Apr 29, 2018
Batman Forever (1995) (part 5 of 14)
Cut to Bruce’s office, and guess what he has flanking the door? That’s right, statues with muscular torsos! Also, it turns out that pretty much everything he has is voice activated. For example, his doors lock at the word “lock”, and when he says the word “chair”, the chair he’s in tips down, and a trapdoor opens at his feet.
You know, I hope Bruce is never faced with a situation where he has to use the word “chair” in his office with other people present. That might raise too many questions. It’s pretty much unavoidable too, given he’s the chairman of Wayne Enterprises.
The trapdoor leads into a tunnel, which Bruce speeds through in a strange sort of metal sarcophagus. Eventually, he arrives in the Batcave.
How did Bruce manage to build this network of tunnels between his place of work and his secret crimefighting headquarters without attracting any attention at all? Did he go all Andy Dufresne on it, and spend twenty years digging with a spoon during his lunch breaks?
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The sarcophagus lands in the Batcave with a shower of sparks, and a puff of smoke. Bruce strides out into the cave and hands Alfred his jacket. Bruce’s face is a contorted mask of vengeful angst. No, wait. A stern portrait of rigid determination. No, uh… A picture-perfect example of utter neutrality. Yes, that’s the one.
And then it’s back to the garishly lit streets of Gotham, as the Giger-mobile cruises past. It’s a completely superfluous shot, because less than ten seconds later, BatVal’s swooping onto the rooftop of police headquarters. Seriously, what was the point of showing the Batmobile driving over to police HQ? To set up that he got there by means other than, say, teleportation?
Batman looks around for Commissioner Gordon, but dear old Jim’s nowhere to be found. Instead, Chase saunters into the scene, informing the Neutral Knight that she’s the one who lit the Bat-signal. Sultry jazz starts playing, and Kilmer, who now seems to think he’s playing the Tick, stands with his chest thrust out, his fists at his hips, and yells, “Spooooooooon!” Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
BatVal asks why she summoned him, and Chase reveals that last night at the bank, she noticed that Two Face’s coin is his Achilles heel. She says it can be exploited. How she knows this, I have no idea. She must have been looking at the guy through some pretty powerful binoculars to be able to see his coin flipping and monologueing from the ground.
Actually, I think this line was originally something else, because it’s clearly dubbed over, and the lip synching is awful. Methinks I’ve spotted the first casualty of the studio’s overzealous editing.
Batman, being the world’s greatest detective and all, already knows all this, and scolds Chase for wasting his time. He tells her that the Bat-signal “is not a beeper”, even though, when you think about it, that’s exactly what it is.
Some dreadfully written banter ensues: half crass flirtation, half psychobabble, all tedious! In fact, if it’s alright with you, I’m going to just skip over any dialogue involving Bruce/Batman and Chase, unless it’s absolutely essential to the plot. Trust me, you’re not missing much.
In this painful exchange, Batman drops that dreadful line from the trailers about how “chicks love the car”. And Chase, a professional woman educated to doctorate level, giggles like a schoolgirl at this line. It appears self-respect isn’t Chase’s strong suit, as she throws herself unashamedly at Batman.
She then reveals that bad boys make her drip like a broken refrigerator.
Chase: In grade school, it was guys with earrings. In college, motorcycles, leather jackets. Now? Black rubber.
I know, I know. The line may as well have been ripped from the journal of Joel Schumacher himself.
Had there been the slightest bit of chemistry between the two actors, this verbal cat and mouse game might have been interesting to watch. As it is, the whole exchange is about as sexy as being rubbed down with a raw halibut.
Batman is clearly unimpressed, and tries to evade the good doctor by shouldering past her. So she decides to make with the A material, and show off the goods a bit.
Blocking Batman’s path with her body, Chase slips off her silk shawl to reveal her blatantly pushed-up bosoms. So, this is an assertive female character, is it? I forgot that crude gender stereotypes were so integral to making a film franchise more kid-friendly.
BatVal asserts that she certainly is “direct”, which is the nicest euphemism for “woefully unprofessional bunny-boiler” he could have picked.
After dropping a lame intertextual reference to Catwoman (or implying that Batman frequents BDSM clubs), Chase is about to stage an attempt to lick Batman’s tonsils. Suddenly, poor old Jim Gordon jogs into the frame.
The Commish is wearing his overcoat over his pajamas, causing him to look more like someone’s poor, senile grandpa than a grizzled, veteran cop. Never mind, Jim. In ten years you’ll get your due.
Batman informs Jim that it’s just a false alarm, though he’s not at all apologetic that his friend’s time has been wasted. Chase demurely asks him if he’s sure about that, and Batman’s response is to jump off the side of the building. That has to be the granddaddy of all knock backs!
As Chase stares obsessively after him (again), Batman plummets from the side of the building, falls through a gap in the road, passes through a red neon-lit access tunnel, and straight into the cockpit of the Batmobile. Physics, plausibility, and common sense be damned!
He mutters a one word appraisal of the fairer sex, specifically: “Women.” And with a pull of the omni-lever, Batman’s off to inflict his neutrality on someone else.
Meanwhile, in the darkened labs of Wayne Enterprises, it looks like Edward’s putting in a little overtime.
