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Poor action, performance make Batman boring

Batman Forever

Produced by Tim Burton.

Directed by Joel Schumacher.

Screenplay by Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, and Akiva Goldsman.

Music by Elliot Goldenthal.

Starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, and Chris O'Donnell.

Sony Cheri

By Rob Wagner
Staff Reporter

With lots of action and slanted camera angles, Batman Forever, the third and latest film in the Batman series, is definitely boring.

Director Joel Schumacher does a terrible job with this film. He tries to explain the background of the characters, showing the origins of both the Riddler and Robin. This amount of explanation, however, is inconsistent. He virtually ignores Two-Face, the other major villain, showing at most five seconds about him.

The price of these explanations was time. Schumacher spends too much time explaining these things, and not enough time developing the story. Reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series, the bad guys are seemingly undefeatable 10 minutes before the movie ends. The bad guys do really well in shooting down Batman and Robin in one scene, but they heroes eject in the nick of time and end up back at their big headquarters. Since, of course, there are no more thugs at the big headquarters, it results in hand-to-hand combat of Batman and Robin vs. The Big Bad Guys, and the movie is wrapped up in a neat little package very quickly.

The fight scenes were a bit cartoonish as well. Usually attacking one at a time practically in single file, the bad guys were trounced, while Batman showed the same amazing fighting skills formerly found only in the animated series. Even when they attacked in groups, the bad guys attacked at optimal angles for Batman to duck and let them club each other, or else perform the famous wrestling move of conking their heads together.

Another cartoonish feature of this film is the "Cobra Commander Syndrome" of the main villains, leaving Batman alive so they could kill him later. Most likely a result of hubris, these actions, of course, lead to their downfall.

Even worse, the film is deluged with psychobabble. Batman's love interest, played by Nicole Kidman, is a psychologist and an expert on men who have multiple personalities. She constantly analyzes Bruce Wayne, who comes to her for help with recurring nightmares about his parents' deaths. With this twist, Schumacher alters the perception of Batman. Once perceived as a superhero seeking justice because he had the means and owed it to society, Wayne instead feels he is forced to be Batman in order to escape the pain of his parents' deaths.

A further problem was that most performances by big-name actors were pretty bad. Val Kilmer is a pitiful Batman. Usually with solid performances in believable roles, Kilmer was definitely miscast here. He could not compare to his predecessors, Michael Keaton and Adam West. Perhaps he would have been adequate by himself, but when paired with Robin (Chris O'Donnell), he is meant to be a sort of father figure. Kilmer's Batman seems too close in age to Robin, so seeing him give advice to his sidekick is not at all believable. He cannot fill the suit as an older actor could have.

Tommy Lee Jones added no depth to the character of Two-Face Harvey Dent, whose character was virtually ignored in the script. He was merely a raving lunatic bent on getting Batman, showing no signs of the former District Attorney Harvey Dent.

One exception: Jim Carrey was terrific as inventor Ed Nigma, aka the Riddler. He added his own style to the character so poignantly portrayed in the 60s TV series. Carrey was definitely the bright spot of the movie.

Batman Forever might be worth seeing, sometime. There's no rush, however, to see it in the theaters. Its name alone will keep it there a long time, and besides, if you really want to see Batman, find old reruns of Adam West, rent the movies with Michael Keaton, watch it on Saturday morning cartoons, or even watch for cable reruns of the really old series. In any case, if you want a real superhero movie, try somewhere else, like Cabin Boy.