Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenplay By: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, Akiva Goldsman
Release Date: June 9, 1995
Run Time: 121 minutes
Unlike those who saw this when it was first released, I knew to expect a wholly different animal as compared to last time. I knew to expect more camp, more jokes, more silliness and yes, even the Bat Nipples. So the real question is: does knowing about this shift in tone beforehand make the movie any better? Could the decade plus of fan bitching and moaning be over something that really didn’t make the film that bad? Well, yes and no. Like with “Superman 3” there is a new found emphasis on comedy that doesn’t always hold up too well. But, knowing where Schumacher’s visual sensibility were coming from did make certain changes more tolerable. Is the movie good overall, no not really, but it’s not that much worse than either of Burton’s films and is a much stronger third entry than “Superman 3” was. So, what was good? What was bad? What was overblown by nearly two decades of fanboy bitching? Let’s find out.
The film opens with one of its worst jokes. After Batman suits up, Alfred (Michael Gough) asks if his could persuade him to take a sandwich. Batman’s response? “I get drive though”. Yeah, the bad guys will just hold their evil plans while you’re waiting in line at McDonald. But hell, maybe he should. The Batmobile this time looks like something from a McDonald’s happy mean, so maybe it’s fitting.
We then cut to batman in Gotham. The first thing I noticed s that apparently the citizens of Gotham hated the look of their city as much as I did and went for a completely rehauled the city. I can only imagine how much that cost the tax payers. And yes, I hate this look as much as the Tim Burton version. Where Tim Burton’s Gotham looked too cartoonish, but this may as well be animated. I understand that they entire idea of this film was to be as statistically and tonally different from the last one as possible, but DAMN did they over do it.
We find out that Batman was called because Harvey “Two Face” Dent (Tommy Lee Jones) is trying to rob a bank. Why? Because it’s the second national bank of Gotham on the second anniversary of Batman arresting him. Because the man who is obsessed with duality and chance would care about something as arbitrary as that. We meet Two Face as he’s deciding whether or not to kill one of the banks guards. He flips his coin and it lands heads so, always being true to the coin…He throws the guards into a vault that we soon learn is filled with acid. Congratulations movie: you have no understanding of your characters.
Two Face’s plan works and Batman inters the vault to save the guard. Ones he’s inside however, two face lifts the vault out using a helicopter and the vault starts filling up with acid. It’s about here that I understood what the movie was aiming for. While a Tim Burton is only the producer on the film, this film feels very much like his take on the 1960’s Adam West Batman. If you took that show and put Tim Burton in charge, and you’d have something pretty close to this.
As you could probably have guessed with us being only five minutes or so into the movie, Batman escapes the vault but Two Face gets away as well. From the outside of the vault Batman manages to use his grappling gun to sling the vault back to its proper place inside the bank. Now, I don’t know everything about physics, but i’m pretty sure that was bullshit.
We then cut to Wayne Enterprises, where Bruce Wayne (this time played by Val Kilmer) is inspecting his R&D department. An overly excited Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) trying to get Bruce Wayne’s approval for a project that is being shut down. What is this project that just has to be show to the boss? It’s a device that altars your brainwaves to make T.V. Images look 3D. And here we get another stupid moment. Bruce says to schedule a meeting with his secretary with a full list of technical specks. The head of the company basic said: “Yes, i’d like to see this”. Nygma’s boss couldn’t really tuch him after that, not until Bruce had his chance to see the project. However, out of fear for his job, Nygma says he needs an answer right then. Why? Because we need a piss poor reason for him to become a villain later.
Bruce tells him no as messing with peoples brainwaves raises too many ethic questions. Latter that night, after everyone has gone home, Nygma keeps working on the project, vowing that he’ll show Bruce. He’s caught by his manager however, and he ends up killing him. Nygma also learns that his machine can make him smarter. I’m sure that that will have no baring on the rest of the plot whatsoever.
Bruce Wayne ends up taking Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), a woman he met earlier as Batman, to a circus he was invited to after giving a large donation. Why is he donating money to a for profit circus? Because the movie has to show us he’s rich somehow, right? The two of the watch as The Flying Graysons do a higher act. All seems to be going well until Two Face and his goons raid the circus trying to get bat man to show up. They set a bomb and start raising it up to the top of the circus tent. The Graysons then decide to try and help get hid of the bomb. The Youngest, Dick(Chris O’Donnell) , goes to the top where he waits to push it into the river. The rest of his family hang on to the suspenders as they try to push the bomb up. Unfortunately Two Face sees them and shoots them down. After Dick gets rid of the bomb he goes back to see his family was dead.
Gosh! A young man who’s family was killed by a madman. This couldn’t be setting up some kind of parallel between him and Bruce Wayne, could it? Next thing you know, Bruce will have to adopt the kid and end up with a sidekick with a silly name like “Robin”. How silly would that be right?
If you know your comics you know that that is exactly what happens. But I like that Dick is angry. Even after he finds out who Batman is his first thought and goal is only to kill Two Face.
Going back to our Villains, Nygman, now having taken on the persona of “The Riddler” has been leaving Bruce riddles and has managed to find Two Face’s hide out. The two men then make a plot: Two Face will help Riddler steel money to produce his invention, while Riddler will use it to help Two Face kill Batman. Their plan actually works, and soon Edward Nygma is Gothams new Bruce Wayne. While at a party Nygman even manages to find out who Batman is. He and Two face then brake into Bruce’s house and destroy the Batcave. Bruce is down to one Batsuit as well as Robin, who he now has no choice but to except help from.
Bruce puts together all the riddles given to him and learns of the whereabouts of our villains. With Robin taking the sea and He himself taking to the air, out heroes go to kick some ass. How do they do? Well, Robin is almost instantly caught and Batman takes way too long to get out of a death trap. But this does leads to one of my favorite Batman moments ever. The Riddler has Robin and Dr. Chase tyed up and sends them both to their death, telling Batman that he can save only one: Batman’s Partner or Bruce Wayne’s Lover. After saving them both Batman tells the Riddler that he did because he is both Batman and Bruce Wayne. He chooses to be both. This is literally more character development Batman has ever gotten since he was invented back in 1939.
Anyways, Batman ends up destroying The Riddler’s machine with in turns destroys The Riddlers mind. Two Face gets them in a spot where he could very easily kill all three of them, but Batman reminds him about his coin. Once Two Face flips it, Batman throws a bunch of others into the air. This confuses and I guess scares Two Face and he ends up falling to his death. And with that, the Day is saved.
The question I asked earlier was “doesn’t understanding Schumacher directing decisions before watching the movie make it any better”? And, to some extent, yeah, it did. While I don;t like the new look of Gotham, I understand why it looks the way it does. And when all the goons and gangs looks like something out of a silver age comic book, I can’t say it was too off putting. But that doesn’t excuse the bad jokes and poor writing. If this was meant to be more along the lines of Tim Burton’s take of the Adam West show that would have been okay, but everything here is like the worst parts of that show Burton-ed up. Honestly, i’d really like to see them retry this idea, but spending way more time on the script. But there were something’s I liked as well. A fight with Dick Grayson against a mod of gang members is the best the series has to offer so far as everyone is free from the restraints of the big rubber costumes. And when The Riddler was destroying the Batcave it was kind of hart breaking. And if they ever did do a remake of the Adam West show Jim Carrey would have been a great Riddler. But as a fallow up to the Tim Burton film it falls flat. However, it falls flat in the same way the Burton films did, just worse. Unfortunately, the next film is infinitely and infamously worse. Join me on Monday as I take a look “Superman 4: The Quest for Peace” before we end out look at the original quartet for each character.