As Bad As You Thought?: Batman and Robin
I have dreaded this day, but from the time I decided to review bad movies on a weekly basis that this day would come. Of all the bad movies this one stands out for the travesty that it is. Upon hearing the title; grown men shudder, women cry and steer their children away lest be be cursed too. That movie is, Batman and Robin. Now I have previously written as to why people love the Dark Knight and this one film takes all of those reasons and poops on them. But as I am a believer in getting the worst over with in a hurry I will go ahead and relive this nightmare and review it for you (my sacrifice for all of you). So here we are the movie Mike Nelson called the worst thing ever: Batman and Robin.
Before I tear the movie apart let me point out it’s good points, because believe it or not they’re there, just ask Jamie Z. First off unlike many terrible big budget superhero flicks (I’m looking at you X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Superman Returns as the worst offenders of this), you see every penny Schumacher had on the screen with big lavish everything. Secondly the scenes where the great character actor Michael Gough plays Alfred are very emotional and well acted, you can see that after three movies he has a true grasp on the character and it shows.Lastly, it has been observed that George Clooney has the ability as an actor to seem wry and removed from the movie that he is in, and in the Bruce Wayne role this serves him well, he is charming, charismatic and witty which are the qualities the public persona of Batman needs. As far as good things go, that’s about all we got.
The movie opens with Batman suiting up in a scene reminiscent of the equally terrible Batman Forever, and then in very dramatic fashion he and Robin take their time as their respective vehicles are introduced in needlessly grandiose fashion. This leads me to wonder if Bruce Wayne has anyone watching the books for him willing to go, “Mr. Wayne how did you spend $200,000 on neon lights and smoke machines for your garage, as you call it?” Anyways our hero rushes off to the museum to battle a new villain called, Mr. Freeze. Upon meeting the powerful whom he will battle for the next two hours in grand and operatic fashion, Batman, the Dark Knight, greets him with a smug smile and a, “Hi Freeze, I’m Batman.”
Wow Batman, don’t strike too much fear into the heart of this superstitious and cowardly criminal. And in their first dramatic battle against this super villain, Batman and Robin…played hockey with his henchmen over a freaking diamond! Good thing they happened to pack their ice skates, er Bat Ice Skates. This scene makes you wonder two things; if Mr. Freeze wants this diamond so bad why doesn’t he just pick it up and carry it off? Secondly, where does he hold recruitment drives for these henchmen? Does he sit in college gymnasiums at job fairs asking prospective employees: “Do you like sub zero temperatures and ice skates? How about singing along with stop motion Christmas movies for my enjoyment? Well sign up today!”
Mr. Freeze is able to get away with the use of his rocket ship, because hey who doesn’t have one of those. This leads to the introduction of the film’s other two villains; Poison Ivy and Bane, because throwing random villains together sells more action figures of course. I have no problem with multiple Batvillains in a single movie; Batman Begins gave us Scarecrow and Ras al Ghul while Batman: Mask of the Phantasm gives us the Phantasm and the Joker, the but story structures of those movies fit those characters, they were not just shoved in for the sake of being there. Uma Thurman is a capable actress in the hands of the right director, unfortunately Joel Schumacher is not one of those capable directors and all she does is rant like a crazy woman with all the sex appeal of a jar of peanut butter.
From Poison Ivy in the Amazon we are whisked back to Gotham for Mr. Freeze’s motivation for stealing diamonds to begin with. He plans on using them to create a super freeze machine to hold the city ransom and using the money to continue his research to cure his wife. This idea just tosses out the window the sympathy and pathos the character has in the comics and animated series. If he needs money for his research why not apply for a research grant? If you are smart enough to build a freeze suit, finding the money from the government or a university should be no problem. If he just feels compelled to get research money from crime why not sell the stolen diamonds? There’s a small fortune for him right there.
And this leads to the last introduction of characters, Batgirl. In the comics Barbara Gordon is awesome. She is smart, sexy, brave, and independent, even when she was crippled she maintained her life as an accomplished superhero. She went on to inspires Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown to also take on the mantle of Batgirl in the hopes of one day living up to her legacy. Currently in the comics Gail Simone shows her as a young woman, who through sheer force of will regained the use of her legs and did not hesitate to put the cape and cowl back on to protect the people of Gotham. I tell you these things so you get the full impact when I reveal to you that in this movie Barbara…well not Gordon here for some reason, is an idiot, a complete and udder idiot. She squeals like a small child whenever she sees her Uncle Alfred (seriously why did the screenwriters think they needed to change her from Commissioner Gordon’s daughter to Alfred’s niece?). She is shocked when Bruce deduces what school she attends even though she’s wearing the logo on her freaking sweater.
