Batman Begins v Batman Forever

In the luminous green corner stands Batman, Robin, The Riddler, Two-Face and Nicole Kidman’s cleavage. In the very dark corner (though not as dark as The Dark Knight’s corner) stands uh, Batman. And his beginnings. Which is the better film? Read the arguments and decide. Was that intro over the top? I can never tell!

Ross McG: Batman Begins

You’ve changed things… Forever

Where do we… begin? Let me take you back to the mid 90s, when a young actor called Christian Bale missed out on a role in a Batman movie. Luckily for him, that role was Robin and that movie was Batman Forever. A decade later, he would have the chance to finally suit up in a real hero’s outfit, and there wasn’t a rubber nipple in sight…

Batman Begins and Batman Forever have only one thing in common – their titles both start with the same word. Otherwise, these two movies are gritty chalk and very cheesy cheese.

Begins examines the human condition and the dark criminal underbelly, Forever mentions ‘drive-thru’ and ‘holy rusted metal’. There is nothing wrong with light-heartedness (and a man who dresses up as a bat clearly has issues), but somehow Gotham’s dark knight just responds better to a more sombre touch.

Can I change this Katie Holmes for a Maggie Gyllenhaal, please?

Can I change this Katie Holmes for a Maggie Gyllenhaal, please?

Forever is not without its charm -watching Jim Carrey chew and then spit out scenery as the Riddler is often fun – but overall it is a pretty messy watch. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face is underused while Val Kilmer is overused as the caped crusader, forever (excuse the pun) to be remembered as the Lazenby Batman. Nicole Kidman’s slutty psychologist is just another pointless character in a pointless film. Chris O’Donnell as Robin is, well, Chris O’Donnell as Robin.

While Batman Forever was the first Batman movie to have five people on its poster, Batman Begins was the first Batman movie to focus on uh, Batman. And Bale does a marvellous job, putting across that tortured vibe a lot better than even Michael Keaton, who, while a great Bruce Wayne, mainly just looked confused. Strangely, it is the first hour of the film, before the dreaded ‘I’m Batman!’ declaration, that is strongest, as Wayne searches in the wilderness for the tools with which to fight his foes.

Batman Begins, like its tougher bigger brother The Dark Knight, is far from perfect – its action sequences are never as good as they should be, something Christopher Nolan took great strides in remedying second time round. But the director delves into the heart of Bruce Wayne and fleshes out a complex character, whereas with Forever, Joel Schumacher merely took the first step towards Batman And Robin. Yet, without his missteps, there would have been no need to make a film like Batman Begins. And although not as good as Begins, Batman Forever does have a cracking theme song…

Ross McD: Batman Forever

If knowledge is power… then a god Am I!!!!

‘Why so serious?’ If I may quote the late, great Heath Ledger, why so serious indeed? Bob Kane’s comic wasn’t called Schindler’s List, Sophie’s Choice or Philadelphia – it was called Batman, and it’s about a guy who dresses up as a bat and fights criminals with equally bizarre costumes and monikers. Sound like fun? Yeah, it’s supposed to be. If I wanted a drab crime thriller, I’d go for one of John Grisham’s several hundred films – I want colour, gadgets, quips, enthusiastic baddies and a movie that’s actually fun to watch.

Now don’t get me wrong – I like Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan’s done a great job at the helm (in fact, if you skip over to my top 100 list, you’ll find The Dark Knight in the top ten, no less). But if you ask anyone – yes anyone – who the most famous Batman is, chances are they won’t say Bale, and they won’t say Keaton; they won’t even say Kilmer, and by God, they certainly won’t say Clooney. They’ll say West. Adam West was the best, and it’s not just coincidence that it rhymes.

Some people talk about ‘camp’ Batman like it’s a bad thing, when in reality it is him at his most awesome. The dark stuff is all well and good and everyone appreciated what Frank Miller did for the franchise. But who can honestly say they weren’t disappointed when Batman’s fisticuffs failed to produce a single SPIFF!!!, a paltry POW!!! or even a measly MASH!!! Okay, so Batman Forever doesn’t quite contain the exalted visual sound effects, but its Gotham is certainly closest to that of West’s golden age.

Forever hammers Begins baddie-wise. Ra’s al Ghul? Is A Girl, more like. He’s pretty much just your bog standard ninja, and in this age of internet memes, I have had my fill of those. And the Scarecrow? He’s got a sack and a can of mace. My mom carries that around when she walks the dog. Tommy Lee Jones’ OTT Harvey Two-Face and Jim Carrey’s over-the-OTT Riddler are the kind of nemeses a comic book hero should face: colourful, over-elaborate, and not afraid to ham it up.

Ever see Shay Given and Chriss O'Donnell in the same room? Thought not...

Have you ever seen Shay Given and Chris O’Donnell in the same room? Thought not

Let’s look at the supporting cast – I’d have Nicole Kidman’s cleavage over Katie Holmes’ lopsided face any day. Rachel Dawes may be a fancy lawyer, but would she think to use the bat-signal as a beeper for some late-night bat action? Would cheek-chewing bleak Bale even dish it out? It’s the car, right? Chicks love the car. Can the Tumbler drive up walls? Nope. As for Robin, you may not like him but he is as much a part of the Batman canon as Batman himself.

Holy rusted metal Batman…? – that’s called a joke. Need I remind you that Batman is a comic? From the Greek komikos, of or pertaining to comedy?

And the late Pat Hingle knew his place as Commissioner Gordon; there are enough superheroes. Gary Oldman’s Gordon is only short of donning an identity-hiding costume, taking bullets for the mayor and saving Batman’s life…

(Go to 5m00 for perhaps the most powerful image in the entire Batman series… and 5m40 for its greatest quote)


Begins: 82 %, Forever: 18 %


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