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UNMASKING JOEL SCHUMACHER'S INFAMOUS BATMAN MOVIES

Year Released: 1995
BATMAN FOREVER: At the very end of his first motion picture in which Jim Carrey got a gigantic boatload of money, that being LIAR LIAR following those god-awful yet extremely popular PET DETECTIVE films and of course his catapult in IN LIVING COLOR (following an underrated vampire romp, ONCE BITTEN) that paved the way for his ultra success in the 1990's, there was, if you stick around LIAR's end credits, a trick played on the rubbery madman when character-actress Swoozie Kurtz, as a defense lawyer, and Jim are arguing in a scene where both scream names at each other before she goes purposefully off script, shouting: "Over actor!"

Ice Man with Maverick's wife
And for the first time you can see Carrey unfold, melt his hyper countenance and become very real with a wide albeit embarrassed grin that, if able to capture this kind of vulnerable moment on screen, he could really be something (TRUMAN SHOW almost reached that kind of reality)... And yet, that accusation, meant as a joke by the director handed to the actress, just isn't true. For "Overacting" is when someone reaches to BECOME a character, not a character who is loud and crazy and insane while being that person, basically the reason why Jim got those immense paychecks: in a world of dry sarcasm, people needed a human cartoon, and he was it, in droves...

The Lightweight Heavies
Well this was the first time he could prove his worth as a, or what could have/should have been a, somewhat serious turn being the second-tier villain in the third Caped Crusader film, BATMAN FOREVER, the first directed by Joel Schumacher while produced by Tim Burton. Yet Carrey, as hammy as he gets as The Riddler, has nothing on an actor who, throughout his career, from THE EYES OF LAURA MARS to COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER to his shift from character-actor to leading man via THE FUGITIVE, landing him an Oscar for simply being his cool and collected self (a brilliantly evil Ray Fiennes was robbed), Jones is, surprisingly enough given his genuine talent to fit within just about any genre, the truly distracting overcooked ham on board, trying too hard to play Harvey "Two Face" Dent with prosthetics one one side when he turns his head the wrong way. While on the better side his annoying tirades are just as loud, and vapid...

Kilmer looking serious
Funny that Michael Keaton had quit because he felt the villains were more important than the person the movie's are named after. Too bad because here more than ever, Keaton could have subdued these guys better than first-timer Val Kilmer, seeming downright awkward and speaking in a sexy deep HISSSSS much like, dare it be said, the beloved Christian Bale in the Christopher Nolan films, which were very much needed to reboot a franchise that started out alright and ended up downright horrible, thanks or no thanks to director Schumacher who turned Burton's dark atmosphere into a Gotham resembling a surreal Variety Show.

The Underground
And while Tim Burton's first two and far superior ventures, especially the original with Jack Nicholson, weren't stranger to the Dutch Angle, where the camera is tilted to establish the scene a bit askew to intentionally put the audience off balance, there's nothing but Dutch going on here, followed by a shaky-cam, insane close-ups and editing liken to a music video aka the films of Tony Scott and on the other side of the mainstream "catered to opening night audiences" style of filmmaking, Michael Bay, making FOREVER flow like a locomotive chugging towards a cliff where lies the bottomless pit. If only it reached there a lot sooner...

Riddler and Batman
On the prettier side, our stock ingenue is a shrink played by a sexy Nicole Kidman, who, despite trying really hard, and both being terrific actors otherwise, she shares zero chemistry with Kilmer, who, unlike Keaton's bedded-down lady's man always making the first move, she all but glues a mattress to the smug Bruce Wayne's back, deleting any sort of genuine romance these two could have had, had she been more subtle as the plot, dealing simultaneously with Two-Face's vengeful reign of terror and The Riddler's plan to control people's minds...

And in the next venture, the most maligned of the four covered here, BATMAN AND ROBIN, that second name was established in FOREVER: for we actually first meet Chris O'Donnell as the iconic sidekick to the Caped Crusader, Robin, who, having lost his entire family after a tightrope act interrupted by an act of terror, gives him the speed and agility and deep-rooted anger to keep up and compete with his new mentor. Only thing is, Val Kilmer, usually a "giving" sort of method actor and intriguing to watch, seems completely alone here... And word came out quickly that he never wanted to play the part in the first place, and it actually shows: He's as uncomfortable in that stiff suit as the plot is to logic, and the entire movie glides along like clips of a prolonged movie trailer that hadn't been edited into a linear structure, and, speaking of which, a lot of trimming was needed to make this overlong saga much less torturous.

Rushing to end things
Although, on the brighter side, there is a certain camp value within the overall pandemonium: watching both villains trying so hard to outdo each other becomes as relaxing as one of those hyper kids given speed pills to wind down. There's simply nothing to do but try to catch everything the flamboyant director throws at us in his vivid comic book styling.

Yet the colors are more befitting a neon sign for an 80's Nightclub than a "graphic novel" page-turner, and it might be hard to get through the "first issue," much less two hours of a catastrophe that, if Kilmer only took the role with what he can do dramatically and comically instead of remaining in mannequin mode throughout, not only could he have saved Gotham City, but the motion picture as well...

How many superheroes plain give up less than halfway through? It's no wonder he never returned to the role...

