Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Very Cool Moment in a Very Bad Movie: Bruce Wayne Comes Face to Face With His Darker Half

In light of Christopher Nolan’s massive success with the Batman brand, I find it interesting to look back at where the franchise was just before he came on board.  After Batman Returns proved a bit too dark for mass audiences, Warner Brothers took the directing reigns from Burton and handed them over to Joel Schumacher.  They hoped he’d be able to take things in more lucrative direction.  He actually managed to do just that with 1995’s with Batman Forever.  He then turned around and killed the franchise, and by extension the modern superhero film, with 1997’s Batman and Robin.  Both films are equally bad, but the former wasn’t a total loss. There was a very memorable scene filmed for it that ended up on the cutting room floor.  If nothing else, it proves that Joel Schumacher’s vision for the character wasn’t totally execrable.

In a deleted scene from Batman Forever entitled “Secret of the Batcave,” an emotionally distraught Bruce Wayne comes face to face with, and ultimately embraces, his destiny.  In the film, Bruce had decided to hang up the cape and cowl in a bid to stop the young Dick Grayson from following down a similar path.  Later on, a bullet wound to the head leaves him with amnesia.  In order to help Bruce through his new found crises of faith, Alfred prompts his master to enter the Batcave and confront a deep seeded childhood fear.  Once inside, Bruce stumbles upon his father’s journal.  The journal contains an entry that leads Bruce to believe that he was indirectly responsible for his parents’ death.  At that very moment, a giant bat emerges from the darkness to remind him of his true mission in life.

“Secret of the Batcave” closely mirrors the “Dark Side Cave” sequence from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.  It also resembles a series of panels from Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.  They showed a very young Bruce Wayne confronting a bat in the dark caves beneath Wayne Manor:  

Panels from Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

The giant bat is obviously rendered by animatronics instead of CGI.  A wise choice, as it actually gives Val Kilmer something visible and tangible to react to.  There are close-ups of its face, as well as a circular pan that reveals its full size and wingspan.  Its approach, which is aided by the presence of a giant spotlight that shines from behind, is menacing.  Had I seen this as a child, I would surely have been frightened.  It’s both spooky and undeniably cool, two elements that have always been key to Batman’s appeal.  It’s truly a shame that it didn’t make it into the final film.  Below, I have embedded two versions of this scene for your viewing pleasure. One is the unaltered version, while the other is a remastered version done by independent filmmaker Yousef Al-Mujeem.  Enjoy.

Batman Forever (1995) - Deleted Scene 1 by Amigo29_90

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