re an idea factory!
Chris: My second-favorite part is how Wayne’s assistant appears to be a Jedi.
David: Meanwhile, Bruce shuts down Nygma’s brilliant plan to create a machine that reads and messes with brainwaves, at which point Carrey hams it up with “You were supposed to make you understand!… I’ll make you understand.” He then takes a supersonic iron maiden through a special tunnel from the Wayne Enterprises building all the way down to the Batcave below Wayne Manor. So he can answer the world’s first Bat-Signal booty call.
Chris: So yes, as it turns out, there’s no crime, just a horny Nicole Kidman. And all things considered, you’d think that would be the best possible outcome if you go in expecting that the Joker’s about to blow up a school for the blind or something.
David: True! But yes, this entire scene is ridiculous, as Chase tries to go all “Oh hey, yeah, I need to talk about Two-Face” before saying the most stunningly obvious thing about his psychology ever: His coin is his weakness!
Chris: The real point, though, is that she wanted to make orgasmic sighs while gripping his rubber pecs.
David: Evidently, I need rubber pecs.
Chris: I don’t think they’d have the same effect without the rest of the outfit.
David: You don’t look like super-hot late ’90s Nicole Kidman to me, Sims. But I’ll have to take your word for it. Commissioner Gordon comes up and asks her not to misuse the Bat-Symbol again.
Chris: More like Commissioner C*ckblock, am I right?
David: Yeah, totally! He totally won’t let her get “under his cape.” Then, we cut to a scene where Nygma forces his boss to be a human trial subject for his brainwave hat, which for some reason just works like a crappy 3D TV. Truly, the 3D cinema boom is the Riddler’s most fiendish, devious plan.
Chris: Every time you pay five bucks extra for a ticket to a movie that looks too dark, you are playing right into criminals’ hands!
David: Carrey hams the HELL out of this entire sequence, much as he does the entire movie, including a scene where he claims that they’re “losing resolution” by looking at an analog dial. Seriously, the key is to just totally forget that this movie takes place in a world with conventional physics.
Chris: This also for some reason makes him smarter — and more annoying — which leads to a truly horrible song and dance number. It lasts for like 30 seconds, but I swear to God that the pelvic thrust/softshoe bit is an eternity of suffering.
David: Luckily, Nygma’s boss gets out of that eternity of suffering pretty quickly, as he gets pushed out of a window into a gigantic waterfall. In any other movie, that’d be a supervillain origin sequence.
Chris: Apparently there weren’t enough cats around to lick him back to life.
David: Then we get to see a crappy TV recreation of the actual Two-Face origin sequence, where, as I’ve previously stated, Batman is hanging out in the courtroom in full uniform. It’s basically a faithful version of the classic Two-Face origin, though, even more so than the Animated Series one.
Chris: I really wish they would’ve had Batman going “OHHHHH NOOOOO, BOILING ACID!”
David: He just jumps over random dudes in the courtroom. It’s amazing.
Chris: So Nygma re-edits the security tape and uses his newfound super-genius skills to fake up a suicide note to cover up his first murder, then quits Wayne Enterprises and takes his technology with him to found his new company, which I don’t think is quite how it works. But at this point, whatever.
David: I love how Gordon goes “yep, definitely a suicide.” And Nygma is insanely obvious with the suicide note, too, even pointing out that it’s DEFINITELY Dead Fred’s handwriting. Bruce seems skeptical, since he decides to give Fred’s family full benefits, even though Wayne insurance doesn’t cover suicides.
Chris: Wayne Insurance only covers parents being murdered in an alley. It’s alarmingly specific.
David: Nygma’s also left a riddle for Bruce with a really obvious answer, which is interesting because the Riddler hasn’t decided to use riddling as his gimmick yet. So he goes home to his apartment decorated with Riddler bobbleheads, which looks like the Unabomer’s lodge if his lodge was an apartment in an acropolis with gigantic signs as crosswords pointing people to things like “LAUNDRY.” Also, if the Unabomer listened to the Flaming Lips. There, he constructs another riddle, bicycles over to Wayne Manor, and tapes it to his gate. Because, apparently, Bruce Wayne doesn’t have security cameras at his front gate.
Chris: It’s also pretty insane that within this movie, there’s a guy who looks exactly like the Riddler, but isn’t the Riddler, and then the Riddler dresses like him so that he can look like the Riddler.
Chris: That’s basically like if the Joker dressed up as Ronald McDonald when he went out to commit his crimes.
David: Maybe he’s a really, really big Matthew Lesko fan.
Chris: Like, when the Riddler starts robbing jewelry stores with Two-Face, why don’t the police just start looking for the guy who has the huge collection of Quincy Questions merchandise? (I’m keeping Quincy Questions for my own comics, by the way).
David: Well… maybe nobody knows who Quincy Questions is! I have no idea. So Bruce shows up at the GCPD headquarters to see Dr. Meridian, and while outside her office door, he hears her grunting a lot. Thinking she’s getting beaten up or something, he kicks down the door, but she’s just boxing! Predictably.
