Batman & Robin [retro review]

“Ice to see you!”

The Scoop: 1997 PG-13, directed by Joel Schumacher and starring George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman

Tagline: Strength. Courage. Honor. And loyalty. On June 20, it ALL comes together.

Summary Capsule: Very possibly the worst superhero flick of all time comes about as Batman gets funky.

Justin’s Rating: Even worse than the Batusi (“Why doesn’t Batman DANCE anymore…”).

Justin’s Review: Many are the woes cast upon the world through the slimy fingers of Joel Schumacher, yet none so egregious as to inflict mortal wounds upon anyone who would watch his ultimate masterpiece, Batman & Robin. Since its release, B&R have joined other flicks like Battlefield Earth to become the modern big-budget blowouts that are penned in the history books as not just being bad, but being so spectacularly bad that future generations will develop time travel technology just to send nuclear bombs back and rid the world of all of us, one and for all. Darn futuries. I hate them so much.

I can’t give this movie any semblance of a normal review, seeing as how it’s not really a movie, but instead just two hours of flashing lights and booming music that ended up giving me a migraine both times I saw it. Yes, both times. The first was the unfortunate movie hop experience I went through when I saw Speed 2, got so disappointed that I felt I was entitled to another movie for free. So I hopped into this, and God laughed. The second time was for review purposes, which began with me already shrinking into fetal position knowing the pain to come, and my beloved chirping cheerfully that she “kinda liked” Batman & Robin when she saw it, way back when. Before you stone her to death, just know that her watching this with me made her repent of that statement a thousand-fold. I think she had a rash of some kind when we finished.

As nothing redeems B&R in the least, here instead is a short list of its most mortal sins:

1. Further Defamation of the Batman Franchise.

In the canon of superheroes, Batman has always been in the top three of most fans for many reasons. Instead of possessing superpowers, he’s merely a really rich guy with a great body who moonlights as a cowl-wearing detective. He’s dark and tortured, which appeals to a lot of teens and single lonely fellows for some reason. And he’s got a cool car.

So the biggest mystery is why the entertainment industry seems hell-bent on turning Bats into a sideshow freak display. Both the campy 60’s series and the two Schumacher productions take a flaming pee on this beloved character, culminating in B&R’s Batman. He’s no longer mysterious or interesting, but strictly a costume for hire that shows up at action scenes, throws a few punches, uses a few gadgets and is the foil for villains’ derision. Oh yeah, and apparently now he’s some sort of leather fetishist, wearing kinky outfits with bulges and nipples that do nothing for his dignity.

2. Joel Schumacher.

As both a director and a film producer, Joel is less concerned with making good movies than creating big spectacles. I’m not saying it’s been all bad, as he’s had a couple of wins (such as The Lost Boys), but after witnessing his lack of restraint in Batman & Robin, there needs to be a law passed forbidding him to get near another movie set as long as he shall live. His directorial style seems to be focused on overloading your senses with so much brightly-colored crap that it beats you into submission. Lord knows that he’s not concerned with an intriguing story or reasonable conflicts or a focus on the characters instead of the lavish sets he’s constructed.

3. Across-the-Board Horrible Acting.

Ye gods, I don’t know where to begin here. How about with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze? Take a washed-up action hero, coat him in blue sparkly paint, shave his head bald, and give him a clunky outfit that features two globe-things that look suspiciously like boobs… then add a non-stop barrage of cold-related puns. And when I say non-stop, I mean non-freaking-stop. The guy can’t spit out a sentence without it referencing cold or ice or snow in some way.

It doesn’t stop there, however. George Clooney’s Batman is dull and he reverts to the old Clooney acting mannerisms of shaking his head when he talks and tilting his head down while looking up like a wounded puppy dog. Chris O’Donnell’s Robin is petulant and shrill, as he tries to work up some good old-fashioned teenage angst, but ends up being that kid down the block who has no friends for a very good reason. Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy does the whole I-love-plants and seduction dance, which is off-putting and boring. She’s supposed to be a highly desirable woman, but has such ridiculous fashion (such as wearing her hair as horns, or gigantic eyebrow-thingies) that no guy in their right mind would lust after her. Alicia Silverstone does a stint as Batgirl, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s actually getting younger as time goes on. She looks and acts like a four-year-old who got into mommy’s costume chest.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the gigantic steroid freak Bane. As Ivy’s muscle man, he goes around saying one-word, one-syllable sentences in a Tor Johnson style: “CRUSH”, “DRIVE”, “PAIN”, “SCRIPT”, etc. It’s 1950’s B-movie stupid.

4. Way, Way Too Much of Everything.

Batman & Robin is incapable of toning anything down. The grossly neon sets do less of a job of impressing you as reminding you of adequate amusement park ride scenery. Bright colors and bright lights abound, rendering any attempt at subtlety useless. While this bombards the eyes, even worse is the constant score that pounds your ears into submission. It’s not a good score, but it is a loud one, and it never really stops. I hate films that feel that they can never cut out the music for any scene lest you stop being emotionally manipulated by the score and instead have to depend on the acting itself for that.

Too many heroes: three. Too many villains: three. Too many dumb plot lines: Ivy wants to save plants from extinction (hur?), Freeze wants to cure his ailing wife, Alfred the butler is dying, Batgirl likes street racing, Robin feels like he’s not a true partner, Batman’s dating some girl who’s trying to get him to marry, Freeze wants to steal diamonds to build a super-freeze ray, and so on. It covers lack of quality with far too much empty quantity.

And so on. And so on. It’s a comic book movie where the filmmakers obviously didn’t understand what makes good comic book stories good, but instead lightly steal elements to give a superficial comic book experience. One of the most sucky movies I’ve ever had to go through, Batman & Robin is never allowed in my house again.

If not for Alicia Silverstone, this would be the gayest thing ever. It still might be.

Intermission!

  • This is one of three movies to feature two future United States Governors acting in the same film: Jesse Ventura, elected Governor in Minnesota in 1998, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, elected Governor of California in 2003. (The other two films were Predator and The Running Man. All three of featured Ventura and Schwarzenegger.)

Groovy Quotes:

Gossip Gerty: You must be new in town. In Gotham City, Batman and Robin protect us… even from plants and flowers.

Robin: I hate to disappoint you but my rubber lips are immune to your charms.

Mr. Freeze: You’re not sending ME to the COOLER!

Robin: I need a sign that you’ve turned over a new leaf.
Ivy: How about “slippery when wet?”

Mr. Freeze: Tonight, hell freezes over!

Poison Ivy: Come with me. My garden needs tending.

Robin: I want a car, chicks dig the car.
Batman: This is why Superman works alone.

Mr. Freeze: Ice to see you!

Poison Ivy: Just what I had in mind. Everything dead on earth, except us. A chance for Mother Nature to start again. Behold, the dawn of a new age. My mutant plants have the strength of the deadliest animals. Once you have frozen mankind, these babies will overrun the globe, and we shall rule them, for we will be the only two people left in the world.
Mr. Freeze: Adam and Evil!

Robin: It’s the hockey team from hell!

Mr. Freeze: In this universe, there’s only one absolute… everything freezes!

Mr. Freeze: Follow the numbers, Batman, for they are the harbingers of your doom.

Mr. Freeze: Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well. For it’s the chilling sound of your doom.

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17 Comments

  1. Can I say I liked B&R?
    I was taken in by the neon lights, the action sequences and the one liners.
    I was also on Holiday in Florida at the time and perhaps the 90-Degree-in-the-shade-melt-my-pasty-white-british-arse temperatures got to me.

    Mostly it was because I was 12 and I’d seen nothing better.

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