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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
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  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
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Batman Forever
Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 122 mins . PG-13 . PAL

  Feature
Contract

With Tim Burton at the helm, the early Batman films Batman and Batman Returns were a testament to the triumph of design over story and style over substance - and the results were two highly popular films. However, with Batman Returns reaching a darker and more sombre tone than even its dark predecessor, Warner shrewdly opted to pursue a different tack and significantly lightened the third and (in this reviewer’s opinion) most entertaining film of the franchise, Batman Forever.

The intervening years have been good to our hero and he has aged into someone with an astonishing resemblance to Val Kilmer. Incurring the wrath of mad scientist turned complete nutcase The Riddler (Jim Carrey), and having to fend off attacks from deranged, disfigured lawyer Harvey Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones), our hero has little time to reflect on his new look. Encumbered with the unremarkable and totally wet Chris O'Donnell, he must do battle with these fiends, reluctantly train a new partner and deal with the lusty advances of sultry psychologist Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). He doesn't seem too upset about this last part...

With Burton stepping back from the director’s chair into production, Joel Schumacher was enlisted to breath smoke and splinters into the new film, increasing the level of thrills and spills and lightening the material significantly. The result sees some interesting inclusions this time around, with a step back towards the campier days of Adam West. The humour, and there’s plenty of it, is ruthlessly self-deprecating and often makes reference to the 1960s television series. The villains are completely over-the-top and superbly over-acted, and what’s with the deliberate lingering on rubber-clad bums as superhero costumes are donned?

A subplot even features the always popular two-person love triangle that was a cornerstone of the first two Superman movies. The lovestruck Chase has fallen for Batman the image, but is less than impressed with Bruce Wayne the reality. Bruce literally has to confess his alter-ego to get so much as a look in.

I can't say I'm a big fan of Jim Carrey's work, but his film-persona (it's always the same, independent of the flick - let's face it) is perfectly suited to the role of The Riddler. Along with Tommy Lee Jones, who rarely gives a bad performance, the two represent the most entertaining combination of villains to grace the cinema franchise. Val Kilmer also does a good job in the title role; the equal of Michael Keaton in terms of dramatic scenes, and pulling off the comedy very nicely.

There are some problems with the film. Nicole Kidman, whose talents are completely under-utilised by Schumacher, gives a rather lack-lustre performance as Batman's one-dimensional love interest. Chris O’Donnell is on another level entirely; his Robin providing only a whinging, whining annoyance at Batman's side. Last, but not least, it seems that Gotham City, along with Beijing and every other corner of the globe, has finally gotten that McDonalds franchise it’s been waiting for. But all in all, the results are great - it's lighter, brighter, funnier, faster-paced, and a whole lot more entertaining than the previous two films. Batman goes pulp, and what a way to waste two hours.

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

Batman Forever is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a single sided, single layer disc. The image is 16x9 enhanced.

With Batman Forever’s change in mood also comes a change in look, and the absence of dark shadowy scenes is obvious right from the outset. Gotham has been transformed from a dark and sinister city into a world of sleazy neon. The architecture of Burton’s Gotham is still there, but a special effects and CGI bonanza has replaced the original dark soundstages. Now we get to fly over, around and through Gotham’s skyline. To let us see the CGI in all its brilliance, there’s light aplenty - no point wasting all those compute cycles on a little mood lighting!

With the increase in light and colour comes a general increase in video quality over both Batman and Batman Returns, with the myriad of colours literally jumping out of the screen. The colour is supported by perfect black levels. In terms of film artefacts, the print used is quite clean with only a small number of flecks throughout.

However, when you pack an anamorphic transfer of a two hour film onto a single layer disc, something’s got to give. On the whole the image is quite sharp and detailed, but at times the image suffers from grain and an associated drop in detail. Some of this grain is obviously an artefact of compression, swimming slightly when the camera pans. On the odd occasion a little posterisation creeps into the smoke and steam.

This said, on the whole Warner have done a reasonable job with the video transfer given the space limitations imposed by the single layer, and the fact that the transfer was completed some years ago. Despite some limitations, there’s nothing in the image that will detract overly from your viewing enjoyment. However, surely Batman Forever represents a candidate for re-release in the future?

In the sound department, Batman Forever emulates its predecessor, featuring the aggressive 5.1 mix we’ve come to expect from the action blockbuster it’s trying so hard to be. The surrounds are utilised to great effect throughout the film, providing fantastic directional effects and an almost continuous level of ambient sound. The subwoofer also gets a continuous workout, adding body to Elliott Goldenthal's dramatic score (Danny Elfman’s theme is notably absent) and exploding during the many action scenes. The results are an immersive sound experience that’ll convince your spouse that all that money spent on home sound equipment really was worthwhile.

In terms of extras, the story is one all too familiar with the Batman discs, and there’s precious little to tell. To be honest, with only a single layer I’m surprised there was room for anything extra at all, but Warner have managed to squeeze in some cast and crew biographies. Just think of the hours of production material waiting on a studio shelf somewhere. Roll on the Special Edition disc...


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  •   And I quote...
    "Batman goes pulp... and gets a whole lot more entertaining."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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