Batman Forever

Batman Forever (1995)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O'Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle
Extras: Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Documentaries, Featurettes, Music Video

Offering up the third installment to the ever popular "Batman" franchise that saw us through the late eighties to the mid nineties, brought forth a few changes along with a couple of surprises. With Tim Burton, who directed both "Batman" and "Batman Returns" now passing the ceremonial torch of directing duties over to Joel Schumacher, while remaining on the project as a producer for "Batman Forever", gave Schumacher the chance to give the darker images, created by Tim Burton for the previous two "Batman" films, a visual overhaul.

This third film not only introduced us to a new director but also to a change of lead actor as well, with Michael Keaton hanging up the bat-suit thereby clearing the way for Val Kilmer to step in, who does a great job with his performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Now, most of you devoted readers of DVD Review will remember that I am a fan of Val Kilmer, so for me, this was an exciting change, not just because I admire the actor, but because I thought his participation would bring something fresh to the role of the Dark Knight. I will always admire the visionary style of Tim Burton, but I also felt that the timing was right to change the direction of the story and characters within the franchise.

Choosing to reinvent the darkness brought on by Tim Burton in both "Batman" and especially "Batman Returns", director Joel Schumacher added a plentitude of vibrant colors and took a slightly lighter approach to the story that may have in turn upset fans of the previous two "Batman" films, I on the other hand thought "Batman Forever" offered up a terrific throwback to the older sixties series with a uniquely modern twist!

Displaying the goofiness of Jim Carry, who plays the mischievously flamboyant Riddler/Edward Nygma, a performance that could have never been duplicated by any other actor, with Tommy Lee Jones bringing the Two-Face/Harvey Dent character to life, complete with sidekicks Sugar (Drew Barrymore) and Spice (Debi Mazar) who join forces with the Riddler to utilize his invention that gives new meaning to the term "brain drain" to seize control of Gotham City and destroy Batman in the process! Pairing up with Batman is former flying-acrobatic performer, Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell), who is taken under the care of Bruce Wayne after a circus accident wipes out his entire family, leaving the youngster set on seeking revenge on Two-Face, the one responsible for the accident. As with any superhero saga, there has to be a love interest to balance the emotions of the good versus evil formula, enter Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) who vies for the love and attention of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, unaware at first that the two men in her life are actually one and the same. "Batman Forever" also continues the tradition of the story to include Bruce Wayne's butler and confidant Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough) as well as Gotham City Commissioner James Gordon (Pat Hingle) to complete this well balanced addition to the "Batman" franchise. Sure there are flaws, but for me this film was a great all-around guilty pleasure good time!

Warner Bros. Home Video presents a stunning anamorphic exhibition of "Batman Forever" as this eagerly awaited two disc "Special Edition" replaces the bare bones single disc version. Displaying eye-catching pastels and glowing neon that is prevalent throughout various costumes and sets used throughout the film, while maintaining true-to-life natural flesh tones; color saturation takes top honors with this new digital presentation. Deep rich black levels work well to define the overall image without overpowering shadows that highlight every detail present within the lavish sets, including the infamous bat-cave. There is the inclusion of minor dust specs that appear throughout various scenes, but for the most part, the transfer is clean and razor sharp without any distracting compression, leaving a terrific presentation of "Batman Forever".

Sound enthusiasts like myself, will be delighted by the inclusion of a dts track alongside the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which is available with this two-disc special edition of "Batman Forever". Fuelling the sound presentation is some of the deepest bass you will encounter, defining the massive special effects laden scenes while maintaining naturally reproduced vocal tracks. Great use of all available channels with appropriate balance is sure to please and provide you with an awesome sonic experience that easily rivals the best of the best, in terms of sound presentation.

Warner Bros. Home Video has added some great special features to this new re-release of "Batman Forever", starting with a feature length audio commentary from director Joel Schumacher, which is available on disc one along with a theatrical trailer.

On disc two, there is a nice compliment of features including; "Riddle Me This: Why Is Batman Forever?" which offers a good insight of the films comic book origins to final production, hosted by Chris O'Donnell. "Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight (Pt. 5: Reinventing a Hero)" is a superbly informative behind-the-scenes documentary that offers good interviews with cast and crew focusing on discussions involving the smooth transition between directors and the lead role from the previous two films, which even offers input from Joel Schumacher, who would not do the project without Tim Burtons full blessing, as the two directors are friends in real life. Also featured is Bob Kane, the creator of Batman who, during his interview offers his full support to Val Kilmer on becoming the newest Batman. Two featurettes, one titled "Batman: The Heroes" and the other titled "Batman: The Villains" covers the various characters used in this third installment of the franchise.

"Beyond Batman" is a 45 minute documentary focusing on the films production that delves into everything from the production designs, costuming, a behind-the-scenes look into various technical details and stunts, a good overview of the visual effects used throughout the film, to the nice inclusion of how the films score came to be. Presenting the material in separate chapters, this feature will give you a great panorama of the intricate details used in the production of "Batman Forever". A nice selection of deleted scenes is worth a viewing, along with the inclusion of the music video "Kiss from a Rose", performed by Seal, which round out the special features of the second disc of this DVD set.

Looking back at the four previous films from the "Batman" franchise, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed "Batman Forever". The attempt from the creators was to provide a new vision, one which offered a brighter and more welcoming version that still remained true to the comic book. Take for example the introduction of the Robin character; with his background as an acrobatic circus performer who looses his family after a fatal accident, this entire storyline was present in the original comic book. Not many realize that this installment is actually quite true to the original story, offering a more upbeat version, without becoming too campy or slapstick like the early "Batman" from the sixties that we had all come to love during our childhood, when Adam West was in the lead, indeed a delicate balance that I believe was accomplished quite nicely.