From there the movie kind of plods along Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and Bane team up because they have the common goal of….um…being evil I guess. We learn that Barbara Not Gordon is actually a bad girl (*chuckle*). We watch as Bruce Wayne is growing distrustful of his partner because…um,seriously if he is not a good enough to be the sidekick of Batman why did you make him your sidekick? Bruce scolds him for saving his life from Freeze’s rocket exploding and shuts off his motorcycle remotely during a car chase. All along we see the B Plot of Alfred dying and Bruce’s futile struggle to save the life of the man who raised him and played the role of his surrogate father. This plot is by far the most interesting thing in the film, as previously stated Gough acts his heart out in these scenes and Clooney actually gives an effort in acting in these scenes.
Things pick up again when Batman and Robin finally discover Mr. Freeze’s hideout. Geez, the only abandoned ice themed building in Gotham, could that be it? Great job World’s Greatest Detective. They have it out in a laughably bad fight scene with the grunting idiot who is supposed to pass for Bane in this movie, which makes me look even more forward to Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the character next summer.
While Batman and Robin keep bickering like kids, Barbara NotGordon uncovers their secret identities and with Alfred’s help (and no training or qualifications to speak of) joins them as Batgirl and beats Poison Ivy who has easily defeated Batman and Robin (I mean if it was as easy as drowning them and tying them with plants why didn’t she do that to begin with and not bother with the deadly kissing nonsense. Batman gladly accepts her into the fold automatically, when she reveals to them that she is Barbara NotGordon (no crap, I’m sure the World’s Greatest Detective can figure out who you are even you put a domino mask on). And with only seconds to save the city in the thrilling climax they…head home and change costumes? What was wrong with their costumes before, I mean Batgirl’s costume was brand new. Moving along, Mr. Freeze uses the crystals from the Gotham Observatory, because all observatories have crystals that can power freeze weapons. As expected Batman and crew stop Mr. Freeze and reveal to the recording he made of Poison Ivy was plotting against him, because he had a camera on his then of course, ot waitaminute when she said that he was actually being strangled by a plant. He convinces Freeze to turn away from his evil deeds and gets the medicine to cure Alfred, which Freeze conveniently had on him. In the end Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze are cellmates because most asylums for the criminally insane have coed rooms. Alfred is cured and the three heroes run at the screen. Thus ends the agony of it all.
Was this movie really as bad as you thought? Yes. The movie is plagued with horrible problems and the filmmakers seem okay with it. First problem is the tone, notoriously bright and cartoonish. You may say to me, “darknite125, who are you to judge? Batman was not always dark and moody, the Adam West series was also campy.” Fair point, but the definitive Batman is does not partake in camp. Let me explain, the best Batman stories no matter what medium inspire each other. The original stories from Bill Finger and Bob Kane inspired the works of Denny O’Neil, Neil Adams, Steve Englehart, Marhsall Rogers,Alan Moore, and Frank Miller. Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Moore’s The Killing Joke were obvious influences on Tim Burton’s Batman. The film along with the best the comics had to offer were responsible for inspiring the beloved animated series. David Goyer and Christopher Nolan now draw on those same stories for their Batman trilogy and with Goyer being an unabashed fan of the animated series you can tell that’s in there as well. All the while the campy and cartoonish elements are no where to be found in any of this circle of creativity.
Another major problem with this film was the purpose behind it, whereas Nolan, Dini, and Burton set out to tell riveting stories, Schumacher and his crew seem more concerned with selling action figures and toys. Schumacher even admitted that on more than one occassion the studio told him what Bat gadgets to put in the film so they can make toys of it. The film is a nonstop plethora of varying costumes and vehicles and gadgets all set to hit the shelves of a Wal-Mart near you. In my personal opinion the film’s biggest sin is the amount of money spent on a big name cast with nothing to show for it. Arnold Schwarzenegger, receives top billing, and to his credit he is a gifted character actor, if that character is a big brutish guy with a thick accent and he plays the normally emotionally cold and tragic Mr. Freeze in that way. Schumacher casts truly talented performers, George Clooney and Uma Thurman, and gives them nothing to do except make buffoons of themselves. In conclusion if you love Batman, as many of you do, or good movies in general, do not see this movie.