Chills and thrills: will Gotham City be put on ice? George Clooney is Batman as the dark knight battles his greatest threat yet: cold-hearted Mr. Freeze (Schwarzenegger) and venomous Poison Ivy (Thurman). Batman has more than Gotham City to protect: the youthful eagerness of crimefighting comrades Robin (O’Donnell) and Batgirl (Silversone) puts them frequently in harm’s way. New very special effects include a wild sky-surfing sequence and Freeze’s outrageous ice-blasting arsenal. It’s state-of-the-art excitement from out Batfamily to yours.
Batman and Robin 5.5
eyelights: George Clooney. that moment between Bruce Wayne and Alfred.
eyesores: its lame dialogues. its crappy one-liners. its overstuffed cast of characters. its artificial look. its campy, b-movie quality.
“Let’s kick some ice!”
More is always more, right? Since ‘Batman Forever‘ was a huge production pitting two heroes versus two villains, resulting in a minor box office improvement over its predecessor, ‘Batman Returns‘, well, naturally it only made sense to the studio to amp it up in the series’ fourth (and, unbeknownst to them at the time, final) installment, ‘Batman and Robin’.
Thus this 1997 exercise in extravagance and excess was born.
‘Batman and Robin’ is more of the same, with Joel Schumacher continuing to reduce the series to a modern take on the Adam West TV show – except with slightly less camp than ‘Batman Forever’ and MUCH worse one-liners and dialogues. This picture is SO unfunny and clichéd, that even if it was designed to be tongue-in-cheek it is nonetheless utterly indigestible.
Again, Schumacher’s modus operandi was style over substance, starting with an opening sequence that’s filled with butt and crotch shots, as Batman and Robin suit up – after which they just stand around posing while they wait for the Batmobile to prep up. WTF. And why do Batman and Robin have nipples (but not, as we would come to discover -and decry- later, Batgirl)?
Again, it starts with an action sequence: There’s a conflict with Mr. Freeze, who’s trying to steal some diamonds from a museum. Upon his arrival, Batman comes through the roof and slides/surfs down some winding structures. You know, like Disney’s ‘Tarzan’ did. Then he and Robin are attacked by hockey players. So they knock their feet together and out come skates.
Mr. Freeze leaves in a monstrous, impractical vehicle with huge spikes on its front (which obviously plays up the caricature that Schwarzenegger had become at the time). He later rockets away with Batman, telling the latter that he’ll leave him to freeze to death in space. Um… meanwhile, Robin is climbing the side of the rocket, as its rocketing skyward.
Then they surf down from the rocket on platforms that were built into it for whatever reason – after Mr. Freeze, who’s gliding down on wings.
And this is just the beginning!
The picture adds Poison Ivy and Bane to the mix, with Poison Ivy becoming Mr. Freeze’s collaborator and Bane becoming her driver and gopher. No joke. Here Bane, who breaks Batman’s back in the comics, is just a grunting idiot who does Poison Ivy’s bidding. And then there’s the addition of Barbara, Alfred’s niece, who comes to the mansion and will eventually become Batgirl.
Thankfully, this time the cast tones it down slightly. Slightly.
- George Clooney replaced Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne/Batman, when the latter was forced to decide between the gawdawful ‘The Saint’ and this mess (um… good choice?). Well, Clooney’s got the voice for it, but he looks cock-eyed in the Batsuit, for some reason. At least his Bruce Wayne looks great and has a personality. Clooney wasn’t at his best here, but he’s a much-needed improvement over his predecessors.
- Chris O’Donnell returns as Dick Grayson/Robin, and he does okay with what he’s given. Which, thankfully, is not much.
