Batman Forever: Special Edition
Though financially successful, Batman Returns (1992) was considered a misfire it didn't open the door for sequels as readily as its 1989 predecessor, and even though Tim Burton suggested he might not mind continuing the franchise, he was granted producer's credit for the third entry, while Joel Schumacher was given the director's chair. With Batman Forever (1995), Schumacher streamlined the narrative, removed some of the quirkier elements of Burton's vision, and delivered a straight-ahead action spectacle. It's not as artistically accomplished as Burton's work, but as a piece of summer entertainment it's the most successful entry of the 1989-1997 Batman cycle if one defines "summer entertainment" as "brain-dead thrills." Val Kilmer steps into the Batman costume (now with the fan-reviled nipples) for this entry, wherein the psychological underpinnings of why a man would dress as a bat are brought to the surface thanks to Bruce Wayne's love interest, psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), who finds herself attracted to both the Bat and Wayne. No Batman movie would be complete without an origin story or two, and here both The Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) are introduced, while Harvey Dent/Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones) gets his backstory filled in by a news report. Edward Nygma is a Wayne employee who idolizes Bruce so much that when Nygma's rejected by Wayne, he turns homicidal. His project is an antenna for televisions that projects 3-D imagery, but with a side effect that makes Nygma smarter. With his newly added brain-power, he transforms himself into The Riddler. For Richard Grayson, he was a part of the trapeze act "The Flying Graysons," but when Two Face interrupts their show he leaves Richard's family dead. Wayne seeing a kindred spirit takes Dick in, but before long the Boy Wonder discovers Wayne's alter-ego and tries to become Robin. But as Wayne and Grayson join forces, so do The Riddler and Two-Face, who plot to destroy Batman. With Jim Carrey front and center doing the antics that made him an A-lister, Batman Forever is a much lighter franchise entry, apparently unconcerned with offering even a patina of reality. Nevertheless, even with impressive set design and a smattering of action sequences, the movie requires on star-power of Kilmer, Kidman, Carrey and Jones. It moves quick enough that the technique mostly works, and the plates spin fast enough to distract us from its sheer vacuity, even with the very superficial psychological readings of Bruce Wayne. However, its central miscalculation is O'Donnell, who (with his one earring and sneer) reminds one more of Donnie Wahlberg trying to be the tough member of New Kids on the Block than Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Warner Home Video presents the two-disc Batman Forever: Special Edition in a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Disc One includes a commentary with Joel Schumacher, as well as the film's theatrical trailer. Extras on Disc Two include the vintage "making-of" spot "Riddle Me This: Why is Batman Forever?" (23 min.), the new featurette "Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight Part 5: Reinventing a Hero" (29 min.), along with "Heroes" (10 min.) and "Villains" (7 min.) sections, and the production-centric "Beyond Batman" (46 min.). Also on board are seven deleted scenes, (one of which is a ridiculous sequence showing Wayne coming face to face with a gigantic bat) and the music video for Seal's "Kiss From a Rose." Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
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