Chris: Bruce then tells Doctor Chase Meridian about the Riddler’s “love letters” — which, really, is what they are, since Nygma is basically a stalker who sees himself as a spurned lover — and they come to the conclusion that whoever is sending them is crazy. Also, she mentions “potential homicidal tendencies,” then they just sort of laugh it off.
David: Then he invites her to the circus by saying he has to get her “out of those clothes,” and I’m pretty sure we all know where that’s going.
Chris: There’s also a bit where Bruce Wayne looks at a rorschach that she has and identifies it as a bat, and she says you see what you want to see.
David: Except it totally looks like a bat. Like, unquestionably.
Chris: I’m not sure that I’m qualified to judge that. I think the record will show that, as Doctor Chase Meridian says, “have a thing for bats.”
David: But not as much as Nygma has a thing for Bruces. He watches this whole circus on TV, where Bruce Wayne is the “#1 sponsor,” and what really strikes me about this is the fact that it inexplicably gives Dick Grayson an older brother that they kill off pretty much immediately. So the Graysons perform some tricks and Bruce asks Chase if she wants to go rock climbing, but she doesn’t, because she already fell for another man, who is Batman. Oh no, guys! LOVE TRIANGLE!
Chris: It’s pretty thrilling! Wait, did I say thrillling? I mean the opposite of that.
David: Then, Dick Grayson performs some big super trapeze thing without a net. Now, seriously, what, exactly, is the point of doing this? It’s not like he’s going to USE the net. It’s just as impressive to pull it off with or without a net. The only difference is that doing it without a net is completely f***ing stupid.
Chris: And suddenly, this article has turned into an indictment of the entire circus industry!
David: I have no idea, do they still do this? Circuses without nets? I am not exactly a regular circusgoer.
Chris: Clearly, it’s more exciting because we all want to see someone die, Uzi. Specifically Chris O’Donnell, I guess.
David: Case in point: NASCAR.
Chris: And MMA. And Russian Roulette, the South’s third most popular spectator sport. Although down here, we still call it “Freedom Roulette.”
David: Well, that makes sense, since if you win, you get freedom from the South. And existence, but let’s go ahead and throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Chris: So anyway, back at the Circus, Two-Face shows up in an airbrushed top hat that’s really just embarrassing to us all. As a species, I mean.
David: But yeah, of course this is the perfect time for Two-Face to show up alongside his goons, and essentially rip off … I don’t even know how to describe this action set-piece. It seems to reference both Batman ’66 and Batman Returns at once, since it’s yet another supervillain causing a ruckus at a charity event, as well as, I think, a fairly direct callout to the “Batman tries to throw a bomb into the river” sequence from ’66.
Chris: But only the end, really. The rest of it is this weird piece where Two-Face demands that Batman reveal his secret identity, so Bruce Wayne just stands up and starts shouting “I’M BATMAN!” but nobody else can hear him because they’re all screaming in horror of Two-Face’s hat. So he just starts beating dudes up, which apparently nobody notices.
David: Yeah, and the Graysons decide to help save the day, and his brother and parents fall to their deaths while he climbs up to the top of the “tent” (which is actually the “Gotham Hippodrome”) and throws Two-Face’s gigantic bomb into the water, where we get to see a pretty dope underwater explosion.
Chris: This is certainly a play on the idea of Two-Face as Dick Grayson’s arch-enemy, which is something that we’ve seen in the comics — probably most notably in Robin: Year One — but I’m honestly not sure if it has its roots in this movie.
David: It certainly doesn’t. That was a huge part of Robin #0, contrasting Tim Drake’s going against Two-Face with Dick’s, and that came out in ’94. I’m fairly certain Stephanie and Damian are the only Robins to not have a big hate-on with Harvey Dent.
Chris: How fortunate we are to have the world’s foremost Chuckdixonologist here at ComicsAlliance.
David: Dude, I am nowhere near a Chuckdixonologist. I just remember that issue!
Chris: Don’t fight it, Uzi. Embrace it.
David: I will not abide that insult! Bruce totally takes Dick in off-camera, except Dick, being seventeen years old, immediately decides he’s going to drive off on his cheap motorcycle and try to kick Two-Face. Because, you know, nobody else in the city is trying to kill Two-Face.
Chris: …Do you realize what you just said?
David: Ahahahaha oh… oh my God.
Chris: Hilarious phrasing aside, this is my all-time favorite part of this movie. Chris O’Donnell is 25 in this movie, and he’s basically being adopted by Bruce Wayne.
David: The character he’s supposed to be playing is, like, sixteen, at the absolute youngest.
Chris: No way, dude. Bruce refers to him as a college student. So basically, Batman is adopting a grown-ass man.
David: I assume he meant putting him on the path to college! Or else he wouldn’t have to go through any social services crap at all.
Chris: This is like me adopting you. Or… like Batman adopting both of us!
