Batman Forever 4K Blu-ray Review
Plays like a joke
Batman Forever 4K Blu-ray Review
Riddle me this, riddle me that, who's afraid of the big, black bat?So, this was the last Batman film I saw at the cinema until Nolan took over, thus I helped in its financial success. If only I’d known.
Whilst Batman Returns was a huge financial success, it didn’t earn as much as Batman, therefore the studio wanted a change of direction, Tim Burton was shunted to producer (not that he had much to do with the production) and Joel Schumacher was brought on to direct. And with him there was a massive tonal shift; gone was the dark, brooding and violence, to be replaced with more colour and far lighter tone, the idea to be more faithful to the comic-book look. In this regard, he was successful; the frames do have a comic-book design to them. This, itself, would have been fine, but along with it, the campiness, so synonymous with the 60’s TV show was also drawn into the script. And this permeated all the way through, making the film all rather daft.
Jim Carrey was, at the time, a bankable star and he was brought on board as the Riddler with his madcap, frenzied acting style. This could have worked had it only been him playing as such, after all the Riddler is a madcap character. Unfortunately, and unfathomably, Tommy Lee Jones plays the exact same way as Two-Face, traditionally a more stoic character, and the two together are an unwatchable mess. Val Kilmer as Batman was too young and hadn’t the range nor the depth to portray the tortured soul of Bruce Wayne.
Chris O'Donnell’s introduction as Robin was well handled, but he was too old for the part and was never given time to define the character. And why was Nicole Kidman even in the film as Dr Chase Meridian? This was a character wholly invented for the film as nothing but an expositionary device. None of these characters have any depth or motivation, the acting is bad, the dialogue is worse and no-one comes away unscathed. Then you come to the music, composer Elliot Goldenthal presents a whole new score, that is loud, brash, completely over the top and too far removed from Elman’s iconic themes; just another woeful decision.
The plot of the film is quite clever, if only the suggested undertones had been properly explored. The overarching feeling, though, is that no-one is taking the film seriously; it plays like a joke and that makes it very difficult to get over.
Batman Forever 4K Blu-ray Picture QualityBatman Forever was shot using Panavision Panaflex Platinum cameras on 35mm film and has recently been cleaned-up and scanned at 4K, the result of which has been used for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release. The disc presents a native 3840 x 2160p resolution image in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range (HDR10), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Batman Forever on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
This new scan really injects some verve into the image. Detail is far sharper than ever before, skin texture, clothing weaves (check out the Riddler’s various costumes, the sparkly one at the climax is simply stunning), buildings, furniture, instrument panels; all are clean, crisp and clear.
Whilst the added resolution gives far better definition to the edges, the WCG and HDR really push the visuals; colours are breath-taking. Schumacher bathes his frame in light and colour, reminiscent of comic panels, and it has never looked so good as it does here – greens are prime and vibrant, reds are deep, penetrating and luscious while blues are cool and bold. Check out the neon/black light of the graffiti and the gang make-up when Robin first takes the Batmobile out. Check out how vivid the green of the Riddler’s TV signals is. Check out the red of the Batmobile flames and the blue of its new design. Indeed, each highly lit scene is incredibly well reproduced.
The black level is deep and absolute, hiding some shadow detail, and inviting serious frame depth. The image isn’t as dark as the previous films, but the black level is just as deep. With the white level being just as present, the frame is pushed out too. Check out the blinding sparks from explosions, or the depth of white to clothes or Riddler’s TV contraption or the spotlights in the circus.
Digitally, there are no compression issues, the original source is clean and the grain structure is well maintained giving a decent filmic look to the piece. Another stunning transfer.
Batman Forever 4K Blu-ray Sound QualityThe re-mixed Dolby Atmos track really goes all out to envelop you in the surround experience; right from the opening credits (the swooping of the names sweep right over your head) to the opening heist, with the helicopter flying above, bubbling acid filling below, dialogue coming right at you while the score sweeps around. And it only gets better from here. Dynamically, the track is terrific and always on point. Obviously, the bombastic effects come across with gusto, but quieter moments fare just as well. Bass is well taken care of; the roar of the Batmobile’s rocket engine, the machine guns of Two-Face’s goons, and helicopter blades thumping through the air, all have a significant bass presence. Indeed, bass is thunderous in places, but never outlandish or overbearing.
Dialogue is always clear and precise, sounds very natural and given a little directionality when required. Check out the “God am I” speech, the “I” is a pure delight! The score makes full use of all the speakers placing you in the centre of the action. This track seems to be mixed a little higher than earlier discs, so a slight volume adjustment down might be required in some systems. Other than this, it is a tremendous surround experience.
Batman Forever 4K Blu-ray ExtrasUHD
Audio Commentary – Director Joel Schumacher flies solo as he tries to justify his choices, not sure he does.
Audio Commentary – As Above
Deleted Scenes – 7 scenes.
Riddle Me This – 24 minute EPK feature that is little more than an ad for the film.
Shadows of the Bat, Part 5 – 30 minute documentary on the production of the film looking at tonal shift, design choices and casting.
Beyond Batman – Short featurettes that examine different aspects of the film making process: Costumes, New look of Gotham, Stunt work, Visual effects, and Musical score.
Music Video - Kiss from a Rose by Seal.
The Heroes and the Villains – Video profiles of: Batman, Robin, Dr. Chase Meridian, the Riddler, and Two-Face.
All recycled, of course, but fitting with the film.
Batman Forever 4K Blu-ray VerdictDirector Joel Schumacher took the reins and undid all the good work set up by Tim Burton. His first foray upped the comic book look of the film, it was bathed in vivid colours and sported askew framing but it also upped the camp value; all the characters are over the top, there is little to no substance to the story, and, honestly, it is just annoying to watch. Unfortunately, there was worse to come …
As a 4K UHD set, the actual package is pretty good; the native 4K image is stunning, being detailed, crisp, with incredible colouring and deep penetrating blacks, while the re-mixed Dolby Atmos track is a real winner, being engaging, bass heavy and layered with plenty of 3D surround action. The extras package is recycled but matches the film well. None of this can make up for the film though.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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