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Here you will find opinion pieces regarding BATMAN BEGINS and the BATMAN film franchise.

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RIDDLE ME THIS: How could BATMAN FOREVER go so wrong?
Tuesday, February, 2005, by Paul J. Wares

Of the previous series, BATMAN FOREVER was probably the biggest disappointment to me. Lotís of people state that they find BATMAN AND ROBIN unbearable to watch, but for me BATMAN FOREVER falls under that category just as much, if not more so.

I remember very clearly the turn of events leading up to the shooting of FOREVER. The first piece of news was that Tim Burton would not be returning. This was announced very early on in development of the film. I remember being disappointed, but interested and even excited to see someone else take on the bat.

That person would be Joel Schumacher. At the time I thought this to be an excellent choice. Joel had proved that he could do dark gothic visuals and tension with FLATLINERS and had also proved that he could tackle an "on the edge" psyche with FALLING DOWN. I was pleased with the choice.

At this point Michael Keaton was still attached to play the Bat, Iíd read an article in movie magazine "EMPIRE" early in 1994, which had Keaton commenting on how he was looking forward to it, but disappointed that Burton wouldnít be returning. The article also stated that Rene Russo had been cast as Dr. Chase Meridian and that Robin Williams was rumoured to be up for the role as the Riddler. Chris OíDonnellís name was also being passed around for the role of "Robin" after the actorís success in SCENT OF A WOMAN. (Incidentally the article/interview had one of the best photos of Michael Keaton Iíd ever seen and Iíve not seen it since, it was a sepia toned pic with Keaton in half shadow wearing a silk neck scarf with a background of what appeared to be bats flying. If anyone has this picture or knows which issue of "EMPIRE" it appears in, please let me know, Iíd love to get my hands on it again.)

I found all of this to be quite exciting. Keaton was looking forward to returning to the role - reportedly he was going to receive a record salary for his return. I love Rene Russo as an actress and still believe she would have made a better "Chase" and I was warming to the idea of Williams as the Riddler.

Then it all started to go wrong. Keaton left the project, citing "creative differences." Schumacher responded with a "we didnít really want you anyway" type of attitude. Keaton walking from the project also left Rene Russo out in the cold as Schumacher had decided that he wanted to go with younger Chase, and Russo was considered too old for Keatonís replacement - Val Kilmer.

I wasnít too pleased about Keatonís departure, to me heíd proved that he had what it takes to be Batman, to hell with physical shortcomings, but Iíll always love him for having the integrity to walk away from the project. It has become clear over the last few years with various interviews that Keaton has done, that he loved and understood the complexities of the character and he couldnít stand to see Batman "lightened" up in anyway. I doubt there are many in Hollywood that would have done the same, since he also walked away from a record paycheck.

At the time of his casting, I liked Val as an actor - I didnít think he had the range or intensity that Keaton had - but fresh from THE DOORS and playing Doc Holiday in TOMBSTONE, he proved that he could make a formidable replacement for Keaton. The next cast member to come onboard was Chris OíDonnell who had been negotiating the role of Robin, whilst Keaton was still the lead. Honestly, I think this match up would have been far better, giving the film the father/son dynamic that BATMAN FOREVER sorely needed.

Then in very quick succession Jim Carrey was confirmed as "The Riddler," Nicole Kidman as "Chase Meridian" and Tommy Lee Jones as "Harvey Two-Faceí" - This was the first thing that sent an alarm bell ringing in my head. Why were they referring to Two-Face as "Harvey Two-Face?" Two-Face had long been one of my very favourite villains in the comic books, so I was very anxious that he would be portrayed correctly. I was confident that having an actor of Jonesís stature and talent would ensure this. How wrong I was.

The first picture I saw of Jones in make-up was a spy article in "National Enquirer" and frankly I was worried. Why did Two-face have a great big purple pie on his face? I tried to put my concerns to the back of my mind, thinking that the quality of the photo sucked and that was why it looked so bad.

