Running time: 121 mins
Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carey, Nicole Kidman
Genre: Comic book, Action, Adventure
As Batman saves the day and the first born children of Gotham from the evil Penguin Tim Burton and Michael Keaton step away from the
hot seats leaving the road clear for a new director, a new Batman and a new
vision of the Caped Crusader. Enter Joel
Schumacher, director of The Lost Boys,
Falling Down and Flatliners who promises to carry on Burton’s vision (now serving as Executive
Producer). Casting Val Kilmer as Gotham’s protector, Batman takes on two foes for the minds and souls of the City.
It's difficult to know where to start in critiquing this film as the second strike in the “Gothic Erosion” comes extremely early on. The credits haven’t even finished rolling when Alfred (Michael Gough) asks Master Bruce if he’d packed his lunch to which Batman replies “I’ll get drive-thru”…oh my god! Seriously! Words fail me. It seems odd how quickly all the work that
Burton has put in can be
pushed to one side in favour of neon…and loads of it. The Batmobile has been changed, it looks like
a nuclear pencil case. The street gangs
all seem to love glow sticks and act like rejects from Cirque du Soleil, there
has been more menace from the cast of Glee. Surely there’ll little need for a Caped
Crusader when all the hoods have to offer is three years of jazz tap.
Val Kilmer (as Bruce Wayne/Batman) is a solid piece of casting, though I’m sure as difficult as all the stories suggest. He wears the businessman of Bruce well and has a level of psychological complexity and emotional trauma that was severely lacking in Batman and Batman Returns that’s a welcome improvement, one of the very few. Schumacher delves into the causal logic of “why a bat” and it gives the film a little bit of weight, it’s certainly required. Jim Carey (as Edward Nigma/The Riddler) is superb. His physical comedy is in keeping with the manic nature of a mind that can’t stop racing and is deserving of a better film than this. Nicole Kidman as the clinical psychologist Dr. Meridian is decent enough but most of her story arches involve furthering exposition and again…again Batman is carefree as to who knows and doesn’t know his secret…though Meridian is certainly a better choice than a sociopathic cat lady and an investigative reporter. Michael Gough (Alfred) and Pat Hingle (Gordon) are welcome returns but the further the franchise goes the less they are given to do. In this they have a handful of scenes to showcase why they’re brilliant and tragically wasted. There are two terrible pieces of casting in this film, they not only massively derail a film that could only ever be mediocre thanks to the shocking colour of everything but they frustrate and annoy any lover of Batman.
The first is Chris O’Donnell. I’ve never liked Robin, never found him necessary, interesting or believable. Though the use of the classic Robin suit as the famous’ circus uniform is a nice touch everything about the character is annoying. His inability to keep his nose out of anything, his insistence on independence all the while standing there with his hand out and O’Donnell’s general smug demeanour is enough for you to wish that Killer Croc would snap his head off. The second is Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Dent/Two Face. Replacing Billy Dee Williams for no other reason than they wanted a “name” over the title of the film is fine, Jones’ dogged acting style suits the District Attorney but what’s terrible is everything about the character. The beauty of Two Face is the constant struggle, his split personalities duelling inside his head, his inability to make a decision without the coin. Not only do you never see the rational Harvey, a seemingly silent partner in his head, but at one point he continues to flip the coin until he gets the side he wants…he knows his mind, he knows what he wants to do and is a fully fledged lunatic. The character has been completely misinterpreted by Schumacher, ruined, reduced to a second rate Joker (who couldn’t be brought back because
killed him – massive mistake). It’s
frustrating to see such an established foe of Batman reduced to a giggling
idiot with a silver dollar and seriously bad dress sense.
The scene with Batman in the bank vault and the hearing aide was clever and enjoyable but it was ruined by colour, poor dialogue, constant neon and the presence of the Statue of Liberty. The score has been tweaked, like the cinematography, made brighter and more jingle friendly. There’s little to like in the film and having delivered up strike two so early on you’re left with the overwhelming realisation that where Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, The Riddler and Two Face have failed one man might just be successful in killing Batman…that man is Joel Schumacher.
Movie Bar HEROES! featuring a foursome of fantastic yet forgotten Superheroes including The Champions of Justice and 3 Supermen Against Godfather can be booked by clicking [here].