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Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Bat-inee - Batman Forever

Are you ready for another exciting edition of the “Monday Bat-inee”?  I hope you are.  In this edition, we’re changing things up a bit.  In this third installment of the Batman franchise, we’re dealing with a new director, a couple of new villains, a new love interest for Bruce Wayne, and even a new actor sliding into Batman’s cape and tights!

The year was 1995, and I remember being completely obsessed with a song that I kept hearing on the radio the summer before I began high school.  Ironically enough, the song was performed by the group that I featured in yesterday’s blog entry, U2.  Would you like to listen it to it below?  Here it is.

SONG:  Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
ALBUM:  Batman Forever:  Original Music from the Motion Picture
DATE RELEASED:  June 5, 1995

I don’t know whether it was the song itself, or the fact that I’m a sucker for music videos that contain animation, but I listened to this song over and over again.  At one point, I owned the soundtrack album for this movie, and I wore out the tape because I played it way too much.  Between this song and Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”, the cassette didn’t stand a chance!

Now, this song was also responsible for something else.  Because I listened to it a lot, it made me want to check out the movie that the song was featured in.

That movie would be “Batman Forever”, released on June 16, 1995. 

“Batman Forever” marked a significant change in the successful Batman franchise.  The only constant between this film and the previous two was the fact that Michael Gough reprised his role as Alfred, the butler.

Initially, Michael Keaton was set to play the role of Batman for a third time, and was offered $15 million for his commitment...but that was back when Tim Burton was still signed on as director.  Warner Brothers, on the other hand, wanted to change things up a bit.  Although “Batman Returns” performed very well at the box office, the company felt that it could have made even more money than it did.  Warner Brothers made the decision to push Burton back to the role of producer, and bring in Joel Schumacher to direct the film.

Ultimately, Keaton did not mesh well with Schumacher’s vision of “Batman Forever”, and he backed out of the project.  Val Kilmer was then given the part of Batman.  And, when Kilmer was brought on, it affected the casting of another key part.

Initially, Rene Russo was cast as Dr. Chase Meridian, but when Keaton left the project and Kilmer came aboard, producers let Russo go, believing that she was too old to be a realistic love interest for Kilmer’s Batman (even though there was only five years difference between Russo and Kilmer).  The role then went to Nicole Kidman, who previously had auditioned for Catwoman in “Batman Returns”.

The cast was rounded out by Tommy Lee Jones, who played the role of Harvey Dent (previously portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in 1989’s “Batman”).  When Harvey Dent gets acid thrown in his face following the conviction of a crime boss, his insanity gets the better of him, and he becomes the villain known as “Two-Face”.

Working with Two-Face is a real “E.Nygma” of a character.  No, seriously, his name is Edward Nygma, portrayed by Jim Carrey.  And, Carrey’s wacky facial expressions certainly worked in his favour when Edward Nygma became “The Riddler”, after Bruce Wayne rejected his invention that would beam television directly into a person’s brain.  Under his persona of The Riddler, he would taunt police and Batman with riddles and puzzles at every crime scene.

Oh yeah...this film marks the first time that we see the character of Dick Grayson, who many of you know best as Batman’s sidekick, Robin.  Dick is portrayed by Chris O’Donnell, and we learn early on that Two-Face was responsible for the deaths of his entire family in a circus accident.  Since that day, Dick has the urge to kill Two-Face in a classic “eye for an eye” situation.  But when Dick crosses paths with Bruce Wayne, will he have a change of heart?  When The Riddler and Two-Face team up to wreak havoc on Gotham City while trying to discover Batman’s true identity, will Batman come up on top.  And, what role does the mysterious Dr. Chase Meridian play in all of this?

Well, of course, I’m not going to tell you.  I’d be spoiling the movie if I did.  But you know what?  I really liked it.  I know that it wasn’t easy for Val Kilmer to step into a role that many people had associated with Michael Keaton for two films, but I think he made it work.  I thought he was fairly convincing.  Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey made fantastic villains, Nicole Kidman certainly looked and acted the part of a Batman vixen, and Chris O’Donnell made a decent Robin.  I suppose producers agreed if they decided to cast him as Robin once more in a future Batman film!  But, that’s another discussion.

Now that the basic plot and my review of the film have been written, why not talk about some of the interesting bits of trivia that you may not have known during the filming of “Batman Forever”?  Some of these I knew beforehand, but others were surprising.  Have a look.

01 – The film earned $336 million at the box office, making it the second highest grossing film of 1995 in the United States, behind “Toy Story”.

02 – When Michael Keaton dropped out of the project, and before Val Kilmer was given the role, other actors who were considered for the iconic role were Daniel Day-Lewis, Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Alec Baldwin, Ethan Hawke, Tom Hanks, and Johnny Depp.  Wow, come to think of it, Johnny Depp as Batman would have made the film quite interesting!

03 – Some of the sets used on “Batman Forever” were reused from “Batman Returns”.  A notable example is with Two-Face’s hideout, which was originally used in the first disappearance of Max Shreck in “Batman Returns”.

04 – The stunt double for Chris O’Donnell was Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord.

05 – The members of R & B group “En Vogue” had cameo appearances in the movie, playing the roles of streetwalkers in Gotham City.

06 – The teenage girl that Dick Grayson saves in the alleyway was played by “All My Children” star Rebecca Budig.

07 – Jim Carrey was very involved in how “The Riddler” was portrayed, even having a say in how his costumes were designed!

08 – Believe it or not, Val Kilmer was inside of a bat cave when he received word that he won the part of Batman!  He was doing research for the film “The Ghost and the Darkness”.

09 – The various puzzles and riddles that “The Riddler” dropped at every crime scene in the film were designed by Will Shortz, whose claim to fame was editing the crossword puzzles that appeared in the New York Times.

10 – Jim Carrey spent quite a bit of time trying to learn how to twirl a cane.  Unfortunately, he ended up breaking at least twelve while practicing!

11 – Robin Williams was considered for the role of The Riddler, but he refused, still bitter over being used as bait to lure Jack Nicholson into starring in 1989’s “Batman”.

12 – Surprisingly enough, Michael Jackson was also considered for the role of The Riddler.

13 – Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, was not impressed by the costume department’s decision to add nipples to Batman’s costume, nor was he happy with the decision to give Robin an earring.

14 – Chris O’Donnell really did drive the Batmobile in the movie...and he dented it by crashing it into a curb while filming!  Oops!

15 – One of the people who auditioned for the role of Robin was Christian Bale.  He didn’t get that part, but ten years later, he would become the latest actor to assume the role of Batman in “Batman Begins”!

16 – You might not think that Robin’s costume would weigh that much...but it weighed a little over forty pounds!

17 – Mel Gibson was initially considered to play the role of Two-Face in the film, and while he wanted to take on the role, he was unable to because of scheduling conflicts with another film he was working on at the time, “Braveheart”.

18 – Jim Carrey really wanted to shave a question mark into his scalp when he was filming “Batman Forever”, but considering that while he was filming the movie, he was in court dealing with divorce proceedings, that idea was nixed.

19 – Initially, Nicole Kidman was not intended to play Dr. Chase Meridian.  Joel Schumacher was intending to cast her in the role of Poison Ivy.  He decided against the idea, as he thought three Batman villains in one movie would be too much.

20 – During the opening fight scene in the movie, Val Kilmer ended up losing five pounds!  The weight of the Batsuit probably being the cause, as the Batsuit weighed at least ten pounds more than Robin’s costume.

21 – Tommy Lee Jones spent an average of four hours in the make-up chair to apply Two-Face’s costume.

22 – Joel Schumacher resolved never to work with either Jones and Carrey again after a personality conflict between the two actors caused tension on set.  But Schumacher had a change of heart as he would work with Carrey on “The Number 23”. 

23 – Michelle Pfeiffer was asked to reprise her role of Catwoman for “Batman Forever”, but she refused.

24 – Two-Face’s female thugs, Sugar and Spice, were played by Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar.  In the script, their original names were Leather and Lace.

25 – This film is the only Batman film which features Batman swimming while wearing the Batsuit.

Coming up next week, in the final installment of the Monday Bat-inee, we’re going to follow Chris O’Donnell from one Batman film into another one...unfortunately, the film is also the weakest of the bunch. 

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