Batman Forever doesn’t get enough credit for its subtly ingenious moments. For example, there’s the scene where Two-Face meets the Riddler. It’s cleverly written and staged, so that there’s actually quite a bit of subtext to what’s happening on screen between the characters.
It begins with Two-Face demonstrating the two sides of his mind. Let’s go through those moments one by one.
- We see the statue of a face that is light on the left side and dark on the right side (from our perspective).
- The camera pans down to show that it reflects Harvey Dent’s own half-disfigured face.
- This is then hammered home by the fact that the first words he says are quiet and articulate, “The Bat’s stubborn refusal to expire…” followed by a sudden outburst of anger with the words “…IS DRIVING US INSANE!” This showcases the calm, reasonable persona of Harvey Dent and the psychotic nature of Two-Face.
- There are two women dressed like an angel and a devil, respectively, who offer him words of comfort and encouragement: “Don’t worry, baby,” and “You’ll kill him soon!” They offer him white and black cigarettes and light them in a civilized and a not-so-civilized way.
- And finally, the angel offers him salmon, a soufflé, and other delicious foods while the devil offers him charred boar and other rather distasteful dishes. He even turns his good side forward as the angel tempts him with her food and then turns his evil side forward as the devil tempts him with her food. It’s a nice touch.
Get the picture? In one minute, the scene has really drilled into our heads the dual nature of Two-Face and how the two sides of his hideout represent the two sides of his mind. The left is his good side and the right is his evil side.
The Evil Side
Enter the Riddler.
He comes into the room from the dark side of Harvey’s lair and heads straight for the middle before making his presence known. He excitedly waits for Two-Face to come to him, and Two-Face promptly reacts with fury and pulls the Riddler far to the right, deep into his dark side. This is cluing the audience into what he intends to do. He’s not interested in flipping a coin to decide Riddler’s fate. He’s just going to kill him right then and there. His actions have already telegraphed what he is going to do before he pulls out a gun and prepares to make good on that promise.
Riddler doesn’t really help his case as he makes a crack about Two-Face’s horrifying scars. He’s just egging him on at that point. But when Two-Face points a gun at him, Riddler gets serious. He appeals to Two-Face’s psychotic side. He rightly notes that Batman is the one Two-Face really wants to kill, not him. But then he starts to point out a flaw in that plan. Two-Face is so fixated on murdering Batman that he hasn’t considered what comes next. He is just thinking with his evil side. Recognizing that he is on thin ice because Two-Face still has a gun trained on him, Riddler entices Two-Face with the prospect of humiliating and destroying Batman before eventually killing him and putting him out of his misery.
Riding the Line
As Two-Face smiles and laughs with glee at that idea, Riddler changes his tune and instead of mocking Two-Face’s disfigured side, he says, “I see that sparkle in your left eye.” Then comes the moment of truth as Riddler tells Two-Face he can help him kill Batman, but only if Two-Face spares his life for a few moments so he can reveal his plan. Two-Face relents and, after thanking him, Riddler heads right back to the middle of the room. Notice that he doesn’t go all the way into the safety of Two-Face’s good side. He wants to straddle the two sides of his mind because he is riding the line between provoking him and alluring him. He wants to get Two-Face angry and then focus that anger on a common enemy instead of on himself. It’s quite a tightrope act.
After positioning Two-Face’s two girls in front of two of his mind-control devices, he steps next to Two-Face, again in the middle of his hideout. Riddler is just slightly on the good side and Two-Face just slightly on the evil side, representing their two positions. The Riddler still needs to persuade Two-Face to come to his side.
After goading Two-Face into almost killing him one more time, Riddler finally shows off what his devices can do. He begins draining the brains of the two girls in the good and evil sides of Two-Face’s lair and then attaches a device to Two-Face’s forehead to channel those thoughts into his brain. The framing of the scene makes it clear what the Riddler is doing. He is showing Two-Face and the audience that he perfectly understands Two-Face and he is trying to convince him that they are the same. He tried to do the same thing to Bruce Wayne earlier when he said that they are “two of a kind,” but Bruce saw right through his lies. Two-Face, however, is much easier to dupe. I suppose his dual personality makes it harder for him to spot duplicitous behavior.
After giving Two-Face a taste of his invention, he drops right into the hard sell. He proposes that Two-Face help him steal enough money to fund his plan involving mind control and in return he will help Two-Face unmask Batman and destroy him. As he does this, notice how he keeps going from one side of Two-Face to the other, appealing to both his reasonable and unreasonable sides.
In the end, he’s brought Two-Face back to the middle literally and figuratively. Two-Face is in between the good and evil sides of his hideout and he’s also in a state of mind where he’s open to the idea of teaming up with the Riddler. Because of this, he gives the Riddler an equal chance at life or death by flipping his coin to decide what to do to him.
The scene ends with the flip of Two-Face’s coin, and the last thing we see is the good side of the coin.
So the scene begins by visually and verbally showing us the two sides of Two-Face’s split personality and then having Two-Face push the Riddler into the dark side and threaten to kill him then and there. And it ends with the Riddler using those two sides to demonstrate his power and understanding of what makes Two-Face tick, and then Two-Face flips a coin, which ends on heads, meaning the Riddler will live.
This scene is brilliantly set up so that the visuals complement the dialogue and they work together to demonstrate what is happening in Two-Face’s mind the whole time. We get to see a visual representation of how Two-Face’s mind works and how the Riddler uses that to his advantage to convince him into thinking it’s a good idea to work together. Not bad for a comic book movie. Batman Forever has quite a few moments like that, which have a deeper meaning than one might notice at first. I plan to talk more about the film in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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