Batman Forever (1995) (part 7 of 14)

Cut to the next day outside City Hall, and I’ll be damned if Gotham doesn’t look like an actual city in the daytime. Bruce Wayne pulls up in his… I have no idea what it is, but it’s what I imagine people would call a nice car. Old Brucie commits a shameless parking violation and heads on into an adjacent building. And that wacky Schumacher, he’s at it again with the dutching.

Bruce goes to a reception desk and asks for directions to Chase’s office, and the camera is tilted at an absurd 35-degree angle. Cut to him walking down a corridor, and we’re treated to another shot at the exact same angle. Either there was a broken rig attached to the camera, or Joel Schumacher just didn’t consider day lit corridors exxxxxxtreme enough for mid-’90s youth.

Suddenly, Bruce hears thumping sounds accompanied by distinctly female grunts and groans. Presuming that Dr. Chase is getting a bit freaky on her lunch break (she certainly seems the type), Bruce decides he wants in on the action, and proceeds to break down her door.

Seriously, the door breaks right off the hinges. If it’s that easy to batter down a door, I’m Ernie Hudson.

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It turns out that Dr. Chase is not getting her freak on, but merely pounding the snot out of a leather heavy bag. Yes, she just happens to keep a heavy bag and boxing gloves in her office.

Caption contributed by Dan

“What the fuck do you want?”

Bruce looks suitably humbled, and introduces himself. Chase knows who he is, and that he can afford to buy her a new door. Bruce just mutters feebly about how he thought she was in trouble. Yeah, right! Sex… trouble… I haven’t thought that one through, have I?

He also makes a halfhearted attempt to prop the door up on its frame, like that fixes it. Then he decides it’s time to get down to (non-sexy) business. He asks for Chase’s opinion on the two riddles he’s received. He says Commissioner Gordon thought she might be able to give her expert opinion.

So… rather than dust the damn things for fingerprints or anything, Gordon passed the buck to a transient nymphomaniac consultant who he’s barely acquainted with, and who he already knows has misused the Bat-signal? Seriously, who did Gordon fellate to get his job?

Chase looks at the first riddle, and solves it before she could even realistically have finished reading it. The two then pore over the newest riddle, which goes thusly:

“Tear one off and scratch my head. What once was red is black instead.”

Would a phallic joke here be too crude and redundant? It would? Fair enough.

Bruce correctly figures out that the answer is a match. Rather than be impressed by this, Chase throws the riddles on her desk and gives Bruce a dirty look. In fact, throughout this entire scene, Chase is dismissive and even rude to Bruce. What with Bruce being the man who’s paying her salary for a service that she provides, and all.

Actually, I’m starting to wonder, is she even a criminal psychologist, or just some kind of specialized dominatrix? Because at this point, the dominatrix explanation makes a lot more sense.

And now it’s about time for another dreadfully written exchange.

Chase: My opinion, this letter writer is a total whacko!
Bruce: Whacko? That a technical term?
Chase: Patient may suffer from obsessional syndrome with potential homicidal tendencies. Does that work better for you?

You know what? This is a perfect example of the kind of lazy screenwriting that really pisses me off. It’s the exact kind of dialogue that screenwriters use to write around the fact that they’ve done fuck all research into a subject that they know nothing about, even though they’re getting paid to write about it. For a start, “obsessional” isn’t even a word!

Honestly, armed with a dictionary and an encyclopedia, any bumpkin could write more knowledgeably about criminal psychology than Akiva Goldsman. Chase’s expert opinion is that this person who’s spent hours defacing images of Bruce, and planting them in places he might find them, may not be entirely sane. I have no idea what she charges, but she’s worth every penny!

Chase then brilliantly surmises that this person is obsessed with Bruce, and his or her only escape would be to purge the fixation. Bruce guesses that this would mean killing him (Bruce), to which Chase replies, “I think you understand obsession better than you let on.” Well, better than Mr. Goldsman, at any rate.

Bruce then spies a framed Rorschach test, which is in the glaringly obvious shape of a bat. He comments on it, asking if she has a “thing for bats”. Chase replies that in a Rorschach test, people only see what they want to see, and asks if it is in fact he who has a “thing for bats”.

What gets me is that she finds this so incredibly psychologically telling. I may be one of the biggest Batman geeks ever to breathe oxygen, but it seems to me like anyone would see a bat here. Perhaps if Bruce had seen Gary Busey in a leopard print thong, or Lindsay Lohan covered in candy floss doing the spider-walk, then Chase might be onto something. As it is, I don’t get it.

