Batman Forever & Batman and Robin
Both films are directed by Joel Schumacher (who also directed The Phantom of the Opera in 2004, which boggles the mind a bit) and Tim Burton, who had directed the prior two Batman movies [I have watched them, but Batman Returns seriously creeped me out and I will not be revisiting it, nor am I a huge fan of Burton anyway] served as a producer on Batman Forever. There is a discussion on whether these two films actually fit with the prior two, though a few of the secondary characters keep the same actors; but the tone is completely different and the leads changed.
Val Kilmer (Iceman in Top Gun) stars as Batman in Forever, with Chris O’Donnell (D’Artagnan in 1993’s Three Musketeers and Callen in NCIS: Los Angeles) joining him as Dick Grayson. Nicole Kidman (Satine in Moulin Rouge and Lady Sarah Ashley in Australia) is Chase Meridian, while Tommy Lee Jones (he makes an appearance in the first Captain America film and tends to play more serious roles) as Two-Face and Jim Carrey as the Riddler play off each other as the villains of the film.
The film opens with the reveal of the Batsuit (yep, Schumacher is remembered for highlighting these suits in a very particular fashion) and the Batmobile. Batman meets Dr. Chase Meridian, a psychologist at the scene of Two-Face’s latest crime. And boy, does Chase make her intentions known in regards to Batman right off the bat. Batman of course goes in to rescue the security guard and Two-Face attempts to kill Batman several times, to no avail. We next see Bruce Wayne touring his facility and meeting Edward Nygma, who is obsessed with the man. But Bruce doesn’t trust Nygma’s newest invention, quickly picking up on the manipulative nature regarding brain waves. When Nygma forces a quick decision, Bruce tells him no. Nygma does not take this well and when his supervisor visits him later in the evening, Nygma demonstrates precisely why his invention is not innocent. He inadvertently discovers that while he can beam TV directly into someone’s brain, it has the side reaction of bumping up Nygma’s IQ and giving him access to their mind. Nygma disposes of his supervisor, painting it the next morning as suicide; Bruce still insists on full benefits for the man’s family. Nygma leaves Wayne Enterprises, though he leaves Bruce a few riddles.
In the meantime, Chase arranges another meet-up with Batman, using the Batsignal. Batman is not impressed, though they do flirt and Chase drops her coat to truly reveal her intentions. The caped crusader leaves the woman, and Bruce Wayne pays a trip to Dr. Meridian. He knocks down the door when he hears a struggle, only to find out that Chase is working out inside. He ends up taking her as his date to the circus, where the Flying Graysons are performing. The performance is interrupted by Two-Face, demanding that Batman reveal himself; the villain has all of the wealthy people of Gotham held hostage, one of them is bound to know who Batman is or quite possibly is the vigilante himself. Until Batman does step forward, Two-Face is going to hoist a bomb full of TNT into the air and kill everyone in the tent. Bruce shouts the truth, but the noise of the crowd drowns him out, so he dashes off to dispatch Two-Face’s goons. The Graysons use their trapeze skills to go after the bomb. Young Richard climbs in the scaffolding and is able to hoist the bomb outside. Two-Face notices what the family is doing and shoots the wires, causing the parents and other son to fall to the ground (the net had been removed for a prior stunt).
Bruce is horrified by what happened and offers to take Dick in. Being a young man, Dick rather make his own way and kill Two-Face, but Bruce persuades him to at least fill up his bike in the garage. Which is full of cool cars and motorcycles. He passingly suggests that if someone could repair two of the bikes, he could keep one. Maybe hanging out at the Wayne manor wouldn’t be so bad after all. Dick begins to settle in and explains to Alfred that his nickname was Robin, emblazoned on his bike helmet. “One day, the robin will fly again,” the older man remarks.
Bruce is also having flashbacks to his parents’ death and pays another visit to Dr. Meridian, commenting on her fascination with Batman. Her response is she thinks he feels cursed, but “what crime could he have committed to deserve a life of nightly torture?” Alfred has to unfortunately interrupt the pair to inform his employer that their new guest has stolen the car…the other car. Yes, Dick Grayson has taken the Batmobile out for a joyride because he’s snuck into the Batcave through the only locked room in the house. Though, does someone want to explain why all the lights come up and the cave is revealed when the Intruder Alert goes off? Admittedly, when the young man comes upon a gang ready to terrorize a young woman, he gets out and fights them off. He does get a kiss with the girl and remarks “I could definitely get into the superhero gig.” But the leader has called for reinforcements. Lucky for Dick, the real Batman sweeps in and the gang scatters. Dick lets out some of his pent-up anger on Batman, blaming him for his parents’ death. Batman solemnly tells him, “if Bruce Wayne could have given his life, he would have.” When they return to the manor, Bruce immediately forbids Dick from following him. He warns the young man that revenge will become his life; Dick still has a choice. Dick insists that Bruce helps him and trains him. “Let me be your partner.”
