Batman Forever (1995) (part 14 of 14)
Back above, Two Face is still dangling, and there’s a whip zoom-out just to remind us that it’s a loooong way down. Two Face congratulates Robin on being such a ruthless son of a bitch, and tells him that he’ll see him in Hell. But then Robin decides that he doesn’t have it in him to kill Two Face, after all. He reaches down and tells Two Face, “I’d rather see you in jail!”
This isn’t quite as benevolent an act as you might think. This guy used to be district attorney, remember? I give him about ten minutes in the joint before he gets shanked, then violated unspeakably.
In any event, Two Face seems incredibly grateful. But he’s a wily one! He whips out a gun from absolutely nowhere and points it at Robin’s head. He calls Robin “stupid, but noble.” Ooh! Don’t forget whiny, unreasonable, and petulant!
Back inside, Batman is still trying to avert the descending iron lattice of doom. He makes his way over to some gears and chains, and flicks a switch on his belt that sets off welding torches built into his boots. Because you never know when you might need to do some spot welding with your feet.
This sends the whole arrangement tumbling into the abyss, and Batman rides the quickly ascending chain straight to the ceiling.
Now, all I can say is brace yourself.
A trap door opens up in the ceiling, propelling Batman up into a massive green dome, even though in earlier shots, there was nothing on top of this metal shaft except a lump of rock. Sorry, geometry. Sorry, spatial sciences.
And if you were thinking that this room is somehow built into the rock, think again. This dome is easily ten times the size of the lump of rock. So unless Nygma’s base is made out of the same stuff as the TARDIS, there’s been a massive continuity screw-up here.
Needless to say, the floor of this dome is covered with glowing green question marks, although rippling stone torsos are thankfully absent. Upon a raised stage sits a massive throne, which spins around to reveal the Riddler, looking like he’s about to kick off a big musical number.
Oh, wait. The arms of his throne are made up of statues with… Ah, crap. Scratch what I said about the torsos.
And it just has to be said: the Riddler is looking abominably fucking ludicrous, even by his own standards. His usual green leotard has been replaced by a little white number covered in glittering question marks.
At this point, I think we’re supposed to assume this version of the Riddler is gay. I can handle that. I’m fine with that. Although, I would have expected an openly gay director to do a bit more than subject us to as many negative stereotypes as he could stuff into a leotard.
Batman asks Riddler nicely to let Chase go, saying that the whole matter is “between you and me”. Two Face sticks his head around the corner to add, “And me, and me!” because he’s got two personalities, see? Just checking that you were aware of that.
Batman tells the Riddler that “you’ve been sucking Gotham’s brainwaves, and now you’ve discovered a way to read men’s minds!” Who is he, the narrator?
Riddler admits to being guilty as charged, and tells Batman that soon his Box will be on every TV in the world, feeding him credit card numbers and bank codes. Ed, if that’s all you’re after, why didn’t you just try phishing scams? It’s much easier, and I’m pretty sure the overheads aren’t as massive.
The Riddler says he knows Bruce’s little secret, and he wants to find out if Bruce Wayne and Batman could ever truly coexist. He reveals that he’s holding both Chase and Robin bound and gagged in Perspex tubes, dangling above trap doors leading to more jagged rocks. They each look at Batman pleadingly. I might feel sorry for them, if the movie hadn’t worked so hard to make me hate them both.
Interestingly, the Riddler refers to Robin as an “acrobat turned orphan”, implying that he easily guessed Robin’s identity. So, great disguise there, Dick!
He also accuses Robin of enjoying Saturday morning cartoons, and dreaming of “one day being… bare naked with a girl!” This is another line that might have been amusing if Robin wasn’t being played by a guy who’s clearly in his mid-twenties.
Riddler says that each of his captives has a strong connection to one of Bruce’s identities. He wants Batman to choose between them, thereby committing to one identity. It’s the closest the movie ever comes to a clever idea, and again, it might even be compelling if the script had led me to give a fuck about the characters in the first place.
Moreover, Ed has no idea that Bruce was just about to give up his Bat-related activities for Chase anyway. So, uh, sorry, Dick!
Batman says there’s no point in choosing, because he won’t be able to save them or himself, since the entire building is “one giant death trap”. Which, if you ask me, is a little defeatist. So the Riddler says if Batman can’t decide whether to piss or get off the pot, then both Dick and Chase are getting wasted.
