Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, John Glover, Elle Macpherson, Vivica A. Fox, Vendela Kirsebom, Elizabeth Sanders, Jeep Swenson
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Expectations: High, but also incredibly low. I’ve been looking forward to watching this one a lot.
On the general scale:
On the B-Movie scale:
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate different things. Philosophy, screaming into a pillow, and shitty movies all spring to mind initially, and while I’d love to say that Batman & Robin brings all three of these pastimes together, alas it only touches on the final entry. So yes, Batman & Robin is a shitty movie, let’s just get that out of the way. You agree, I agree, we all agree… but what I’m here to tell you today is that Batman & Robin rises above its inherent shittiness to create a very over-the-top, very comic book film. Looking back on this initial series of Batman films, it’s clear they are simply big-budget versions of the campy Adam West TV show, and this is never more clear than in Batman & Robin.
Where this quality is somewhat subdued or obscured in previous Batman films (especially Burton’s), Batman & Robin presents itself immediately as the trashy film it knows itself to be. Most other shitty movies would make you sit through 90 minutes of mediocre, trying plot until you get to that realization, so you should only be blaming yourself for your bad Batman & Robin experiences. Anyway, it opens with a “suiting up” montage complete with close-ups of Bat-Asses and Bat-Crotches, and then proceeds into a lengthy intro battle with Mr. Freeze where our caped crusaders eventually hit buttons on their utility belts that make ice skating blades pop out of their boots, which of course leads to Robin playing hockey with Freeze’s minions. The action quickly moves into space (yes, space, as in no one can hear you scream) and we’re treated to a very James Bond style intro complete with Batman & Robin surfing down from space on the exploded doors of the space pod’s escape hatches. After a scene like that, how can anyone but a 12-year-old boy take this shit seriously? Yet there are numerous serious reviews of this film floating around. Lighten up, punks, this one is directed strictly at the fun-lovers, just like the Batman of yore.
Oh, but Will… it might try to be fun, but it’s such a piece of shit! True, I won’t argue that it’s not a piece of shit, but not fun? A film with Arnold constantly spouting one-liners such as “Let’s kick some ice!” is not fun? A film with a computerized, stuttering Max Headroom version of Alfred is not fun? A film with Robin pulling rubber lips off his real lips is not fun? Oh, I beg to differ Internet consensus! And don’t forget that this was all written by Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman! If only he had saved some of his shitty puns for use in A Beautiful Mind!
My only real beef with the film is the casting of George Clooney. He’s awful, and there had to have been a better choice out there. My first thought was, of course, Arnold, but the resulting awesome of having Arnold as both Mr. Freeze and Batman would be too much for the world to handle. Not only would the film cause people’s heads to literally explode from the sheer amount of greatness they’d be witnessing, it would also be a film comprised completely of one-liners, and thus dangerously depleting the one-liner reserve fund. Will Smith was on the top of his game in 1997 with the release of Men in Black, and I would love to see a black Batman. Not Will Smith, not at all, but the idea of Will Smith punching Mr. Freeze in the face and saying, “Welcome to Gotham!” would have been worth it.
OK, I lied, I have other beefs. The Batmobile is fucking ugly, as are the new costumes (but not nearly as ugly as the new, new costumes that début during the finale of the film). The use of Bane is fucking ridiculous. I remember reading the Knightfall storyline, and I don’t remember much about it, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a mindless dope that did whatever someone else told him to. I’d look it up, but I’m gonna hold off until I see the new Nolan film. Batman & Robin also has a million and one characters, with virtually none of them receiving development that creates a compelling storyline. Mr. Freeze’s quest to save his wife is noble, and I always enjoy an evil character blindly obsessing over one good deed so much that he does unspeakable harm to everyone around him, but even that isn’t as emotional or deep as it could be.
Joel Schumacher returns in the director’s chair and he seems a little overwhelmed. His camerawork is a lot lazier and less inventive, even if there’s still a few good sweeping shots that showcase some skill in moving the camera and blocking scenes. Alicia Silverstone’s intro is a great example of this, with the shot following her as she runs through the doors of Wayne Manor and into the arms of Alfred. Schumacher’s Gotham is largely the same as it was in Batman Forever, but this time around the city is much more expansive as a multi-leveled city of the future. I’d say it was a “metropolis,” but then all the DC fanboys would get their tights in a twist. It also brings back the old-timey cars from the Burton era in a very minor way, but I appreciated the blending of visual styles to create a distinct Gotham. The neon is back too, and it looks even more neon than before. I know it bothers a lot of people, but I liked it.
And let’s not forget the fly-ass, slow jam Gotham City by R. Kelly that closes out the credits. Batman & Robin may be shitty, but I loved the shit out of it. Set your sights to fun and roll with it. It’s not a good Batman movie by any stretch, but it delivers the fun consistently to those that appreciate a Batman from comic books before Frank Miller took everything down the path to darkness.
Thanks to Mr. Freeze the interminable heat has been quenched, and the path is open to the world of ICE. Let the festivities begin… tomorrow!