Should I Watch..? 'Batman & Robin'
What's snow special about this?
Batman & Robin is an action superhero film released in 1997 and is the fourth film in the original Batman movie anthology. Once again directed by Joel Schumacher, the film is very much a light-hearted interpretation of the character as opposed to the more dark and Gothic stylings of Tim Burton's Batman. George Clooney appears in the dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman following the departure of previous star Val Kilmer and he is joined by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O'Donnell, Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl - currently, the only time the character appears in a live-action film. Although the film returned a fairly healthy $238 million return, critics absolutely savaged the film with many citing this movie as the one that killed the franchise. The character would remain off-screen until 2005 with Christopher Nolan's brilliant reboot Batman Begins.
Ice shall tell you a story...
A year after Two-Face and The Riddler were stopped, Batman encounters one of his more unusual villains trying to steal some diamonds. Dr Victor Fries - now known as the deadly Mr Freeze - needs diamonds for his cryogenic suit as he is unable to live in normal temperatures after a lab accident in pursuit of a cure for his cryogenically frozen wife. Together with Robin, they prevent Freeze from taking all the diamonds but in the chaos, Freeze escapes and begins to plot his next heist.
Meanwhile, at a Wayne science facility, Dr Pamela Isley works with the deranged Dr Jason Woodrue to produce a deadly toxin. Using the drug Venom on a scrawny serial killer, they are aghast to find their subject bulking up enormously and turning into the monstrous Bane. As Isley and Woodrue argue about the drug's benefits, Isley is accidentally killed but somehow brought back to life as Poison Ivy. Together with Bane, she sets off to seek out the man she holds responsible - Gotham City's very own Bruce Wayne...
Bruce Wayne / Batman
Dr Victor Fries / Mr Freeze
Dick Grayson / Robin
Dr Pamela Isley / Poison Ivy
Barbara Wilson / Batgirl
Commissioner James Gordon
Dr Jason Woodrue
Robert 'Jeep' Swenson
Release Date (UK)
27th June, 1997
Action, Fantasy, Superhero
Worst Supporting Actress (Silverstone)
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Film, Worst Screen Couple (Clooney & O'Donnell), Worst Supporting Actor (O'Donnell), Worst Supporting Actor (Schwarzenegger), Worst Supporting Actress (Thurman), Worst Remake Or Sequel, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Original Song, Worst Reckless Disregard For Human Life & Public Property
Snow what's to like?
If you're a fan of the camp version of Batman from the Sixties but you haven't got around to watching Batman: The Movie then this is the film for you! This is full of colour and energy and a light-hearted comic touch that will entertain anyone under the age of eight. The film doesn't bother with one of those pesky narratives but instead presents a joyous sequence of action scenes punctuated by witty one-liners from Schwarzenegger and an extraordinary level of ham from everybody else. The only disappointment is Clooney in the lead but then again, Batman isn't supposed to laugh so you'd forgive him for not really trying. Everybody else (and I do mean, everybody) is in full-on panto mode.
It's also nice to see Gotham lit up a bit after seeing so many super-criminals either locked up, sent to Arkham Asylum or straight-up killed by the Batman. Why shouldn't they make their city look like a neon corner of Metropolis with huge art-deco statues towering above the citizens below? I think we all agree that Burton took things a bit too far in the end so I understand Schumacher delivering his version of the character, complete with anatomically correct body-suits and extreme close-ups of codpieces and butt cheeks being squeezed into spandex.
- Such was the backlash against this film that not only were plans for a fifth film immediately canned (which would have seen the Scarecrow as the main villain and even brought Jack Nicholson's Joker back as a result of his fear-toxin) but also Schumacher was forced to apologize to fans for the film. Even Clooney has been known to refund people who have seen the film.
- Wrestler Jeep Swenson sadly died just two months after the film's release. He wasn't the only former grappler to appear - former Minnesota Governor and WWF superstar Jesse Ventura cameoed as a guard at Arkham Asylum.
- Schwarzenegger reportedly earned $25 million for his performance which included 27 ice-related puns. He was also billed above Clooney, the second time the bad guy was billed first after Jack Nicholson appeared above Michael Keaton in the original Batman.
- Clooney reportedly quipped after filming that they had successfully killed the franchise - which turned out to be true. He often apologises for the film and called it a "waste of money" although he credits this film for his subsequent success in movies.
Snow what piste you off?
Imagine that you had watched the three previous films. Imagine that you expected a Batman film that was thrilling, dark and offered a contemporary look at some familiar characters. Now picture this garish nightmare playing on cinema screens the world over and how angry you'd be at having been conned out of your hard-earned (presumably) cash. Batman & Robin is an absolute dick-punch of a film, bearing no relation at all to what went before it and instead settles for being a severely toned-down, family friendly pantomime that only pre-teens would enjoy. The characters are universally unlikeable with the exception of Freeze, given a tragic backstory because I assume Schwarzenegger didn't want to play an outright baddie.
Despite their prevalence, the action scenes are awful with the undoubted low-point being a racing scene that has no relevance to the film at all and feels like it goes on for about ten minutes more than it should. Silverstone's schoolgirl sidekick is a country mile away from Hit-Girl from Kick Ass while O'Donnell flushes his career down the toilet with an almost gleeful relish. But my heart goes out to fans of Bane, one of the most accomplished additions to Batman's Rogues Gallery. As Tom Hardy demonstrated in The Dark Knight Rises, it's not an easy role to get right but surely he deserved better than being turned into a dumb piece of muscle? This is the same character that actually defeated the Batman in the comics, breaking his back in one of the most iconic images DC has ever produced. But in this movie, he simply grunts and punches.
Way to go, Joel. Way to go.
Snow in the cold light of day...
Today, Batman & Robin still marks the absolute nadir of the Batman's cinematic career and I'm including his Sixties outing in that statement. This is as low as the character ever got, a chaotic and ungodly mess of a film that has next to nothing to recommend about it. Honestly, I've seen better fan-made efforts on popular streaming sites. This is one of the few films where I actually got angry watching it at the waste of time, money and effort from everybody involved. Watch it and ask yourself 'What the hell did they spend $125 million on?'
Great For: homoerotic subtext, very young children, toy sellers
Not So Great For: the cast and crew, fans of the character, fans of the earlier movies, anyone with an IQ above 60
Ice shall go see something else, then?
Absolutely. Anyone other Batman film you can think of will be better than this dreadful tosh. Even Batman Forever, which is hampered by miscasting and a shift in tone away from Burton's dark vision, is miles better. Of the original series, I can't top the first film - a brave and exciting reinvention of the character, bringing to the big screen the darkness of the comics that revived interest in the character after years in the wilderness. Coupled with Nicholson's electric performance as The Joker and Danny Elfman's stirring orchestral score, Batman remains my favourite. At least, until Christopher Nolan topped the lot with his Dark Knight trilogy.
2005 saw the Caped Crusader brought back to the cinema with the excellent Batman Begins which again revived the darker aspects of the role and introduced Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and Batman. The Dark Knight saw him face off against a reimagined Joker played by Heath Ledger in a career-best performance as well as Aaron Eckhart's magnificent Two-Face. And although it has its detractors, The Dark Knight Rises is a highly impressive film nonetheless - especially compared to this career-killing turd sandwich.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox