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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Batman Forever (4K) (Blu-ray)
Batman Forever (4K) (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // June 4, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $41.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 12, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

By the time 1995 rolled around, Michael Keaton was out of the Bat-suit replaced by Val Kilmer. Tim Burton was no longer directing (though he was one of the producers on this film) and Joel Schumacher was behind the camera and calling the shots. Some big changes were made in this third film in the series, and not all of them were for the best.

As to the story? Well, it's all about former District Attorney Harvey Dent, now Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and Edward Nygma, now The Riddler (Jim Carey). See, Two-Face blames Batman (Val Kilmer this time around) for the accident that scarred his face and left him disfigured and so he wants revenge. To do that, he's starting essentially committing random acts of terrorism around Gotham City. The Riddler, on the other hand, was once in Bruce Wayne's employ but has since turned to the dark side, using his computer skills to create a device that will allow him to pull off a literal ‘brain drain' on the citizens of Gotham!

While all of this is going on, Bruce, who is plagued by his parents' deaths, falls for a lovely doctor, a psychologist named Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). Elsewhere, a circus performer named Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell) loses his parents to Two-Face, becomes Wayne's ward and subsequently his crimefighting partner, Robin.

One of the film's biggest problems is that it no longer gives Bruce Wayne any sort of dark edge. You've got to be slightly crazy to dress up like a bat and fight crime and in the first two movies, that was at least partially reflected in Keaton's performances and in the way that Bruce Wayne was written. Here, Batman is sanitized a bit, and his alter ego isn't quite quirky enough. That's no fault of Kilmer's performance, per se, but more so in the way that the character is written. Even if he's plagued by the death of his parents and ever so slightly brooding, it's just hard to buy him as dangerous or properly unhinged. Unless we're talking about the Adam West incarnation, Batman should be a little bit scary, even to the good guys, and that doesn't come across in this movie.

There are other issues. Two-Face doesn't get very much backstory of character development, he's good one day, accident happens, and then he's evil. There's no real progression. On top of that, Chase Meridian brings very little to the story, appearing only as the token love interest. The plot gets a slight twist from her presence in that she has a thing for both Batman and Bruce Wayne as separate entities, but it doesn't really end up amounting to much.

As to the acting? Well, Kilmer brings a different take to the character than Keaton brought, which is fine and all, but he's just not as interesting to watch here as Keaton was. He's not a bad Batman, but he's not a great Bruce Wayne, coming across as smug and not all that likeable. Jones channels Nicholson's take on The Joker for his interpretation of Two-Face, chewing all the scenery he can and taking things really, really over the top. Unfortunately, where The Joker was interesting and, yes, even a little scary Two-Face is neither, he's just goofy. Speaking of goofy, Carey's turn as The Riddler is just that, albeit in all the right ways. As Edward Nygma he's awkward and geeky, as his alter ego he's over the top and flamboyant, bringing an interesting sense of humor to much of the film. Not all of the bits work, mind you, but he's not a weak point in the picture and is at least entertaining to watch. Chris O'Donnell isn't great as Dick Grayon/Robin, but he's not terrible either… he's just sort of there. Both Michael Gough and Pat Hingle return as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon respectively, and they're as good as in their roles here as they were in the past two films. Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, Jon Favreau, George Wallace (as the Mayor!), Don 'The Dragon' Wilson and an uncredited Ed Begley Jr. all have small roles in the picture as well.

Schumacher's direction is erratic. There are scenes with a lot of energy and with a lot of visual flair and there are scenes that fall flat. The movie is all over the place, inconsistent in tone and feel. It brings darkness to the proceedings only occasionally, and brings in more of the camp factor that clashes with anything more cerebral that might have been going on here. There's enough superficial spectacle and big budget set pieces to amuse, but nothing that has any lasting impact. The end result isn't a complete disaster, but neither is it a rousing success.

The Video:

Batman Forever, like its predecessors, comes to 4k UHD with an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p presentation framed at 1.85.1 on a 100GB disc with HDR 10 enhancement. This new transfer provides a pretty substantial leap in quality over the older VC-1 encoded Blu-ray from a few years ago. Not only is there considerably more detail here but there's much better depth and texture as well. Colors look excellent, this film is quite a bit more colorful than the two Burton films that came before it, and the bolder, brighter colors really pop on this presentation. Black levels are inky deep while shadow detail is outstanding, there are no problems with any crush here at all. The image is pristine in that it shows not a trace of print damage, while still retaining some natural film grain as you'd expect. Skin tones look perfect throughout playback and contrast is fine. Really, this is an exceptional image, fine detail looks outstanding not just in closeup shots but throughout pretty much the entirety of the film. Say what you will about the quality of the movie but it is very nicely shot and quite glossy and the visuals absolutely benefits rather immensely from the upgrade in picture quality afforded by the higher resolution and color grading.

The Audio:

English language tracks are provided in Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. This is, as you'd probably have guessed, a pretty action-intensive movie and the surround activity that the Atmos track provides is stellar. Dialogue is never less than crystal clear while bass response is deep and powerful, but properly levelled so as not to bury the performers at all. The score sounds excellent, there's a ridiculous amount of depth and audible detail to all of the instrumentation present in the recording. Action scenes really come to life quite nicely here, rear channel activity is near-constant and there's plenty of channel separation evident throughout.

Dubbed options are provided in French (Canadian), German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish and Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and in Chinese, Spanish, Czech and Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

Subtitles are offered in English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Swedish and Thai.

The Extras:

Extras on the UHD disc itself are limited to the archival commentary track from director Joel Schumacher. It is, to be fair, an interesting talk. Schumacher takes us on what is essentially a scene specific walk through of the making of the picture. As the movie plays out he offers up lots of insight into what it was like working with the A-list cast as well as what some of the supporting players brought to the project. He gives plenty of credit to different crew members, talks about the sets and the score and he discusses the stunts. There definitely could have been more detail here as he really just sort of glosses over working with Kilmer specifically, and you know there were probably some interesting stories there, but overall it is a decent track.

The included Blu-ray disc, which uses the new transfer, carries over that same commentary but also carries over the rest of the extras from the previous Blu-ray release. This includes Riddle Me This: Why Is Batman Forever?, a twenty-three-minute piece hosted by Chris O'Donnell from 1995 that basically a vintage promo made to hype the movie before it hit theaters. We get clips from the film, some behinds the scenes footage and some reasonably fluffy interview snippets with Kilmer, Carrey, Jones, Kidman and producer Peter MacGregor-Scott.

Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga Of The Dark Knight Pt. 5: Reinventing A Hero is a twenty-nine-minute segment that is primarily made up of interviews with Schumacher, Kilmer, O'Donnell, MacGregor-Scott, Carrey, Jones, Kidman, Michael Gough, actress Elizabeth Sanders Kane (who just so happens to be Batman creator Bob Kane's wife), writers Akiva Goldsman, Janet Scott Batchler and Lee Batchler, executive producer Michael E. Uslan and, last but not least, production designer Barbara Ling. This covers a fair bit of ground including how and why this third film took a noticeably lighter tone after the two Burton films, the casting of the picture, the promotional blitz and wave of merchandise that followed in its wake, the visuals that are seen in the film and how the film was received when it originally hit the big screen. It's well-done and quite interesting.

If character profiles are your thing, check out the ten-minute Batman Forever: The Heroes (which focuses on Batman, Robin and Dr. Chase Meridian) and the seven-minute Batman Forever: The Villains (which looks at The Riddler and Two-Face). If they're not, well, you can skip them, nobody will fault you for that. More interesting and worthwhile is Beyond Batman, which is a forty-six-minute five-part featurette that includes the following segments: Out Of The Shadows: The Production Design Of Batman Forever, The Many Faces Of Gotham City, Knight Moves: The Stunts Of Batman Forever, Imagining Forever: The Visual Effects Of Batman Forever and Scoring Forever: The Music Of Batman Forever. The chapter titles give you a pretty good idea what each one covers, but either way, these each go into a good bit of detail about their respective subjects and shed quite a bit of light on what was involved in the more technical side of bringing this movie to completion.

Warner Brothers also throws in just under fourteen-minutes' worth of Deleted Scenes (Escape From Arkham, Two-Face's Hate, Beauty And The Batman, Dick's Pain, Bruce's Dilemma, The Secret Of The Batcave and Does It Ever End?) that are worth checking out if you haven't seen them before. Rounding out the extras on the disc is a music video for the track Kiss From A Rose by Seal, the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

This release also comes with an insert card for a Digital HD download version of the film and is packaged with a slipcover.

Overall:

Batman Forever has its moments, but it is far from a great film and it lacks much of the mood and atmosphere that made the two Burton films that came before it as interesting as they turned out to be. Regardless, it has its moments and its fans and those fans will absolutely appreciate the perfect picture and sound quality offered by this 4k UHD release. There aren't any new extras here, but everything from past releases has been carried over. Those who are not already established fans of the picture might want to rent/stream first, but if you're someone who enjoys this film, this release is easy to recommend based on the presentation quality of the feature.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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