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Batman Forever Review

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Batman must battle Two-Face and The Riddler with help of an amourous psychologist and a young circus acrobat who becomes his sidekick, Robin.

★★★★★

When Tim Burton declined to pick up the creative tab for the second Batman sequel, Joel Schumacher was considered the ideal man to carry his gothic vision, and, hopefully, pep up a franchise starting to reveal signs of lagging in the commerciality stakes. Schumacher’s credentials are encouraging; the commercial safety of The Client and The Lost Boys mixed with the darker designs of Falling Down and Flatliners. No sooner had the series replaced its director when the cape itself was suddenly vacated — creative differences being cited as the nominal excuse for Michael Keaton’s departure. The sexier Val Kilmer was swiftly ushered in cave left, and it seemed Forever was the perfect opportunity to rediscover the Dark Knight.

Things have certainly changed, but Schumacher hasn’t managed to shrug the hollowness dogging the superheroic saga. Fans of Burton’s fantastically stylish, thinly plotted films will be satisfied, those hungry for plot logic and cohesive characterisation will find their pangs ceaseless as they head for the exit signs.

Batman has always been more about the evil guys than the one of indeterminate morality. And the villainous double-act in question: mad DA Two-Face (Lee Jones, half his face corroded by acid, half his mind gone the way of cuckoo), and The Riddler (Carrey dressed in skin-tight pea-green with a wonderful flat-top shock of orange hair), are as screen gobbling as ever. One just after general chaos, the other with a plan to absorb all the IQ from Gotham with his TV mindsuck gadget. Meanwhile Batman is getting hot around the cowl for criminal psychologist Chase Meridian (Kidman) who’s determined to see who is under the rubber.

The uneven script also throws in a mad scientist called Ed Nygma, cheesed off at Wayne Enterprises ditching his TV mind enhancer , much psychobabbling about duality and mask adornment, and an overload of high pitch visual set-pieces which, whittled down, are just jazzed up car-chases, punch-ups and bits of Gotham exploding.

And then there is Robin. At once the riskiest venture in the movie, Chris O’Donnell’s appearance as the geeky sidekick is one the film’s biggest successes. A circus acrobat after Two-Face for the murder of his family, he spouts petulance, cutting a mean, arrogant figure in his rubber nicks, sweating it out with Bruce Wayne for a slice of the action.

The other, perhaps more predictable success is Carrey’s Riddler. While Kilmer is no better or worse than Keaton — the role is still a blank with that lumpen suit restricting the poor actor to an unflattering, expressionless waddle — Lee Jones simply does a half-hearted Joker routine addressing matters with some creative gurgles and drats, and Kidman vamps up an appealing but inconsequential love interest, the buck-toothed mega-star is magic. His latex wrapped figure contorting with glee, his familiar schtick edged with blackness like some psychotic vaudeville swinger. The film visibly lifts when he bounces in.

There’s no doubt that the money is all up there on the screen, fabulous effects and bigger, brighter sets capturing a sumptuous comic-book look and this is easily the funniest of the three. What Forever lacks is restraint, the film too often careers out of control, it’s pace, hectic and demented — often murder on the senses — leaving the story cowering in the background. Schumacher’s spin on the black-suited vigilante is as flawed as it is brilliant, as messy as it is impressive. A bit of a two-face really.

Camp Bat-flick, hasn't aged very well.

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