Before we begin, I shall point out that this is not an anti-Burton rant. I am not the kind of person that sees this film as poor, because Tim Burton left the film. True, many of the flaws from this movie come from the fact that it doesn’t have the same style and feel as the gothic world of the first two Batman films, but I am actually all for a new director taking over the franchise. Some of the best franchises out there, Alien and James Bond being the best examples, have survived this long, because each director brings something new to the table (even when that something new is Alien: Resurrection which made me want to eat bullets all day long). The problem here is that I don’t think Schumacher understands what makes a good Batman film.
OK, for a start, this film seems a lot more family-friendly. Some big-shot producer obviously wanted the next Batman movie to be more accessible to a wider audience, which meant trimming some of the more violent parts of the previous films. I don’t mind that but I think that Schumacher decided to play it safe and just turn the whole affair into a comedy. There is a place for comedy in Batman, but it is usually a very black type of comedy. Here, we are treated to some horrendous slapstick, the matter not helped by Jim Carrey, who treats the entire movie like… like… well, a Jim Carrey film. I have nothing against Jim Carrey, but I do not want him in a Batman film (especially playing one of the greatest villains in the entire canon). There is also not much of a balance between funny and serious. We have Val Kilmer (not a bad Batman, but he is a little ‘textbook’ Batman to be truly memorable), playing the role of Batman, as it should. Dark, stuck in the past and uneasy when he starts to develop feelings for both Chase Meridan, the love interest, and Robin, the sidekick. However, the end result is this brooding Batman figure stuck in a Jim Carrey comedy, complete with terrible one-liners and Jim Carrey’s pelvis-thrusting dancing. It just does not work.
Schumacher also messes up both of his villains. Obviously not understanding the source material of Batman, he turns to Burton’s movies for inspiration. Not a bad call, but all he seems to take away from those two films is – the Joker is freaking awesome. Therefore, he totally reworks the characters of Riddler and Two-Face, so they become ‘sub-Jokers’. In all honesty, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey don’t necessarily do bad jobs, but they do not belong in this movie. I loved Tommy Lee Jones as the maniacal bad guy, but that is not who Two-Face is – his insanity is much more subtle. Part of me wishes they just brought Joker back from the dead and cast Tommy Lee Jones as the Joker. And Jim Carrey essentially gives you what you get when you cast Jim Carrey as your superhero movie villain. If I watching an action movie that was supposed to be family friendly I would have probably loved the character, but all I see here is a slapstick guy in a green suit dragging the entire movie down.
Then we have Robin. To be honest, that was a tough card to play, as no one really likes Robin. He is the kind of character that doesn’t really work outside of the comics and even then, we prefer the comics without him in them. Only recently has Robin started to get portrayed well (see Arkham City), but back then, it was a suicide card to play. Robin isn’t as annoying here as he is in Batman and Robin, true, but he does seem like a step back, especially when he is basically a glorified hostage. I also didn’t think much of Nicole Kidman here, but I never think too much about Nicole Kidman. My brain has other, much better, things to think about. Like Drew Barrymore, who I wish was in this movie… oh wait!
So in conclusion, this is pretty much a disaster from start to finish. At least Batman and Robin got their villains kind of right (a few puns thrown into the mix, but definitely an improvement from here). I will probably watch this again for cheap Batman thrills, but for the most part, I tend to stay away from this train-wreck, especially when there is so much good Batman content out there.
*NOTE: Not a weekend reader? Please be sure to check out yesterday’s entry by PARLOR OF HORROR – Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead *