Boiling Acid

Most of us remember the 1995 movie¬†Batman Forever for its wacky villains and cheesy dialogue, but there’s one scene that stands out from the rest.

Early on in the film, Batman attempts to foil an evil plot by his nemesis, Two-Face, to rob a bank. Of course, it turns out that the robbery is merely a ploy to kill Batman. Our hero is lured into a vault in an attempt to save an unlucky security guard, but they become trapped when the door suddenly swings shut.

The vault is then snatched from the building by a chain connected to a helicopter, leaving Batman and the hapless guard inside the vault, now precariously dangling high above the streets of Gotham City. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, safe deposit boxes burst open, spewing forth a suspicious, steaming fluid. The frightened security guard then screams, “Oh, no! It’s boiling acid!”

Wait a minute. Forget about the vault, the helicopter, the terrible acting and the source of the acid. Why is Two-Face filling the vault with boiling acid?

First of all, a criminal mastermind like Two-Face would know that a human body dissolves much more quickly in a base than an acid. This is why both Mexican drug cartels and medical institutions use them to dispose of unwanted cadavers.

Second, there is no apparent reason to boil the acid. Sure, it speeds up the process a little, but it would still take several hours to dissolve our hero, assuming that his suit isn’t acid-resistant, which it probably is. In addition, the liquid in question was likely sulfuric acid, since it is both powerful and easy to obtain, and sulfuric acid boils at 648 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s an awful lot of planning, equipment and energy spent just to make Batman melt slightly faster.

Perhaps Two-Face had something else in mind other than dissolving the Caped Crusader. Boiling the acid would cause Batman to inhale its toxic fumes. But though he would likely suffer severe and long-lasting respiratory damage, it takes significant time Рhours or even days Рfor someone to feel the effects of exposure.

It’s also worth mentioning that submerging someone in boiling water, which is only a fraction of the temperature of boiling acid, results in sudden, instant and even immediate death. Since Batman would die just as quickly in boiling water as in boiling acid, there’s seems to be no rational reason to boil it.

Finally, filling the vault with any liquid, regardless of its temperature or corrosive properties, would certainly drown our hero in a few short minutes. Batman is courageous and resilient, but he still needs to breathe.

So what possible explanation could there be for using boiling acid? What sinister objective was Two-Face trying to achieve? As a well-educated former district attorney, how could he possibly fail to realize the glaring impracticality and absurdity of such an elaborate plan? Apart from producing a suspenseful and memorable scene in the film, there’s really only one conclusion we can make, and it’s explained by the origin story of Two-Face.

Harvey Dent became Two-Face after being driven insane by his hideous facial disfigurement – a disfigurement that he received as a result of contact with sulfuric acid. Like Batman, Dent was a crime fighter, and he paid the price for his cause in the form of a courtroom attack in which he was deliberately splashed in the face with the corrosive substance. This explains why he would use acid as part of his plot against Batman. He wanted to remind our hero of what was done to him and make Batman feel what he felt. Perhaps he expected, and maybe even hoped, that Batman would ultimately survive, but only after being burned and disfigured like himself. This theory is supported by the fact that the bank heist took place on the anniversary of Two-Face’s capture at the hands of Batman.

If this was indeed the case, then this would also explain why he boiled the acid. Two-Face could have suspected that Batman might keep a small oxygen tank hidden in his utility belt, so he likely couldn’t drown him. And maybe, just maybe, he considered that Batman might wear an acid-resistant suit in preparation for just such a scheme, so he likely couldn’t dissolve him. And so Two-Face boiled the acid, ensuring that Batman would certainly and immediately succumb to its unbearable¬†heat.

Unfortunately we still don’t know why the attacker in the courtroom used acid to attack Dent or, more importantly, whether or not it was boiling.