The next time I saw Jones in makeup, I was very happy. It was the cover of a genre magazine and Rick Bakerís make-up looked awesome. There wasnít a hint of purple, it was all burnt reds and browns and really looked like scar tissue. The shape was exactly the same as what was finally committed to film, but the colour was wholly different.

Then the first photos were released and I was blown away. There was no picture of Two-Face, but there were pics of Batman and Robin standing face to face. A blonde Bruce Wayne (?), a picture of Carreyís Riddler and the best of all, Val Kilmerís Batman standing next to the new Batmobile. These pictures were awesome, they were dark brooding and screamed BATMAN to me. Soon after the first trailer hit and once again I was blown away. Next up was the U2 video for ĎHold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Meí, which I also loved (the song too).

I bought the U2 song soon after. Looking at the CD cover, I saw that Elliot Goldenthalís Batman Theme was also present on it. As much as I would have preferred Danny Elfman to return, I loved Goldenthalís ALIEN 3 and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE scores, so I was happy with his replacement.

Then I heard it.

I was in utter shock. Yes it was bombastic and heroic, but it was also clichť, too light, too techno and why were there wind instruments playing the 60s theme ĎBAT-MANí? I suddenly started to worry.

The film was getting closer and closer to release and more images of a purple Two-Face were surfacing. I was getting very nervous, until I read the novelization of the movie. Wow, this was good. It had been written as a direct sequel to the Tim Burton movies and the story was fantastic, if a little hokey (hey after penguin commandos I was willing to give anything a go). Bruce Wayne was given more development in this story than ANY of the previous instalments and his interaction with Two-Face was in a word - perfection.

Then I saw the film.

I could have cried. I had such an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. What a wasted opportunity, I thought. The film was, shallow, bland, camp, soulless and even worse, irritating. Where was the complex psychology, the great performances from actors who can phone in great performances, where was the heart and what was with the not-so-subtle homosexual themes running through the film? I desperately tried to convince myself I liked it, but it was no use. In one deft move, Schumacher had killed the franchise for me.

Every now and then I try and watch BATMAN FOREVER, but I have a hard time getting through the film. Having recently learnt that Joel Schumacher was intending a new cut of the film, I thought Iíd go through the film and see how I would improve it if I were he.

Joel, Are You Listening?

Let me start by saying that, I think the film is beyond redeeming itself to my initial expectations, but I believe much could be done, to improve the viewing experience.

Firstly the whole movie needs to be overhauled visually. It needs to be colour-corrected and the bright colours need to be desaturated. Itís so damn gaudy it makes me nauseous.

Next, Two-Faceís escape must be put back in and the title sequence needs to be redone. The CGI titles at the beginning of the film are just bloody awful.

The first suit up scene, was beautifully done, if the whole movie used this as itís framework I would have been very happy indeed, sadly it is utterly ruined by Batmanís "Iíll get drive-thru" line. Totally out of character and only inserted to pander to your fast food licensees. Shame on you WB!!!! Cut it!

Sound-FX - So overdone and so irritating itís beyond words. From the electronic laser noise of the taser, to the Thugís gargling as heís hit by it, to the kidnapped security guardís hearing aid popping out. Tone it down pleeeease!

While weíre on the subject of the security guard, every single line that he utters is highly annoying and utterly pointless. "No," "Yes," "Oh no, Itís boiling acid," "Hey, thatís my Hearing Aid." Sheesh. Also there is no way in hell Batman would thank him for the use of his hearing aid. Batman is a bad ass, he is not polite, and he is not Superman. Get rid of that line and see how well it improves Kilmerís presence in that scene.

I could go through every scene and point out at least 10 edits that would make the film better, but frankly Iíd be here for a week, so instead letís move on to performances.

Val Kilmer - Donít think much can be done here. Valís performance is fine, but heís wooden and frankly looks bored through most of the film. There are moments where he shines as Batman though. The first two conversations with Chase in particular the rooftop scene. In that he appears dangerous and threatening, itís a shame about the "Chicks dig the car" line and Kidmanís "Uhhh, Black rubber" Line. Also the way Batman jumps onto the roof at the beginning of the scene is pathetic. The jump off the roof at the end however, is wonderful. This scene is the only time in the entire film where these two have any chemistry together. I donít know if there are alternate takes that exist, or if the missing scenes add a lot to Kilmerís performance, if they do, get them back in quick.