But, wait! Batman has a riddle for the Riddler. Are you ready? It goes like this.
Riddler says Bruce shouldn’t be trying to out-riddle the Riddler, and that he’s “as blind as a bat!” Batman smugly replies “exactly” [?] and whips out a Batarang. At the same time, he flicks a switch on his belt, and protective lenses slide down over his eyes.
Are these the sonar modifications Alfred mentioned earlier? Has Bruce deliberately blinded himself and used sonar to guide his projectile? It’s never explained. But then, really, who even cares?
Batman throws his Batarang at a green glowing prism, which supposedly houses the Brainwave Sucking Machine’s internal workings. I’m not exactly sure how Batman knows this, but I’m about done trying to apply logical thought to this mess, particularly this close to the film’s demise.
Of course, like all incredibly sophisticated and elaborate machines, it’s packed with Armstrong’s mixture, or TNT, or something, because it instantly explodes in a shower of sparks. You know, if I was going to build a machine this sophisticated that exploded this easily, I would probably house it in something a bit more protective than green glass. But then, I wouldn’t wear a green leotard and rouge, either.
This sets of a chain reaction, and the room is rocked by a series of explosions. Then a huge section of the floor just disappears. I swear! It doesn’t fall away, it just flickers in and out of existence a few times, then disappears. What, was this section of the floor some kind of hologram? If so, how in the name of Satan’s jockstrap was Two Face able to walk on it a few seconds ago?
These explosions cause (and I wish I was making this up) the room to erupt in a flurry of multi-colored disco lighting. Shortly after this, a column of green light erupts from the Riddler’s head, causing him to Photoshop-warp for some reason. I think I’m actually going to cry.
The Riddler subsequently looks right at the camera and proclaims that the whole situation is a “Bummer!” Despite having his skull melted, Ed retains enough good sense to push the button releasing the prisoners.
With yet another shower of sparks, Robin and Chase succumb to gravity. We’re even treated to an upskirt shot of Nicole Kidman on the way down. It’s hardly adequate compensation for having to sit through the rest of the movie, but it’s a step forward.
You can probably guess what happens next, but I suspect you’d like me to describe it for you anyway.
Batman dives headlong into the abyss. On his way down, he fires a Batrope onto a rafter a good 50 feet above him. The thing is launched from his wrist, so where the hell did all this rope come from? Does Bruce keep hundreds of yards of rope tucked away in his bone marrow or something?
He catches up with Chase and hooks the Batrope around her midriff. The rope goes taut, and rather than being neatly bisected by the sudden stop, she just hangs there. He does the same trick with Robin, barely catching up to him before he’s skewered on the remains of the giant lattice.
The three alight on a rafter and unshackle themselves, and presumably, Chase is about to discuss the possibility of a threeway. But we’re not out of the woods yet, because Two Face appears on a rafter above them.
He has a clear shot on them, and his prey are all tired and unarmed. If Two Face wasn’t such a horrendous cretin, he’d have just shot them all without saying a word. But you know old Harvey. He just can’t resist a good monologue.
Batman replies with this.
Two Face concedes the point, and flips his coin.
…I’m sorry? Did Two Face just have to be told about his own psychological compulsion? Whatever. As I said, I’m on the home stretch, and I’m not slowing down now.
But just as Harvey tosses his coin, Batman pulls out a handful of silver dollars, which he was apparently saving for just such an occasion. Harvey’s poor fragile brain can’t possibly comprehend the concept of more than one coin being in the air at one time, and so his legs forget how to work, and he falls to his watery grave faster than you can say “anticlimax”.
Robin’s face as he watches his nemesis fall is composed in such a way that could actually be construed as acting. Sorry, Chris. Too little, too late!
And Two Face’s coin falls into Two Face’s dead, outstretched hand. If you’re looking for irony, Joel, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Back above, Batman decides to swing by and see how Ed’s doing. The now impressively deformed Riddler groans hoarsely.
Well, Ed, first of all, you never actually tried that hard, now did you?
Perhaps it might have been a better idea to invest your new millions in fortifying your island with, say, heat seeking missiles, mini gun turrets, and mortars, instead of different kinds of green light.
To answer the Riddler’s question, Batman strikes his very best “I’m a hero who has just reached a significant turning point in my character arc” pose. This pose, coincidentally, is the same as his “I’ve arrived at the Laundromat and realized that all I’ve got is a twenty” pose, and his “My dog’s been run over and I just found out he’s my long lost father” pose.
