Batman Forever: 2 Disk Special Edition DVD Review
PictureBatman Forever is presented in a fairly shiny 1.78:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The detail is spot on, right down to the hairs facial observation and Ghostbuster-like effects and there is no sign of edge enhancement, little softness and no noticeable grain. The colour palette is, well, bright and gaudy. All of the colours are nevertheless well-represented, right down to the neon street-punks and Nicole Kidman's red lipstick. Blacks are obviously solid, although occasionally a little dominant in scenes where they do not need to be. There is no sign of any print damage on the transfer and it is an all-but flawless visual presentation.
SoundWe get two fairly loud, boisterous audio tracks: in Dolby Digital 5.1 and marginally superior DTS. The vocals come coherently from the frontal array (even Kilmer's glib mumblings) and the myriad effects give the surrounds a fair amount to do (including some decent directionality, particularly in the chase sequences that involve machine-guns), but the really noticeable aspect of the audio is the score. However much you may or may not like it (and I personally think it is far too much like the original music from the camp sixties series), it is the most dominant part of the audio offering. Pounding out all around you (but primarily from the fronts and centre channels) if you like it then you will simply love these audio mixes.
ExtrasDisc 1 has an Audio Commentary by Director Joel Schumacher. Right from the outset I have to say that I don't like this guy's voice - his fey, meandering way of speaking is particularly grating to my ears. Of course I am already biased against him because of what he did to Batman but it does not help that he speaks in a way that I personally find irritating. He tries to justify everything from the nipples on the new bat-suit (which do just look out of place) to the new look Gotham City (neon hell). He praises every single actor involved in the production, briefly explaining their characters and the crew-members who brought them to life with various costume designs and makeup. He talks about the deleted scenes and why they were cut and has the gall to say that Val Kilmer was the best Batman (how does that work?), although he is admittedly the better of the two that Schumacher picked to head up his inferior works. Fans of the movie will lap the trivia up on this feature-length commentary.
We also get a Theatrical Trailer
On the second disc we get a whole bunch of extras (in line with the other new Batman Saga Special Edition releases). First up there are seven Deleted Scenes (totalling fourteen minutes of extra footage) presented in varying stages of completion (often with no score, poor sound and unfinished effects). Escape from Arkham shows how Two-Face got out in the first place, Two-Face's Hate is an alternate version of the scene where Two-Face and Batman fight it out on the helicopter whilst arguing about who is the more insane. Beauty and the Batman is just a thirty-second segment where Batman runs into a Hair Salon and gets mocked wildly. Dick's pain sees Chris O'Donnell using Jackie Chan's favourite training toy as it was not intended but does give a little more background into the motivations of the Robin character (and features a Bruce/Batman move which, if done right, would have looked pretty cool in the final cut). Bruce's Dilemma is a huge extra scene where Bruce sits through an insulting news programme that is deriding the Batman and then discusses with Alfred the idea of retiring Batman. The Secret of the Batcave is the scene that can be glimpsed in the Theatrical Trailer where Bruce returns to the cave to confront The Bat and Does it ever end? is a brief moment with Chase Meridian talking to Alfred in a way reminiscent of Vicki Vale's closing lines to Alfred in the original Batman movie.
The 'Riddle Me This: Why is Batman Forever?' Featurette is twenty-three minutes long and is hosted by Chris O'Donnell (Robin). There is lots of behind the scenes footage, plenty of interview snippets with the cast members (Kilmer, Tommy Lee-Jones, Kidman and Jim Carrey - just making jokes), who also get on-screen text filmographies and moments with the crew, including Director Joel 'I wanted to create a living comic book' Schumacher. They look briefly at the origins of Batman (with Bob Kane revealing how Leonardo Da Vinci's designs gave him the inspiration for the character), the gadgets (including the new Batmobile that was apparently based on the very early comic designs) and the story of Forever. There is a bit of repetition (the same interview clips are shown more than once) and too many clips from the final movie but between the brief shots of concept art and the b-roll footage, there is enough here to keep Batman fans watching.
Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight Part 5: Reinventing a Hero is the next chapter in the series started on the first Batman Special Edition release. Amidst numerous movie clips that pad out this twenty-eight minute documentary, we hear about how they wanted to have a new look for the new Batman. They discuss how the second movie was too dark so they wanted something more bright and welcoming (read that as gaudy and comical). I can't believe that all these people involved in the production are capable of being so naïve as to what they did to Batman, they almost all deride Batman Returns as being too dark. In defence they do state that even Bob Kane himself wanted something a little less dark for this third instalment but perhaps all that means is that they should have asked Frank Miller, author of Batman: Year One, the main source of inspiration for the new and excellent - and dark - Batman Begins. That would have saved a lot of time and saved us having to put up with two disappointing Batman instalments. If you want an example of how strange the opinions in this documentary are - the producer compares the style to Saturday Night Fever on acid (?) and I am not entirely sure how this can be interpreted as a good thing. Explaining how they went back to the earlier comics for reference material (which is easy to see from the style) they justify their actions every step of the way (even stupidly comparing Schumacher to Burton) despite the fact that this was the first stage in the downfall of the original Batman Saga. Still, with so many interview comments from all of those involved both on and off-screen, fabulous concept art shots and background info into the production it is a worthy documentary for fans (particularly if you've seen the other parts).
Batman: The Heroes is a ten-minute documentary split into three parts: Batman, Robin and Dr. Chase Meridian. All of the main contributors are back on hand, explaining the background into Batman (that we largely know by now), the origins of Robin and the idea behind Nicole Kidman's part as the romantic interest, Chase. There is nothing much to learn from these small segments but fans are still likely to want to give them the once-over.
Batman: The Villains takes a similar look at the two main villains in the piece (although they shamefully skip over the smaller villain side-kick roles like that of Drew Barrymore). Totally a mere four minutes and split between Two-Face and The Riddler, we again get very little information that we would not already know from watching the movie. They briefly compare the characters to the comic concepts and praise both Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones for creating the best-interpreted comic book characters ever (hmmm, I beg to differ, I think they might have mistaken 'best' for 'worst').
Beyond Batman is basically a forty-six minute documentary that is split into five sections, looking at the production design, costume design, stunts, effects and score for the movie. Taking each section in turn:
Out of the Shadows: The Production Design of Batman Forever, is a thirteen-minute look at the concept art, set design and manufacture and the props created for the movie. They discuss how the streets of Gotham were made less Gothic (duh! Why?) and more like Tokyo (?) and the changes that they made to the Batcave (the hydraulics and technology). There is plenty of background into the villains' lairs as well and fans of the movie will want to give it a look.
The Many Faces of Gotham City takes fourteen minutes to look at the various characters (both big and small) brought to life for this movie. They talk about Joel Schumacher being very 'flamboyant' (i.e. have no taste) and look at the costumes for the various leads (looking in depth at the Batman outfit) and also finally give Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar (Two-Face's girlfriends Sugar and Spice) their moment of glory, although we disappointingly don't get to hear from Drew.
Knight Moves: The Stunts of Batman Forever is a six-minute featurette on the various stunts in the movie - what was done by the actors (very little, it seems), what required stunt-doubles and how they performed some of the mildly impressive feats. Concentrating on one particular scene (where Batman jumps down into the fountain and then spins out of it) this is a vaguely engaging few minutes of stunt trivia.
Imaging Forever: The Visual Effects of Batman Forever is seven minutes long and takes us through the various effects that were required for the movie. Using a combination of early computer technology and small models, you get to see how they created a miniature Gotham and did a couple of the obvious computer effects shots. The car riding up the wall sequence was a particularly bad mistake which poignantly plays in the background as one of the effects coordinators talks about the freedom offered by the development of effects but the fact that this should not result in the scenes going to ludicrous extremes.
Scoring Forever: The Music of Batman Forever takes six minutes to look at the composer Elliot Goldenthal (in interview) and his work for this movie. It's quite a funny little featurette, denying any comparison with Danny Elfman's previous scoring of the first two movies, despite the fact that they sound pretty damn similar - except the newer versions are significantly worse. Goldenthal talks about how he pretended he was a child when scoring the movie and you can clearly tell this from the end result.
Finally we get the four-minute Kiss from a Rose Music Video by Seal, which mostly plays to scenes from the movie, with Seal singing next to a bat-signal. If you like Seal then you'll probably like this addition and it is nice to have for completeness.
VerdictBatman Forever could have been so good. It could have continued the dark dream that Burton started, but instead was left in the hands of the likes of Joel Schumacher. The end result will please kids but leave Batman fans feeling cheated, especially in light of what came before (and what has come now - Begins). Nevertheless, with superior video and audio presentation, along with all the extras you could want (other than perhaps a whole new movie re-shot by Burton), this is a release that Forever fans and Batman completists are sure to need in their collection.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £16.73
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