Chris OíDonnell - Actually I thought OíDonnellís performance was pretty good, until the point where he becomes Robin, when he turns into an insufferable pain in the ass. "The whole islandís moving!" Really? We hadnít noticed. Thanks for that much needed exposition Robin. Not.

Nicole Kidman - I love Kidman as an actress, which is why it pains me to see her performance in this. Itís largely not her fault. The psychobabble she has to spout is just ridiculous and mostly sheís cardboard. Alternate takes perhaps?

Jim Carrey - Well, Carrey is just Carrey. Heís over the top, loud and occasionally funny. However to be a true villain and introduce any tension at all, Batmanís foe must appear threatening. Carrey doesnít come close to being threatening in this cut. Heís more like a pantomime dame. Improvements can be made though. Carrey has a wickedly psychotic expression on his face just before or just after he delivers some crap lines. Simply cut the lines and you have a far more threatening villain. For example, toward the end of the movie, the line "Now, the real game begins," Carrey looks genuinely scary, but the scene is utterly ruined by him raising his hands and rubbing them together. Cut it. Likewise his ridiculous laugh after his murder of Fred Stickly. "Nice form, little rough on the landing. He may have to settle for the bronze." Fine, but then the laugh that follows is completely hammy, unfunny and unnecessary. Just try and reel his performance in. Again, the "It keeps me safe when Iím jogging at night" scene, is totally unnecessary. Itís not remotely funny and serves only as exposition to show that the Riddler has Chase, which we already know.

Tommy Lee Jones - Oh dear. Not much can be done here as far as I can see. Unless you have alternate takes where Jones actually gives a GOOD performance. Jones is an excellent actor, but this performance is just terrible, Iíd like to think that there are some truly fantastic scenes with Two-Face that have been cut, but I fear that they too are as awful as that which are present in the theatrical cut. That said there are a few small things that could be done. For example, lose his cackling. I donít know whether it was Jones trying to be the Joker or what, but his cackling is awful and totally out of character for Two-Face. Itís my feeling that ending the scene in which the Riddler reveals Bruce Wayne to be Batman at the point where the Riddler says "What kind of a man has bats on the brain?" would improve the tone unbelievably. Furthermore, I believe just by cutting some of Two-faceís lines and leaving the character silent could create more menace.

My last big complaint is the Goldenthal score and unfortunately this is probably the only thing that is beyond change. Itís quite simply bad. So many films can be made or broken by its musical score and this atrocity does the film no favours. There are scant moments where the music is good and those are usually moments where it resembles Elfmanís score. The saxophones, the brass instruments playing out "BAT-MAN" just as the 60s TV series did and the electronic techno are all such a mess that for improvements to be made, the entire score would have to be overhauled, which I doubt is in the budget.

And thatís it really. Iím sure there is more I could list, in fact I know there is, but Iíd rather take the talk to the BOF Forums and let other fans voice their opinions on how BATMAN FOREVER could be improved.

In closing I would like to say that, I really, really wanted to like this film and I desperately want to like the new DVD cut of the film. I truly believe that within BATMAN FOREVER there is a gem of a movie trying to get out. Unfortunately, I fear that all these comments will fall on deaf ears and Joel Schumacherís efforts to redeem himself will fall flat unless all these changes are made. Who knows, I have plenty of experience in film and video editing myself, so maybe when the new cut is released Iíll make all the edits Iíve talked about myself. At least then Iíll have a version of the movie that I can watch without cringing. After all thatís all Iíve ever wanted.

(This article is dedicated to my friend and fellow movie nut, Steve, who died suddenly earlier in January 2005 from a diabetes related health complication. He would have celebrated his 29th Birthday on the 26th January. Youíll be missed mate.)

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