Edward Nygma settles on the “Riddler” as his villain name, then scampers off to join Two-Face, so they can take down their enemies. Two-Face has two ladies who accompany him, to reflect his dual personalities (nicknamed “Sugar” and “Spice.” “Sugar” is played by Drew Barrymore). The team-up begins a string of robberies, which ends up funding Nygma-tech to rival Wayne Enterprises and Nygma’s box ends up in homes across Gotham, feeding brainwaves to Nygma. Nygma holds a gala, which Chase and Bruce attend. Nygma is obviously trying to mimic Bruce, who is still his idol, though a bit fallen. Bruce does attempt to remove the power to Nygma’s mind-reading boxes before he investigates, because he still doesn’t trust them, but a battery is put back in once he goes inside. The box hypnotizes Bruce, asking him to reveal his dreams, fantasies, deepest secrets and fears. Two-Face interrupts the gala, because nothing brings out Batman like murder and mayhem, which snaps Bruce out of the trance. He quickly changes into Batman and crashes the villains’ party. He ends up following Two-Face out of the building and down into the subway. Two-Face attempts to incinerate the Bat, but his cape becomes fire-retardant. Next move, bury the Bat in rubble. Lucky for Batman this time, Dick brought his acrobatic costume and followed Bruce out, pulling him out of the rubble.
Now Dick really wants to be Bruce’s partner, maybe Nightwing would be a good name? (A nod to the name Dick chooses when he separates from Batman). Bruce is still insistent that Dick should not become a vigilante beside him. Once he kills Two-Face, like he plans, what next? Killing Two-Face will lead to more killing until he doesn’t know who he is anymore [this is possibly a response to Batman’s treatment of the Joker and other criminals in the previous two movies, some fans have theorized]. Dick stalks off and Bruce retorts to Alfred that he’s encouraging the younger man. Alfred responds that the young man in question needs guidance. But Batman has a date set for that night with Chase at her place. She’s obviously ready for her rendezvous, considering she’s wearing nothing under her sheet. But now that she has Batman, she’s discovered that she wants someone else. Back at Wayne manor, Bruce decides to quite being Batman. He’ll tell Chase the truth, but he’s done trying to live two lives. Dick does not take this well, because he wants Bruce’s help with vengeance. While Bruce is wining and dining the psychologist, Dick takes his motorcycle and leaves.
In the aftermath of the disastrous gala, the Riddler asks Two-Face “riddle me this – what kind of man has bats on the brain?” when he brings up Bruce Wayne’s file. Since it’s Halloween, the two attempt to blend in with the trick-or-treaters to gain access to Wayne manor. They knock Alfred out and surprise Chase and Bruce, who is having another flashback. Chase has also figured out for herself that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one; she’s kissed them both now. Bruce manages to fend off the invaders for a few minutes, but a bullet from Two-Face grazes his head, knocking him out. Chase is taken. The Riddler skips down to the cave, which again lights up, and blows everything up, shouting “Joygasm!” (which is the weirdest word and slightly disturbing). He insists that Two-Face does not kill Bruce, so they can leave him one final clue. Which Bruce and Alfred put together with the other riddles to discover that Edward Nygma is behind everything.
Never fear, Bruce has contingencies set in place; there is another cave under the one that was destroyed with another suit and a Bat-boat and Bat-plane. Dick returns, in a new suit modeled after his acrobat costume, with an “R” emblazoned on it, for Robin. Robin takes the boat; Batman takes the plane and they head for Nygma’s lair.
The villain pair play Battleship, attempting to blow up the duo. Two-Face then heads out to take them on and Dick passes on the chance to kill him, pulling him up when he’s about to plummet to his death. Two-Face recognizes this and tells the young man that the Bat has taught him well, then holds a gun to his head. Inside, Batman faces the Riddler, who is drunk on power. “If knowledge is power, then a god am I!” he declares. He’s got Chase and Robin trapped and rigged to plummet; Batman has to choose one. But he doesn’t have the time. However, Batman has a riddle and knocks out the Box and the lights. He catches Chase, then continues on to grab Robin at the bottom of the hole. But Two-Face pops out again, ready to shoot them all. Batman reminds him to decide with his coin, then confuse the issue by tossing duplicate coins. Two-Face can’t keep his balance and falls into the pit….a third way out. Batman did not directly kill Two-Face, nor did Robin have to kill him.
The Riddler is taken to Arkham Asylum, having lost his mind and now thinks that he is Batman. Bruce has decided that he can be Bruce Wayne and Batman and gains a partner with Robin.
George Clooney takes over as Batman in the sequel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is Mr. Freeze, while Uma Thurman (a big-name star that I haven’t watched the movies she’s actually famous for) is Poison Ivy. Chris remains Robin and Alicia Silverstone is Barbara.
