Batman Forever (1995) (part 4 of 14)

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As Batman clambers out of the vault and hauls Joe out, Two Face does a lot of melodramatic wailing. And then the following sequence of events defies even the movie’s own token nod to the laws of physics and plausibility. I can only attribute what happens next to magic. So here goes.

Batman fires his magic grappling hook at a magic bank wall, and because it has magic pneumatics, it’s powerful enough to break through the magic marble of the wall.

Then he clips his newly-launched rope to the chain supporting the vault, and then whips out a magic Bat-Blowtorch, which is magic and can cut through the magic chain that’s able to support the weight of a bank vault. The magic chain snaps, sending the vault (and Joe, who is now also magic) plummeting downward.

Oh, remember that magic, marble wall? Well, now the magic grappling hook is using it as a brace, and it can now support the weight of the entire bank vault. Also, Batman’s rope is magic too, because it just happened to be the exact requisite length for the vault to sail back into its housing.

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Joe, who unfortunately hasn’t been dashed on the idiot-strewn sidewalk, simply straddles the vault, whimpering. Commissioner Gordon and his cavalcade of morons burst into the room, doing whatever they can to appear busy now that the hard work is done. Chase, who for some reason is also with them, stares at the helicopter wistfully through the hole in the wall.

The helicopter banks and swerves perilously around Gotham City, and I have to say, beneath all the neon! there’s some pretty good production design going on here. But the most maddening thing about Schumacher’s Gotham is that it’s chock-a-block with absolutely colossal statues.

Seriously, these bad boys are ten times the size of the surrounding skyscrapers. As feats of structural engineering, they piss all over the Pyramids of Giza, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower from a great height with their enormous granite dongs. And do they all have rippling muscular torsos? Why yes, yes they do!

All this time, Batman has been dangling precariously on a length of the magic chain, and this is actually coming together into quite an entertaining action sequence. Let’s just hope nothing ludicrous comes along to spoil it.

Oh, no.

Two Face wrests control of the helicopter’s steering wheel [?] and pilots the craft straight into a preposterously huge advertisement for eye drops.

Caption contributed by Dan

Tired eyes? You’re probably watching a Joel Schumacher Batman movie.

The giant neon billboard explodes into a gigantic ball of orange flame. Because… all neon billboards are powered by gelignite?

Despite this spectacular explosion, the collision doesn’t damage the helicopter in any way. Two Face shoulders his way to the back of the cabin, and peers down the exit hatch at the Batman-less chain dangling from the helicopter. Thinking that Batman is dead, he proceeds to dance a little jig, which doesn’t do a great deal to make him seem more menacing.

But Two Face’s celebrations are short-lived when a Batman-shaped object flops onto the pilot side window. Two Face’s oily thug tries to bring this to his boss’ attention, but only gets a muscular torso full of bullets for his trouble. That’s right! Two Face literally shoots the messenger. That’s moved you at least one notch up on the Scale of Evil, Harv!

Two Face moves to the steering column and looks frantically for something to crash the chopper into, but since they appear to be in the middle of the sea, landmarks are pretty sparse. The only thing in sight is what appears to be the Statue of Liberty.

What the hell? They got to Ellis Island in just over three minutes?

Two Face doesn’t have long to ponder this massive topographical error, because BatVal punches through the helicopter’s window and headbutts his way through the smashed glass. Yes! BatVal is kicking ass and taking names!

Then he has to go and ruin it by reasoning with Two Face.

Batman: You need help, Harvey. Give it up!

I’ll say! Leopard print and zebra stripes in the same outfit? Eww!

Two Face, getting yet another opportunity to shoot his nemesis at point blank range, simply kicks Batman in the face and lurches back towards the steering column. While Batman slides down the side of the chopper, Two Face locks the steering wheel in place, with a wheel lock he just happened to have on him.

Batman crawls back up the side of the helicopter, but by the time he vaults into the pilot’s seat, Two Face is already making good on his escape with (presumably) the only parachute onboard.