- Alicia Silverstone shows up as Barbara Wilson, and she pouts her way through it. She’s okay, but her performance doesn’t distance her from ‘Clueless‘s Cher enough.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger is terrible in the beginning, and gets mildly better later. But he looks absolutely stupid in his full Mr. Freeze armour. Who designed that piece of crap? And did he have to have a gun? Oh, forget that question: it’s Arnie. And because it’s Arnie, he also has one-liners – except that all his lines pertain to ice in some way. It’s so corny; it’s eye-rolling stuff. Um… who greenlit this?
- Similarly, Uma Thurman totally stinks up the screen as as a “scientist”: not only are lines absolutely stomach-churning (she was given grotesquely cheap and unsubtle sexual innuendo-filled speeches), she over-emphasizes everything. EVERYTHING. And, as Poison Ivy, to add to the misery, she has this terrible accent. Why does she even have one, suddenly? Man, Thurman’s awful here – as awful as the worst of the lot in ‘Batman Forever’.
- Bane… well… whoever (it doesn’t matter under all that latex) played Bane had nothing to do but grunt and wander about like a reject from WWE. Le sigh.
Yeah, the cast and characters are a winning combination.
God, did they ever scrape the bottom of the barrel for this picture:
- Mr. Freeze recharges his suit with diamonds. Of course he does.
- Poison Ivy makes an appearance at a charity fundraiser which was set up by Bruce Wayne to draw Freeze out, and uses pheromones to captivate the crowd. When the men bid on the women they like, Poison Ivy becomes a huge draw: the sum is so high that Batman has to pull out a Bat Amex to pay for it. A !@#$ Bat Amex!!!! Sigh…
- Poison Ivy breaks into a street gang’s lair and they’re all fluorescent – the kind of flashy crap that makes the ’80s look good.
- Batman and Robin chase villains down a huge statue/monument in their respective Batvehicles. They’re riding down a frickin’ statue, for god’s sake!
- Poison Ivy breaks Freeze out with the help of Bane. Cornered, they escape by jumping 500 metres down into a river – without sustaining any injuries.
- Barbara opens and breaks into a secure message that Alfred was sending his brother Wilfred, discovering in the process all about Batman and Robin. Then she breaks into the Batcave. Seriously, not only is she untrustworthy, but the Batcave is the least secure place in the world – a staple of the series, admittedly.
- The ending looks like it was shot in a large warehouse, with three Batvehicles riding down ever so slowly, for no reason (other than perhaps that they didn’t have any room for a proper arrival int hat warehouse). Then we get a fight with three heroes vs three villains. It sucks because the outcome all depends on technology; I mean our three Bat-heroes have to huddle around a computer to get satellites to rechannel the sun’s energy to defreeze Gotham. No joke. It’s patently absurd and far too techie.
Unlike its predecessor, however, ‘Batman and Robin’ has a noteworthy scene, a touching moment in which Bruce is by Alfred bedside, telling him that he loves him. It’s touching, but between the crotch and ass shots, the nipples and the general homo-eroticism, I wonder if this scene was meant to be a proxy for gay couples in a similar situation. I mean, Bruce even gives Alfred a peck.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. None whatsoever. I’m just wondering what the intention was. At the very least, it’s nice to see tenderness between men on the silver screen – especially in 1997.
Beyond that, though, ‘Batman and Robin’ is such a ridiculous production that Gotham noticeably looks like a maquette, fight scenes have cartoon sounds in it, and people and things are clearly pulled on ropes, even if we don’t see them, as the motion is completely fake. It’s really the antithesis of what a comic book fan would want in their superhero flick.
Where Burton was dark, Schumacher is bright and flashy, a contrast impossible to ignore or consolidate. ‘Batman and Robin’ may not be as campy as ‘Batman Forever’ was, but it’s also a great companion to ‘Showgirls‘; it still feels like a b-movie on a big budget. Sadly, for Warner Bros. and Schumacher (but not us), the picture was nowhere as successful as its predecessors.
There wouldn’t be a ‘Batman and Robin and Batgirl’ movie with four villains in it.
What a loss.
Date of viewing: April 23, 2016