Our heroes have new suits and a new car for this film, plus a bike for Robin. They’re off to stop Mr. Freeze from freezing the entire museum, where the villain is stealing a huge diamond. Robin is still headstrong and rushes after Freeze, only to get frozen. Batman has to remain behind to thaw him out, instead of chasing after Freeze. Bruce has words for Dick when they return home, but Dick feels like Bruce doesn’t trust him. They do work out the backstory of Mr. Freeze, who plans to hold the city ransom so he can complete his research to save his ailing wife who is cryo-frozen.
In the meantime, a doctor (who honestly looks more like Winona Ryder) is attempting to crossbreed animals and plants, to give plants a fighting chance. But her co-worker has subjugated her research to create Venom, then creates the strongman Bane. But when Dr. Isley refuses to join him, he dumps chemicals on her, intending to kill her. This backfires when it merges with her body, creating Poison Ivy. Bane is now her lackey. As Isley, she tries to get Bruce Wayne to shut down anything that would harm the environment. Bruce points out that it would create hardships for others; people do need to come first. Instead, there is a gala being held featuring the Wayne family diamonds in order to raise money for charity to save the planet (this is also a ruse to force Freeze out). Batman and Robin are featured guests.
Ivy shows up to the gala and uses a smoke she blows into men’s faces to control them, which results in Batman and Robin fighting over her. Freeze interrupts and steals the diamonds (which power his suit), but now Ivy is intrigued by this blue man. However, Batman has captured him, after stopping Robin from making a jump, and sent him to Arkham. Ivy breaks Freeze out and suggests a pair up. Freeze will freeze Gotham and the world and Ivy will fill it with her attacking plants.
In the meantime, Alfred’s niece, Barbara has come to stay. Dick finds her sneaking out one night, taking one of the motorcycles, and follows her to a street race. Since their opponents do not play by the rules, he ends up saving her and back home, she reveals she intends to “save” Alfred from his life of servitude. He’s ill, she’s noticed. He’s dying, Bruce corrects. He too has been paying attention to his mentor and figures out he has the same disease as Freeze’s wife. He privately asks his oldest friend if he regrets his life. Only that he couldn’t be out with Bruce.
Ivy makes Freeze believe that Batman shut off the cyro-freeze and killed his wife so he will follow her plan. Batman figures out Ivy’s deal, but Robin is still under her spell and declares he’ll go solo. He’s tired of living in Batman’s shadow. When Ivy shoots a Robin signal into the sky, Bruce pleads with Dick to trust him. If he wants Bruce to trust him, then Dick needs to trust Bruce; more like a family than a partnership. Robin goes to face Ivy, but he has rubber lips to protect him from her kiss, gaining her masterplan. She dumps him in the water, but then has to face Batman. She gets him tied up and now there is a young woman in cape and cowl. Barbara has discovered the secret as well and Alfred already had a suit waiting for her. Batgirl takes on Ivy, calling her out on using feminine wiles to get her way; it gives women a bad name. Ivy falls into one of her plants and the trio banter a bit before heading after Freeze.
He is successful in freezing most of Gotham, but the heroes reposition the telescope to bring heat to the city, defeating Bane as a side note. Batman makes Freeze an offer; Batman had saved Freeze’s wife, if Freeze will give him the cure to the beginning stage of the disease, Batman will arrange that Freeze can continue his research to ultimately save his wife. Huzzah, Alfred is saved! And Freeze will torment Ivy for her duplicity.
I didn’t watch these films until after Batman Begins came out and I went in search of more Batman material. So for someone who is used to superhero films being taken a little more seriously, these are a bit laughable. But they may be imitating the campy nature of the 60’s TV series. The villains’ plans are simple and really have no hope of working. The lights are bright and obnoxious in Gotham and there are so many gadgets that one can tell these were made to sell toys.
I honestly like how Val Kilmer played Batman in Forever; I think that film definitely needed some seriousness to balance out Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey trying to out-ham each other. Admittedly, that makes the movie funny because you quickly realize that this is not meant to be taken seriously. Chris plays a young man trying to find his way, which I enjoyed. Nicole Kidman is an excellent actress, but Chase Meridian is trying too hard to be flirty and get in bed with Batman. I do miss seeing her in the next movie because she ultimately makes a good pair with Bruce, since she understands both sides of him.
Batman and Robin take all of the goofy bits up to eleven. It’s just so full of puns, you want to groan. There are some nice serious moments with George Clooney, and yes, Dick is a bit whiny, but that tension between Robin and Batman exists in the lore; there’s a reason they separated. Overall, the movie needed character development all around.
The main reason I will watch these movies is if I need something a little fluffy…and because I like some of the actors (in this case, mainly Chris O’Donnell because he was the first D’Artagnan I ever saw on screen and he’s excellent in NCIS: Los Angeles…oh my goodness, the banter with L.L. Cool J’s character is hilarious).
Up Next: The Christopher Nolan Batman saga, mainly Batman Begins and Dark Knight (not a fan of Dark Knight Rises)