And that's where the swarthy progressive Hollywood kingpin glided in, straight from mediocre melodrama on television's hit ER and two fantastic, timeless roles in both Quentin Tarantino's FROM DUSK TO DAWN (written and co-starring the former video rental clerk) and, bathed in the QT style, Elmore Leonard's adaptation of his own novel OUT OF SITE, by far Clooney's best (or at least, most natural) performance to date. So now, to close, let's discuss what could very well be his worst motion picture ever... Although not all blame goes to Georgie boy...

Year Released: 1997
BATMAN AND ROBIN: Well someone gave director Joel Schumacher the green light to do another BATMAN, just in case  no one was paying attention the first time around... It was quite easy to lose interest stuck in FOREVER and this final Tim Burton Production starring A-List preachy heartthrob George Clooney, now wearing the muscular-shaped tights and cape, living in a mansion and working underground and, with more colors than ever, Gotham City resembles a roller-rink CLOCKWORK ORANGE had it been set in a MY LITTLE PONY universe yet still with that touch of Dystopic BLADE RUNNER combined with a disco glow of XANADU that includes gangs of all shapes and sizes ala THE WARRIORS, only looking straight out of an eclectic Metrosexual discothèque...

Study in Blue Cheese
And how we see this new light-bright Gotham is through the bedazzled yet surprisingly tough, resilient and experienced eyes of Alfred's niece, Barbara, soon to become Batgirl, which, by name, seems more important and linked to Batman than Robin himself. But CLUELESS starlet Alicia Silverstone, on the verge of her 15 minutes running out, is more Robin's type given her age and penchant for running away and trying to find an intriguing world beyond the mansion she's holed up in... All the while being shadowed by a concerned, and quickly lovestruck, Robin, played by a returning Chris O'Donnell in a bigger role than his entrance in FOREVER, not really a surprise since his famous sidekick's name is shared within the title...

Clooney with COD
And for the record, Clooney actually gets second-billed credit following Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Freeze, giving his usual one-liners (like "Cool It" and "Chill Out") and, in order to save his almost-dead cryogenic wife, providing his character an ambiguous, sympathetic peripheral, he's a vengeful villain with no limitations, turning the colorful Gotham into a blue hue of endless winter. But there's green in there too, and plenty of it: For surprisingly, even worse than Arnold, acting-wise, like Jones stunk more than Carrey, is Uma Thurman as temptress Poison Ivy...

With an endless array of boring lectures and stagy scenes where she struts around, hitting her hammy marks within a lab seeming straight from a Saturday Morning kid's show, she goes from a befuddled, environmental, virginal geek doctor into a sultry, sexy, slutty ingenue more easy than Pfeiffer morphed into Cat Woman... a quick "backstabbing" death followed by a transition that isn't fully explained while comic book favorite, Bane, the bald muscular heavy who would serve as the socialist, mouth-covered co-lead ala Tom Hardy in the last Chris Nolan Political Thriller-style venture. Here he's but a big bad bodyguard that does very little but resemble a WWF wrestler, destroying things that Mr. Freeze doesn't turn to ice.

Evil Tin Man
Meanwhile, Clooney, like Ben Affleck in the (at this time) current BATMAN VS SUPERMAN, doesn't do a horrendous job at BAT, simply going through the motions, jiggling his head in the usual fashion and basically playing it mild and mellow... perhaps too much... an obvious attempt as a Steve McQueen type, not having to exert a lot of energy or dialogue despite given the superhero lead, seeming more lethargic than world-weary, and is perhaps why he's given the "worst Batman ever" status, not seeming to care about much with a one-note expression, whether he's perplexed by his young duo's romantic curiosity pointed to the dangerous Gotham City, or "snowboarding" with Robin, literally from the outskirts of outer-space itself, all the way back into town in one of the cheesiest scenes ever shot, and while viewing you might not be able to do anything but laugh, smile, or throw up endlessly...

Uma T
In that, BATMAN AND ROBIN is actually a much "better" time than the plodding FOREVER simply because all the room leftover to have fun poking at the glorious camp, wherein the Kilmer episode traps the audience within the pontificating villains (and to note, Arnold is far more entertaining than either Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey combined): Could it be this reviewer's penchant for the "so bad it's good" sub-genre or just the fact the plot is simplistic and never tries overriding what director Joel himself seemed to be attempting: a pure rollercoaster ride as opposed to a whirlwind of talky lectures attempting depth where it doesn't belong...

For when it comes to stupidity, BATMAN AND ROBIN is THE GODFATHER and CITIZEN KANE combined while FOREVER is a hyperactive version of those first two Keaton ventures...

By the time right before BATMAN was handed over to the extremely serious and complicated MEMENTO filmmaker and an intense former child actor, the Keaton BATMAN duo were actually regarded as being, at the very least, flawed classics while Joel's double-mess is fitfully forgotten altogether. And check for the ratings for all four movies under the insignia picture directly below.
SCORES for BATMAN FOREVER: *1/2 for BATMAN AND ROBIN * FUN TO BAG ON CAMP VALUE SCORE: ***
CLICK FOR THE REVIEW OF TIM BURTON'S ORIGINAL BATMAN MOVIE W/ JACK NICHOLSON
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