He goes on to explain that he’s both Bruce Wayne and Batman, not because he has to be, but because he chooses to be. Indeed, he is Batman… forever.
Of course, with all the emphasis and feeling he puts into these lines, he may as well be saying, “Sure, the meatball marinara is cheaper, but with the turkey breast, you know what you’re getting.”
Then, for reasons known only to himself, Ed starts hallucinating, and imagines that a giant bat is descending upon him. Whatever. Can we wrap this up, please, so that I can go nurse my crippling RSI?
We now find ourselves at Arkham Asylum. This is the first time the legendary loony bin is appearing in a Batman movie, and I have to grudgingly admit that it looks pretty good. It’s a little bit OTT, but Barbara Ling and her crew have created a piece of genuinely Lovecraftian production design.
And then there’s a bolt of pink lightning, and I’m back to wishing herpes on everyone involved in the project.
It turns out that Chase has been called in to consult on their most recent admission, one Edward Nygma. What? There wasn’t anyone more qualified in this entire institution to make a prognosis? This is a woman who uses words like “whacko” and “obsessional” in front of paying clients, for God’s sake.
Chase is being escorted down a corridor to Ed’s cell by “Dr. Burton”, who like his namesake is sporting a shock of frizzy black hair. And as mentioned previously, Dr. Burton is being played by our latest Repeat Offender, Rene Auberjonois.
The good doctor informs Chase that Mr. Nygma has been screaming for hours that he knows the true identity of Batman. You know what, Doc? So do half the characters in this film, so at this point, I’d just drop it and take the rest of the night off.
Chase looks through the peephole into Ed’s cell, and Ed creepily enquires, “Whoooo iiis it?” A quite chilling exchange occurs between Chase and the clearly deranged Ed. So I’m glad the film waited until its final two minutes to show me that it’s capable of creating atmosphere.
Chase politely asks Ed to tells her who Batman is. So Ed bursts into the frame and yells, “IIIII’m Batman!”
He laughs manically, and flaps the arms of his straightjacket like wings. It’s eerily similar to Dwight Frye’s portrayal of Renfield, and it really is a shame that the film waited until this late in the game to start riffing on intelligent cultural references.
Outside, Chase tells a waiting Bruce that his secret identity is safe, and that (to quote her own taxonomy of mental states) Ed is definitely a whacko. An obsessional whacko at that, eh, Chase?
Bruce hands Chase back her Nightmare on Elm Street 3 doll, and tells her he won’t be needing it anymore. Not because he’s feeling particularly well-adjusted, it’s just the thing is really freaky looking.
Chase gives him a nice “happy ending” kiss, and asks him not to work too late. Well, the joke’s on you, Chase, because by the next movie he’ll have shacked up with another six foot tall, vain, moronic Aussie bimbo!
Elliot Goldenthal’s score booms triumphantly. Cut to a shot of the Bat-signal. Batman and Robin appear in silhouette in front of the signal, and run toward the camera. Admittedly, the thirteen year old in me will always think of this as a cool image. And that same thirteen year old will also always get a cheap, puerile laugh from the fact that it looks like they’re holding hands.
And that’s it.
Actually, for all my bitching about it, I’ll always have a soft spot for this film.
When it’s on form, it’s actually pretty good, and there are a few people on both sides of the camera who clearly put a lot of effort into this movie, while everyone else was coasting through waiting for their paychecks.
The biggest problem with the film is its inability to decide whether it wants to be clever and serious, or self-consciously stupid. This makes the supposedly clever bits seem stupid, and the self-consciously stupid bits fall flat.
At the time of its release, a lot of people liked the movie. But then, a lot of people liked mullets, Patti Smith, and public hangings back in their day too, so maybe the general public isn’t quite the best gauge of quality. But Warner Brothers was obviously happy enough with the finished product to offer Joel Schumacher a return ticket to Gotham for the next movie.
In closing, I’d like to thank Albert for being gracious enough to host my ranty recap (and being so lenient when it comes to deadlines). I’d also like to thank my beta readers Matt, Ryan, and Stephen for their frank and thoughtful input. In fact, while we’re at it, I’d like to thank all the lovely, intelligent people in the Agony Booth Forums for their encouragement and support as I’ve been writing this.
And thank you, dear reader, for muddling through.