The camera moves along the factory floor at a slightly nauseating 45-degree angle. As most of you probably already know, this is an old technique called “dutching”. It was one of the hallmarks of the ’60s Batman TV show, and Joel Schumacher will not be using it sparingly, nor discriminately in this film.
Actually, the technique works in this context. There are showers of sparks and agitated shrieks coming from the direction of Ed and whatever he’s working on. See, in the ’30s-style shot vocabulary of a mad scientist’s lab pastiche, I can accept dutching. When something less off the wall happens, like, oh, I don’t know, someone walking down a corridor, it’s a less forgivable use of a tired technique.
And because he’s being played by Jim Carrey, Nygma is up to his usual wacky antics of talking to himself, prancing around, electrocuting himself, and creating more showers of sparks. Perhaps he might fare a little better and electrocute himself a little less if he turned the lights on, but what do I know?
The camera swings around, revealing that Ed is once again working on his mind control/smoothie maker abomination, determined to prove his worth to his idol, Bruce Wayne. All the while he’s jabbering, “too many questions, too many questions”, and pulling silly faces. Jesus, Ed, it was just a passing remark! Let it go. You know, maybe if Bruce had just told him his idea was shit, there might be a whole different kind of villain in the DC canon: Fecal Man!
Ed’s late night exploits are cut short when Stickley bursts in, demanding to know what the hell is going on. He tells Ed that his project is terminated, and then heads off to call security. But Ed, not to be deterred, quickly snatches up a coffee pot and unceremoniously clouts his boss over the head with it. Oh, and because he’s wacky like that, he puts on his best “here’s Johnny” voice to declare the following.
Ed: Caffeine’ll kill ya!
That it will, Ed. But not half as quickly as blunt force trauma.
Ed awakens the unconscious Stickley by plucking a hair from his moustache. Nygma, you fiend! A zoom out reveals that Stickley is now wearing the styrofoam-filled blender as a hat. Ed says Stickley’s about to be his guinea pig, and throws a switch.
A TV set flicks on, showing a fishing program. A couple of fish swim out of the screen, 3-D style. They swim toward Stickley, who reacts as if he’s been newly lobotomized.
So… basically, Ed’s miracle machine turns people into salivating morons who think they’re seeing floating fish. You know, Ed, you could have saved yourself a lot of time and effort and just given him a dose of LSD.
The image starts to flicker and falter, and this is where the movie truly enters the realm of hare-brained comic book science. Nygma glances at a gauge on the machine and says that he’s losing resolution. Yep, that’s right: A gauge that measures resolution. The thing is, the needle on the gauge is hovering around the 7000 mark. Whether that’s progressive or interlaced, it’s still pretty good. Particularly for 1995.
Ed’s solution to the lack of resolution? More power! Because obviously, resolution and power consumption are related, and this is why LCD televisions consume more energy than CRTs.
In true crackpot science style, this boost in power causes an arc of green lightning to erupt from the machine. This green lightning seems to have an adverse effect on poor Ed, making him pull funny faces and dance like an idiot. Stickley carries on with his lobotomy act, only… um… louder. All the while, Ed does this…
I can’t help but feel this is a slight departure from the stoic Edward Nygma of comic book lore.
So apparently, what’s happening here is that Ed’s intelligence is being increased exponentially by the neural energy that Stickley is using to… um… watch 3-D television? Of course, I wouldn’t know that if Ed hadn’t said it explicitly. If anything, Jim Carrey’s performance suggests that the machine is sucking out Ed’s intelligence, not Stickley’s.
Ed then poses to Stickley this thoughtful and well considered question.
Ed: Riddle me this, Fred! What is everything to someone, and nothing to everyone else? Your mind, baby! And now mine comes with the power of yours!
You know, Ed, should you ever want to build a career as a master criminal who poses riddles, perhaps you shouldn’t blurt out the answers immediately after asking the questions.
Either the machine’s run out of juice, or Ed’s bored, or Stickley’s brain has run out of… green lightning, because Ed shuts the machine down. He stands there panting and wailing like he’s just passed a particularly stubborn kidney stone.
Stickley asks Ed what just happened. Wait, so, after people have seen Ed’s 3-D TV, they lose all memory of it? That might just put a damper on its mass market potential.
Stickley then reels off a list of authorities that he’ll be reporting Nygma to. He seems oblivious to the fact that he’s tied to a chair, and being wheeled around by a potential psychopath, and not really in a position to be making threats.
Regardless, Stickley tells Ed that he’s fired. This doesn’t go over well with Ed, whose reaction is to shove his boss’s chair in the direction of a large window overlooking a reservoir. Stickley smashes through the window, but his chair dangles on the ledge. It turns out he was saved by the cord that connects his thinking box to the mind control blender. Ed’s reaction is to unleash a melodramatic gasp and prance—yes, he actually prances—over to Stickley.
With an extraordinarily unfunny pun, Ed disconnects Stickley from the device. Then gravity happens, and the late Fred Stickley disappears into the churning waters below. This prompts what’s probably the only genuinely funny line in the entire film.
Ed: Oooh, nice form, but a little rough on the landing! He may have to settle for the bronze!
And I suspect that to be a Carrey ad lib. I have a hard time believing Goldsman is capable of anything that witty.
Cut to the POV of a security camera, which for some reason also has sound, go figure. Ed does more psychotic rambling about questions, and threatens to put Bruce Wayne “in his place”, and then he gets a-tampering with the lens.