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"Batman Forever (1995): Special Edition"
Review by Zach Demeter "Bird Boy"

After what some consider a “disappointing” sequel in Batman Returns, the movie business was wary of another Batman film so soon. Toy companies and merchandisers weren’t easily persuaded to get on board with Batman Forever after the lukewarm sales of Batman Returns merchandise. After the movie premiered in theaters however, it became obvious that “Bat-Mania” hadn’t left the public. Batman Forever was insanely popular during the summer of 1995 and made Warner Bros. and its licensees millions in revenue.

The film came with a new director, new cast, new crew and of course, a new look. Not quite so dark and gothic as Tim Burton’s past films, Batman Forever sported a zany trickster in Jim Carrey, a deadly adversary in Tommy Lee Jones, a new partner in Chris O’Donnell and a slightly more brooding and sometimes confused looking Batman in Val Kilmer. It is a well-rounded cast, which is finished off by Nicole Kidman as the love interest, and Michael Gough and Pat Hingle returning as Alfred and Gordon, respectively.

The Film
Like any kid, I loved this film. It was Batman, after all, and what could I not like about it? There was humor and plenty of action and we got a pretty decent story out of it all as well.

Looking back on the film, I’m not quite as forgiving on it. The cast was brilliant, as I stated before, but there was something that just bothered me about the movie. Perhaps watching it so close after Batman Returns set me up for a movie that I was remembering differently. In the end, I was entertained, but there was something that just bothered me about it.

Kilmer’s Batman bothered me a bit. He never really seemed all that expressive, either as Bruce or Batman, yet he still was one of the better men to put on the bat-suit. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to reprise his role in Batman & Robin, as I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have come out like it did with a different man behind the batsuit.

In the end, out of the four films from 1989 through 1997, this movie fits into the same number in which it was produced: third place. It’s enjoyable, but there’s just nothing all that memorable, past the ridiculous Jim Carrey and the flashback scenes of Bruce as a child.


The DVD

Oddly enough, Batman Forever actually looked a bit grainier in the video department than any of Burton’s films. Only in certain areas, however; overall it’s another gorgeous transfer with superb 5.1 and DTS audio tracks. You won’t be disappointed in this release if you’re a fan of clear video and audio.

Continuing what we saw on the Burton films, the Schumacher films start out the first disc with a trailer and commentary. Nothing too memorable about the trailer, but I do wish they included some of the TV spots, as I remember a few of them being pretty cool. But, as I said before in the Batman (1989) review…they’re just condensed footage of a movie you own the DVD of.

What can I say about the commentary, aside from the fact that it offered very little to the movie experience and Schumacher came off as a pompous jerk throughout most of it, dismissing any of the silly elements of the film simply because it was a “comic book” movie and a “Batman” movie. I’m sure he meant no harm by it, but considering what his two films were known for, you’d think he’d take a little more care in shielding his complete lack of knowledge of comic books and Batman in general (he called Robin’s older self “Nighthawk” at one point, though he got it right in the Batman & Robin commentary).

I don’t really recommend the commentary. Schumacher seems to enjoy pointing out story elements as or after they happen (“This is Dick Grayson leaving the batcave,” he says, as we see…uh, Dick Grayson leaving the batcave.) and he doesn’t really say anything all that interesting. A few funny behind-the-scenes tidbits, but other than that there wasn’t a whole lot to enjoy; it’s not me being biased because of what Schumacher did with the franchise—this commentary just flat out stunk.

“Riddle Me This: Why is Batman Forever?” is a TV special from 1995 hosted by Chris O’ Donnell. Like the one for Batman Returns, it interviews cast and crew from the sets and gives a neat look into the movie’s production. I actually remembered some of this from when I watched it as a kid—surprising, considering it’s been ten years since I’ve seen it.

“Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight Part 5” continues the series progression and describes how they went about re-imaging this character from Tim Burton’s designs. As with the other four parts, it’s interesting and gives you a nice look at what went into the movie.

“Beyond Batman” delves deeper into the movie, interviewing cast and crew and taking you along each step of the films progression. From initial talks to the actual production, we get a nice and deep look into how the movie got made. New interviews with Schumacher, Kilmer, O’Donnell and crew accompany the documentaries, with interviews with other cast and crew being archived interviews from 1995. It’s informative and interesting, everything you want in a documentary.

“Heroes and Villains” profiles details the characters in the movies. As with the other Anthology entries, this featurettes has cast, crew and Bat-aficionados explain and detail how each character has progressed through the movies or how new characters transition. It’s all very interesting and I recommend watching it, especially if you thought they’d be those silly character bios that are often assembled for children to watch and read.

The first big difference from Batman Forever and the Burton films is there are actual deleted scenes. Whether extended or completely deleted, the scenes show a few sides of characters we hadn’t seen or things we’re probably glad we were cut in the first place.

One particular scene with Bruce Wayne is brilliant though. Fans will remember the much-talked about scene with Bruce and the giant puppet-bat, as he “faces his fears” and reads his father’s journal and realizes that his death was “not my fault.” It’s a really powerful scene with some excellent acting by Val Kilmer and it’s a real shame it was cut from the movie. The only negative point in the scene was the end, where Bruce comes out of the area of the cave and Alfred asks if he is all right. Bruce replies “I’m Batman,” smiles and walks off; Alfred then smiles and turns around, walking after Bruce. It’s a very awkward ending, but I’m sure they could’ve re-worked it a bit if it was to be left in.

The “Kiss from a Rose” music video rounds out the special features. It’s disappointing there is no “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” music video to be found on the disc, but with how big “U2” is now, it really isn’t that surprising.

Overall, you couldn’t ask for better treatment for the film. While it has the dullest director’s commentary I’ve ever listened to, the other special features on the disc still hold up. Hearing from Kilmer and O’Donnell again was a treat and the deleted scenes were a welcome addition, especially since I doubt we’ll ever see Schumacher’s much heard about three-hour cut of the film.

Batman Forever (1995): Special Edition will be in stores on Tuesday, October 18th, 2005.

Bonus Video:

 

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