By Clint Morris | October 17, 2005

If the first two “Batman” movies (1989/1992) were the storm, then “Batman Forever” (1995) is the rainbow at the end of it. After seeing so much dark and doom, it’s also refreshing to see some beaming color.

With Tim Burton and Michael Keaton packing their bags for greener pastures, Joel Schumacher (One of my favourite filmmakers, having made such gems as “The Lost Boys”, “St.Elmo’s Fire”, “The Client” and “Flatliners”) was bought in to continue the lucrative “Batman” franchise. Warner also saw this as a chance to add some color and fluffiness to a franchise that had been heading down a shadowy, very kid-unfriendly, route.

Suddenly, “Batman” was back on the screen – and it was camp, colorful, keyed up, and brimming with stars. To my surprise, the elements seemed to work. Your enjoyment of their mesh depended, of course, on what you like it in a “Batman” movie though.

Val Kilmer stepped in to play Batman, and gave much different performance than Keaton. His Batman was essentially everything Keaton’s wasn’t – an observable burly action hero, confident and assured, comfy in his shoes, and charming, rather than quietly affable. In short, he was a fine, fine, Batman.

This time, Batman takes on a couple of villains: The Riddler (played welcomingly over-the-top by comic superstar Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (played solidly by Tommy Lee Jones). At the same time, he’s also becoming quite close to Dr.Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman, looking pretty), a psychologist trying to get inside the head of the billionaire recluse, and begins to form a partnership with the newly orphaned Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell), who would soon find himself wearing the ‘Robin’ outfit.

Speedy, cool, vivacious and ‘never too serious’ seemed to be the impetus here, and by all accounts; such spur made “Batman Forever” an enjoyable experience. The worst was yet to come though.

Whilst the first disc looks and sounds as good as the previous “Batman : SE” releases, it’s commentary isn’t as compelling. Director Joel Schumacher, though interesting at times, seems to be merely explaining to us what’s happening on screen – things we can already see. Come on Joel – where’s the inside dirt?

Disc 2 is jam-packed with goodies though. OK, so there’s a vintage EPK featurette (press the ‘skip’ button) but everything after that is gold.

“Shadows of the Bat: A Cinematic History of the Dark Knight, Part 5” is just superb. Here, we learn why Burton and Keaton left, how Schumacher got involved, how each of the other parts were cast, and what the studio was hoping Schumacher would turn it at the end of the day. It’s a very interesting watch. Good to see Val Kilmer – unlike Keaton – returned to sit for a new interview for the doco.

The “Batman Beyond” doco covers everything from the music to the sets and the stunt work, and again, if technical insight is your bag – this will fill you up.

Also included on the disc are interviews with the film’s “heroes” and “villains”, Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” music video, and several deleted scenes – which I believe might have been better served if Schumacher had re-cut them back into the movie, for this release.

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