Bruce continues to wander around the doctor’s office, touching her stuff. He picks up a strange humanoid doll, and Chase explains that it’s a Malaysian dream warden. She says some cultures believe that they protect sleepers from bad dreams. Yep, this film is so lame that it’s stealing from Nightmare on Elm Street 3.

Chase’s interest in Bruce is piqued. She tells him he “looks so sad”, even though he’s being played by Val Kilmer, and therefore doesn’t have distinguishable emotional states. What, you don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

Caption contributed by Dan

“I’m… acting!”

Chase says that Bruce certainly isn’t all that he appears, but this hits a raw nerve, and Bruce says that his time’s up. My, that was a short appointment.

Then there’s more poorly written dialogue, the gist of which is that Bruce invites Chase to the circus.

Cut to—hey, the circus! There’s an establishing shot of the Gotham Hippodrome, which looks, by this movie’s standards, pretty modest. It is, however, right next to an exact replica of the Golden Gate Bridge. Jeez, Gotham, get your own damn landmarks!

Inside the circus, it’s far from modest. For the color blind, it must appear to be just an amorphous shifting mass. Everything and everyone is bedecked in a myriad of colors, and the Gotham Circus seems to be taking the unusual step of showing all their acts at the same time. Seriously! There’s so much going on, I don’t know where to look.

Joel Schumacher does, though: There’s an extreme close up on the midsection of a drummer banging an enormous, vertically-placed drum. And does he have a shimmering, muscular torso? You bet!

But wait! The torso fest is far from over. It turns out that the drum beater is just one of many people scattered around the circus tent. And they’re all standing atop huge statues with… well, I assume you can guess.

Bruce and Chase enter the circus, flanked by press and autograph seekers. Inexplicably, all of them are middle-aged women. Chief amongst these vultures is the infamous Gossip Gertie, played by Elizabeth Sanders Kane, widow of Batman’s creator Bob Kane.

Ms. Kane actually contributes a great deal to the bonus features on all of the Batman films, and speaks very lovingly, often movingly, of her husband’s dedication to the Batman character. So it’s a genuine shame that Joel Schumacher cast her as the most annoying character in both his Batman films.

Meanwhile, Ed watches the whole event on TV in his apartment. He spits venomously at the image of his former employer. The movie cuts to Ed a few times during this scene, and his commentaries are appropriately funny and menacing. Why is Ed’s apartment a haven for all things in this film that don’t suck?

The ringmaster announces the circus’s star act: the amazing Flying Graysons! There’s a slow pan across the family quartet, and each and every one of them looks really happy and full of life. I’m guessing they’re all probably only a week away from retirement, too.

There’s Daddy Grayson, Mommy Grayson, Big Brother Grayson, and Little Brother Grayson. Hang on a minute! Mommy Grayson had to have been about eight when she had these kids!

The crowd gawps and gasps as the Soon To Be Plummeting Graysons swing and twirl and thoroughly enjoy being alive.

Caption contributed by Dan

We like being alive! We like being alive! We like being, Oh we like being, Oh we like being alive!

Bruce seizes the moment and invites Chase to come rock climbing with him next week. Chase looks a little flustered and declines, explaining that she already has her sights set on someone else. And I ask you, what kind of insensitive harlot would go on a date with someone and announce they’re pursuing some other guy? Geez, Chase. Handsome billionaires don’t just drop out of trees, you know?

The ringmaster announces that the youngest of the Flying Graysons is about to do his party trick. He actually refers to Dick Grayson as “Richard”, even though he’s never referred to by his Sunday name for the rest of the film. Presumably, this was meant as a wholesome alternative to the ringmaster yelling, “And now…. Dick!”

This is our introduction to Dick Grayson, who obviously will soon become Robin the Boy Wonder. This is despite the fact that he’s quite clearly in his mid-twenties. At several points in the film, it becomes obvious that the character was originally written to be much younger. But other than the lapse in casting, and a few little inconsistencies here and there, his genesis is pretty much the same as in the comic books.

That may come off as a compliment, but what that really means is the characterization in a big-budget Hollywood film in 1995 is about the same as a small-budget funny book from 1940. For proof, I offer the pre-war teenager clichés that will be spouted by Dick Grayson throughout this film. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’ll be calling someone a “rube” off screen.

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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