David: And later on, the Riddler even talks about him like he’s a recently-pubescent preteen, which makes me wonder if the script wasn’t written with an actual child in mind. And later on, the Riddler even talks about him like he’s a recently-pubescent preteen, which makes me wonder if the script wasn’t written with an actual child in mind.
Chris: There are several places where the script goes out of its way to refer to him as a kid, and his voice is deeper than Val Kilmer’s. Anyway, Dick wants to leave on his motorcycle and go track down and kill Two-Face, but Batman wants to have Dick in his house, so he bribes him with motorcycles.
David: Motorcycles and food! I actually really love the whole passive-aggressive act Alfred and Bruce play on Dick; it’s great when Alfred takes the four-star meal and is going “oh, well, I guess I’ll just have to throw this all out.”
Chris: Total bribery to make this grown man agree to live in Batman’s house.
David: But it’s because he cares! About this other grown man! I think you might have a point when it comes to Schmuacher attempting to ramp up the homoeroticism. Anyway, this leads Bruce to take a look at some pictures on a nightstand, one of which is of his parents, so he starts thinking about his dead parents and their murder, complete with budget budget Jack Nicholson in a cloud of fog. He also has ominous waking dreams about his dad’s big red diary, which is a memory he’s suppressed. Now, in any normal story, you’d think something scandalous would be written in that diary, but no. The diary is basically a total red herring.
Chris: This is where it becomes a driving plot of this movie that Bruce blames himself for his parents’ death, which you would’ve thought he’d dealt with two movies ago when he threw their murderer off a building.
David: Alfred talks to Dick about his motorcycle helmet, which has a robin on it, because his dad once said he “flew in like a robin.” At this point, Alfred just starts creepily pushing Dick Grayson towards joining Batman in his fight, which seems completely insane until you remember Dick is, like, 17. Not that it isn’t still insane.
Chris: You mentioned before we started writing the article that this movie is all about Alfred creepily pushing these guys towards a dangerous lifestyle so that he can live vicariously through them, and… yeah, there’s definitely a case for that.
David: His approving glances every time Bruce is macking a chick really back that up. Alfred is weird, dude.
Chris: Movie Alfred is seriously always trying to mix up Bruce’s game. He’s always letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave or building a rubber nipple-suit for Chris O’Donnell… It’s like being Batman’s butler is boring for him, so he finds ways to make it crazier.
David: Exactly! Meanwhile, Two-Face enacts his brilliant plan to get Batman, which involves dressing up like a bag lady with a stroller, standing in front of the Batmobile to make it stop, and shooting it with a rocket launcher. Except the Batmobile moves its tires ninety degrees and side-drives. So Two-Face just sblows up his own henchmen.
Chris: I want to point out that this all happens while Batman’s just out driving around. He doesn’t realy seem like he’s looking for Two-Face or fighting crime or anythying, he’s just sort of cruising around, maybe listening to some jams.
David: He’s practicing making out with Chase Meridian in the mirror while listening to “Kiss From a Rose.”
Chris: Then, we get to a scene where Two-Face and his goons chase Batman down an alley with the cars from Twisted Metal, but Batman is able to escape — and also cause an explosion that totally kills them — by driving up a wall.
Chris: This is something that many people point out by fans of Batman and Batman Returns as being endemic of how silly and ridiculous Schumacher’s movies are compared to the dark, serious Burton films, because it’s clearly dumber than poison gas parade floats and rocket penguins.
David: I loved this scene. I love the Batmobile in this movie. It’s so ridiculous, in an entertaining way. Of course Batman would have ridiculous gadgets like this!
Chris: Of course Batman would explode henchmen at every opportunity!
David: And the scene ends with Two-Face screaming to the heavens over a horn noise.
Chris: It is pretty dumb by any standards.
David: And also kind of awesome. I’m sorry. I legitimately love that action scene.
Chris: You don’t need to apologize to me, Uzi. You’re the one who has to live with yourself.
David: I’m feeling pretty good about myself, actually. Anyway, we cut to the Riddler trying to decide what his costume’s going to be, and he comes up with a bunch of terrible ideas before Quincy Questions inspires him to dress up like Quincy Questions. You know, the bobblehead design he’s obsessed with. This entire scene seems ridiculous, because I can’t believe he’d go for any other outfit.
Chris: I like that after sending two different riddles to Bruce Wayne, he’s still not sure what he wants his gimmick to be. And also that he uses the computing power of Windows ’95 to create outfit designs just by typing.
David: I’ve long since given up even attempting to criticize the computer/scientific accuracy of everything in this movie, because the scriptwriters and director clearly gave up on even attempting authenticity.
Chris: So there we are! At long last, we have a Riddler, we have a Two-Face, we have a Batman and we have a Dick Grayson who is being blackmailed with hamburgers by Alfred to live in Wayne Manor.
David: They’re probably pretty great hamburgers, to be fair.
Chris: Of course. Next week, we’ll see how all of these increasingly stupid elements come together: The formation of the Riddler/Two-Face Team! Dick Grayson’s Karate Laundry Workout! Doctor Chase Meridian’s Sexy Psychology! Riddler’s Phallic Tower!