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This review originally appeared in issue 13 of THE CINEMA LASER.

BATMAN FOREVER

Holy money maker, Batman! You know that the Warner Bros. executives were chanting BATMAN FOREVER! when the opening weekend's grosses were over 52 million for the Caped Crusader's latest filmic opus.

BATMAN FOREVER ($40) is the third film in Warner's highly profitable Batman series, and it is the most popularly accessible of the three films. Much of original director Tim Burton's dark vision has been eliminated, leaving this film more easily digestible for it's teenaged target audience. As the grosses indicated, audiences loved BATMAN FOREVER and guaranteed, yet another sequel. Fans of Tim Burton's BATMAN will be disappointed, even though his name remains on the film as producer. Director Joel Schumacher throws a dizzying array of pyrotechnics and stunts at the audience, never allowing them to catch their breath, nor analyze the film they are watching. BATMAN FOREVER is a tremendous amount of fun! But is it art? Nope!

With a new director, and a new direction for the Batman series, BATMAN FOREVER also features a new man under the mask. Val Kilmer replaces Michael Keaton, and while I'm sure this change is certain to set women's hearts aflutter, it does little to help the psychology of the character. Kilmer is a lot beefier than Keaton, which reduces the need of the character of Bruce Wayne to don the Batsuit for a sense of empowerment. Kilmer is a likable actor, and fills the more two dimensional role with ease.

Despite the loss of the artistic and psychological sensibilities that Tim Burton brought to the earlier BATMAN outings, I found myself enjoying BATMAN FOREVER as a live­action comic book. The plot of BATMAN FOREVER allows the Caped Crusader to go head to head against Two­Face and the Riddler. Tommy Lee Jones makes a marvelous Two­Face, but unfortunately his character is afforded too little screen time. Jim Carrey essays the role of The Riddler, and unfortunately, is afforded far too much screen time. Carrey is a performer best taken in small doses. After a while, he tends to grate on one's nerves like fingernails on a chalk board. Why he is receiving twenty million dollars per movie is anyone's guess? His popularity at the box office must have more to do with the generation of mindless teenagers who spend more money at the box office, than do any group capable of cognitive thought. One big plus for BATMAN FOREVER is the casting of Nicole Kidman in the role of Dr. Chase Meridian. Kidman exudes sex appeal, and her kinky obsession for the man in black rubber adds just the right note to the Batman­Bruce Wayne­Chase Meridian love triangle. BATMAN FOREVER also finally introduces the Boy Wonder to the franchise. Obviously, Chris O'Donnell was selected for the role of Robin for the same reason Val Kilmer was chosen as the new Batman, his box office appeal for female audiences. Michael Gough returns to the role of Alfred, and lends just the right amount of dignity and humor to the character (it's a shame he doesn't receive more screen time). Also returning is Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon. Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar fill out the cast as Two­Face's molls Sugar and Spice. As for the plot (what little there is), The Riddler joins forces with Two­Face to destroy Batman and take over the work with 3­D television.

Now we come to BATMAN FOREVER the Laserdisc. This Laserdisc is outrageous! The transfer is Better than THX, without the added cost of THX. The image has been Letterboxed to the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and appears well balanced. The image is razor sharp and richly detailed. This transfer even manages to pull details out of the darkest recesses of the film without the addition of grain. The comic book color scheme renders faithfully. No matter how saturated the colors become, they never become unstable. The digitally encoded Dolby Surround soundtrack is demonstration quality, with directional effects whizzing all over the place. BATMAN FOREVER is also AC­3 Digital encoded, without any extra cost to the consumer. The Pioneer pressing was good; unfortunately, my sample suffered with Laser­lock during the film's end credits. Side three of BATMAN FOREVER is encoded in CAV, allowing those without digital effects, to dissect the special effects driven climax.

For those who love spectacular, show off Laserdiscs, BATMAN FOREVER gets the highest recommendation. For fans of the Batman movie series, you will definitely get your money's worth. And for those who were expecting a continuation of the marvelous universe that Tim Burton created... well, you guys are going to be somewhat disappointed.

 
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Laserdisc reviews are Copyright © 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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