Batman Forever (1995) (part 6 of 14)
Cut to Wayne Manor the next day. Bruce is watching the odiously named “GNN” network, which is showing a retrospective news feature on the events that led to the origin of Two Face. At least, I assume it’s a retrospective. Either that, or GNN is really late on their coverage.
The footage shows crusading DA Harvey Dent at the trial of underworld kingpin Sal “The Boss” Maroni. Maroni obviously doesn’t care much for Harv’s prosecutorial tone, because the next thing we know, he’s tossing a vial of acid at the DA.
Obviously, this is the acid that’s responsible for disfiguring half of Harvey’s face and turning him into Two Face. But I would buy this more readily if the footage didn’t show the acid hitting him dead center in the face. They try to compensate by showing Harvey cover half his face with a manila folder, but I doubt that would be very protective.
While this scene is as lame as a blind, monopedal donkey, it’s actually right on the money in terms of fidelity to the comics. But I have to wonder exactly which acid is capable of turning human skin bright purple with shocking pink accents. I’m also curious as to how something as unruly as an airborne splatter of acid could create such a ruler-straight, perfect scarring right down the middle of Harvey’s face.
While Harvey reels in pain, Batman leaps out of the crowd and runs towards him.
Wait a second. Batman attended the trial? Would any court in the world really allow the presence of a costumed vigilante? Moreover, does Batman have so little concern for his secret identity that he’d appear in broad daylight in the presence of dozens of people? Many of whom are operating cameras?
I know I should suspend my disbelief in this world of magic rope, green lightning, and fluorescent scar tissue, but still, I can’t think of anything more out of character for Batman. Short of using a Bat-credit card to bid for a concubine at a charity auction.
The GNN announcer says that despite Batman’s best efforts, “Dent’s left brain damage turned him into a—” Posturing, cackling, incompetent motherfucker? Nope, “violent criminal” is her euphemism of choice. It seems Two Face blames Batman for his condition, and has vowed to destroy him.
Bruce watches the broadcast and is filled with shame, guilt, and remorse. I mean, he must be. Behold the evidence!
I know, Kilmer’s just a maelstrom of emotion, isn’t he?
Meanwhile, Alfred’s on the phone to Commissioner Gordon, who’s called to inform Bruce that there’s been a messy incident at Wayne Enterprises.
Jump cut to the factory floor, where Bruce is taking Commissioner Gordon to see the security footage. I guess they couldn’t find a security guard or a technician, so they had to get the company’s CEO to do this. While we’re at it, is it standard practice in a town as large and crime ridden as Gotham for the police commissioner to be at the scene of every suspicious incident?
They stroll straight past Edward who, not wanting to attract attention, hams it up with over the top weeping and wailing histrionics. He’s being questioned by a very kindly cop, who keeps handing him tissues. Ed whips out a manufactured suicide note, and he assures the cop that it’s absolutely the genuine article, with this not-at-all-suspicious line.
Ah, yes. I can just imagine a group of Gotham’s finest poring over the note, and one intrepid detective piping up with, “Stickley would never put a semi-colon there!”
Ed effectively tenders his resignation, stating that he couldn’t possibly continue to work here because of all the memories… Memories of murder! Fearing he may not be making his point clear enough, Ed bursts into another flurry of tears and wails.
Bruce and Commissioner Gordon watch last night’s security camera footage, and see the image of Fred Stickley. No, he’s not being wheeled out on a chair. He is, in fact, running pell-mell at the window, sobbing melodramatically with his hands way up in the air, and doing jazz-fingers. It’s like he’s a 12 year old boy illustrating to another 12 year old boy how it looks to run like a girl.
And apparently, he’s running with enough velocity to shatter the window with his face. I know suicide is almost never funny, but this is so guffawesome that a screen cap really doesn’t do it justice.
Both the Commish and Bruce are able to keep straight faces, however. Gordon nods sagely and muses, “Yep, definitely suicide!” Which makes him about the most ineffectual law enforcement officer since Ed Hocken.
While Bruce is here, he decides he might as well do some work, and heads to his office. He muses that he has his suspicions about Stickley’s suicide, but he’s too heartbroken to consider it any further. Or too hungry. Or too inebriated. He’s a difficult one to read, that Kilmer.
Bruce is shadowed by his secretary (I wonder if she’s voice activated, too?), who asks him all sorts of business-type questions. Such as, who’s he going to take to the circus? Seriously!
She then reminds Bruce that suicide is not covered by the corporate insurance policy, but Bruce insists that Stickley’s family receive full benefits. This is supposed to be proof that Bruce is a bighearted guy, but it just makes me think of all the other poor, desperate employees that Bruce allowed to overwork themselves to the point of suicide, whose families didn’t get squat!
But what’s this? There’s a black envelope with a green question mark on Bruce’s desk. Ooh, I wonder what this could be!
His secretary admits she didn’t see anyone drop it off, and then she lets him go ahead and open it. Well, that doesn’t seem too smart. What if this was anthrax?
Instead, the envelope contains a cardboard cutout of Bruce’s face, which turns into a wicked popup. 26 minutes in, and Val Kilmer’s already been out-acted by a piece of cardboard. The popup reveals a riddle:
Bruce solves the riddle instantly, surmising that the answer is a clock. He does this right in front of his secretary, rather than maintain the dull-witted playboy façade that conceals his identity. But then, as we’ll see later on, this version of Bruce Wayne is about as prudent as Matt Murdock when it comes to protecting his secret identity.
And then, in true Adam West fashion, Bruce muses that the identity of whoever sent this envelope is the real riddle!
I must admit, I like the riddles in this film. They appear to be one of the more intelligent, considered aspects of the film. I only hope they had consultants to write the things, because if they came from the pen of Akiva Goldsman, I’m going to implode.
Time for a change of scenery. Cut to an exterior shot of Ed’s apartment, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s beneath a giant crossword-themed billboard. Ed enters his room, and it’s a tiny, cramped, oppressive space littered with half-dismantled junk, more tacky green hat-wearing novelties, and also a fortune telling machine [?].
And the walls are plastered with various, defaced images of Bruce Wayne. The whole thing strikes just the right balance between wacky and creepy, and the production design team gets a big thumbs up from me for this effort.
There’s a brief montage of Ed cutting letters and words from newspapers and pasting them into his latest riddle. So, it’s kind of like the prototype for the opening of Seven. But from this, I’m gleaning that Ed clearly hasn’t absorbed all that much neural energy, because he’s not even smart enough to wear gloves.
Moments later, Ed is sneaking up to the gates of Wayne Manor, and sticking his new riddle to the bars. He whispers a little threat and escapes on his risible moped. Truly, this is the beginning of a terrifying new presence in Gotham’s underworld.