The deformed supervillain glides toward the surface of the water on his parachute, which turns out to be adorned with his adorable yin-yang motif. He’s cackling quite smugly, so I guess he’s not familiar with the difficulties of surviving a parachute landing in water.

BatVal looks out the windshield in terror. (Yes, he’s actually emoting. Treasure this moment.) It seems the helicopter is flying straight into… Well, not the Statue of Liberty… but… An exact replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Caption contributed by Dan

You maniacs! You ripped it off. Damn you! God damn you all to Hell!

Why this is here, I can’t begin to imagine, but the inscription on the statue’s crown reads “Lady Gotham”. Surely, the screenwriters could have thought of something else for the helicopter to fly into. I wouldn’t have minded if this cloned landmark had any thematic or narrative significance, but it doesn’t. At all. As a narrative device it’s about as much use as a penis-flavored condom.

While BatVal’s staring motionlessly, or as I prefer to call it, returning to form, the ‘copter’s propellers tear up the statue’s face, and do it pretty effortlessly, too. The propellers must also be magic.

It dawns on Batman that staying in this seat might not be a great idea, so he dives out of the helicopter and into the water.

The laws of physics aren’t here right now, but if you’d like to leave your name and number, they’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

As Batman plummets, the helicopter crashes right into dear Lady Gotham’s face, exploding on impact. Then, as Batman floats up to the surface, a considerable feat considering the weight of that costume, the chopper explodes again. I’m going to track down Joel Schumacher’s birth certificate, and find out if “Gratuitous” really is his middle name.

While Batman bobs like a cork, we see his POV shot of Lady Gotham. And get this: the helicopter has left the statue with a half-ruined face. Get it? Half-ruined face? Two Face? I know, I know. It’s so subtle, I almost missed it, too.

Jump cut to the morning after, and a swooping bird’s-eye pan over a reasonably competent CG rendering of Gotham City. Meanwhile, there’s a clunky bit of exposition from a radio newscaster. She explains that despite a valiant effort by Batman, “Harvey Two-Face” is still at large. And really, that name sounds about as ominous as Wubsy the Snow Kitten.

She also announces that billionaire Bruce Wayne has extended his profit sharing scheme to the employees of the electronics division of Wayne Enterprises. Isn’t it slightly convenient that she mentions Batman and Bruce Wayne in the same sentence? You bet! And guess where we’ll be heading next? That’s right! The electronics division of Wayne Enterprises!

I really don’t know why they used the tired old device of news broadcasts to supply exposition, but expect to see and hear this device a lot more throughout the film. It’s crass, it’s trite, it’s lazy, and it’s completely pointless, so yeah, it fits in pretty well here.

In the interests of fairness, I have to say that the rendering of the Wayne Enterprises building looks pretty nice, in a sub art-deco kind of way. But the effect is somewhat ruined by a giant statue of Atlas sticking out of the top. And before you ask, yes, the statue has a rippling muscular torso. Unfortunately, all this art-deco CGI is reminding me that I could be having a much better time playing Grim Fandango.

Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne enters the labs of Wayne Enterprises, flanked by two aides. He’s greeted by a gargantuan figure named Fred Stickley, played by smug conservationist Ed Begley, Jr. Cut to… Hey, wait a second!

You, Begley! Get back over here. Thought you could slip under my radar, did you? Not on my watch, buddy. You’re not only a Repeat Offender, this makes you a Three Strikes Offender! Hang your environmentally-conscious head in shame!

While this nemesis of the Booth escorts Bruce Wayne around, we cut to a small cubicle. This cubicle is absolutely festooned with pictures of Bruce Wayne cut from gossip magazines.

Caption contributed by Dan

Behold! Val Kilmer’s entire acting range on one handy page.

A disembodied hand brushes aside a Time magazine cover with a particularly slappable mug shot of Bruce. Upon seeing the man himself standing in the corridor, the cubicle’s owner exclaims, “Oh my God, it’s him!” This is presumably followed by several trouser eruptions.

Meet Edward Nygma, who anyone well-versed in comic book mythology will recognize as the man who eventually becomes the Riddler. Later on, he’ll look knuckle-gnawingly sickening in his costume, but for now, Jim Carrey does a pretty good job at playing Nygma as a potentially dangerous sycophant. It’s a shame we won’t be seeing this degree of subtlety at any point hereafter.

Nygma works to muster up the courage to introduce himself to Bruce, telling a tacky desk ornament that “I am a winner!” This tacky little bobblehead is clad in a green suit, remarkably similar to the one worn later on by the Riddler. It turns out that Ed owns several items matching this motif, but surprisingly, it’s never explained why.

Nygma seizes Bruce’s hand and proceeds to have a gooey moment. He introduces himself and tells Bruce that they’ve never actually met, but Bruce’s signature is on his hiring slip. He then adds, “I still have it!” in the same way that a person might admit to keeping decomposed squirrels in jars and rubbing their triceps with honey while spying on their neighbors.

Rather than call security, or leave the building, Bruce merely smiles vacuously and states the following.

Bruce: I’m going to need that hand back, Ed.

I’m pretty sure there’s a witty retort ripe for the plucking there, but Ed misses the moment completely. Stickley is quite keen to limit Bruce’s exposure to Nygma, but Bruce doesn’t seem to mind him too much. He asks Ed what’s on his mind.

Ed: Precisely! What’s on all our minds?

Well, that really depends, Ed. If you’re this movie’s director, probably an endless parade of glistening, muscular torsos.

Apparently, the correct answer is “brainwaves”. Ed takes this opportunity to launch into an impromptu pitch of his latest invention, which he hails as “the future of Wayne Enterprises”. After rummaging around in a pile of… stuff, he triumphantly holds aloft his creation: A blender full of styrofoam chips. Seriously, that’s what it is.

Ed claims that his blender full of styrofoam can beam a TV signal directly into the human brain, by manipulating brainwaves.

You know what? Whatever! Science be damned. I’m perfectly fine with that. Just make sure the blender is not switched on during something visceral and disturbing, like The Exorcist, Jacob’s Ladder, or Moonwalker.

Bruce’s reaction indicates that a blender full of styrofoam isn’t the sort of thing he’d like to be associated with. Or he’s thinking about soup. It’s difficult to tell with Kilmer’s acting style. The closest he comes to emoting is taking his glasses off… and then putting them back on again. He does this several times during the film, but if there’s a subtext to it, it’s lost on me.

Bruce turns to a window, and sees the Bat-signal. What a miracle of engineering that thing is. Whatever building Bruce is in, he always, always, always has a perfect view of it.

Ed is now bleating about needing some additional funding for human trials for his blender. Bruce tells him to set up a meeting with his assistant, but Ed demands Bruce’s answer right here and now. So Bruce flatly refuses, saying that manipulating brainwaves “just raises too many questions.” Did you get that? Too many questions! Questions! O, subtlety, thy name is Akiva Goldsman.

Caption contributed by Dan

“But… but, it cuts styrofoam into little tiny bits!”

Bruce makes a polite but hasty retreat, and an infuriated Stickley tells Ed that they’ll discuss this later. As Bruce leaves, a heartbroken Edward Nygma stares after him and snarls, “You were supposed to understand! I’ll make you understand!” This is actually a nice bit of acting, and if the Riddler had been portrayed with this much geeky menace throughout the film, this movie might have turned out a lot better. Alas, ’twas not meant to be.

Dan Laurikietis

Dan is an actor, playwright, theatre director and writer of dubious literature. In order to feed his many substance dependencies, he also teaches high school drama. He lives in Northwest England with his fiance Lauren and his dog Molly. In his spare time Dan likes to squander his cash on books with pictures in them, DVDs and video games. He wishes he was more bohemian.

Multi-Part Article: Batman Forever (1995)

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