Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Batman & Robin

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/15/05 w/ Additional Edits.

When Tim Burton was selected to do a big-screen version of the Caped Crusader Batman back in 1989, he did his job in creating two successful features with the first one with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton as Batman. 1992's Batman Returns with Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito and Christopher Walken was also successful. When Burton chose to drop out to do more personal projects, he remained an executive producer for the third Batman film entitled Batman Forever with Val Kilmer in the role. Chosen to direct the project was Joel Schumacher who had success with such films as St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys. Also starring Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, and Chris O'Donnell as Robin, Batman Forever was successful though fans of the comic book hated Schumacher's take on the Caped Crusader. Schumacher was selected again to do a fourth one which to this day, is considered to be the worst of the franchise entitled Batman & Robin.

With a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, Batman & Robin focuses on the duo's battle with a couple of new villains, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy while the duo gets help from Batgirl. With Burton no longer involved, whatever was left of the fear presence Batman has was gone. Instead, it's all about the campy style of 1960s Batman with 1990s blockbuster extravagance as George Clooney takes on the role of Batman and Bruce Wayne. With O'Donnell returning as Robin/Dick Grayson along with two of the franchises' mainstay in Michael Gough as Alfred and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon. The casting would only get worse with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy/Pamela Isley, and then-"It" girl Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. In the end, Batman & Robin provides everything that is needed for spewing commentary when fans watch it as if they're in another episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Mr. Freeze is robbing a museum at Gotham with his gang of hooligans on ice as it's up to Batman and Robin to save the day. Freeze's attempt to steal a diamond nearly goes smoothly as Batman and Robin try to stop him, and a rocket though Robin gets frozen as Freeze succeeds in his mission. Batman learns that Freeze's diamond thefts are for a research to cure a rare disease called McGregor's Syndrome that took his wife Nora Fries (Vendela) away. Freeze has frozen her to work on curing the disease in its stages as he needed more diamonds to steal so he can fund his research.

Meanwhile in a lab, a mad doctor Jason Woods (John Glover) has created an experiment to create a super-soldier named Bane (Jeep Swenson) as a scientist named Pamela Isley sees what Woods does as he attacks her, thinking that she is dead only to be revived as a sexpot with poisonous lips as she takes Bane with her. With Alfred starting to ail, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson receives a surprise visit from Alfred's niece Barbara (Alicia Silverstone) who has just left school. While Barbara on the surface might seem like a nice girl, she has a knack for trouble and motorcycle racing which Dick begins to suspect. Bruce unveils a brand new telescope to research space as he is confronted by Isley and during a charity auction, Batman and Robin are introduced to Poison Ivy. That same night, Freeze succeeds in stealing another diamond until being stopped by Batman though Robin's frustration in a lack of equal partnership takes its toll.

Freeze is imprisoned in Arkham Asylum as Ivy and Bane breaks him out to retrieve his diamonds and wife as Batman and Robin learn that he's broken out. Their attempt to capture him fails as they're being seduced by Poison Ivy with Batman realizing her powers. Things at home get worse as Alfred is dying with McGregor's Syndrome as Barbara wants to know a secret that Alfred is keeping. When Ivy tells Freeze that his wife has died from Batman's hands, Freeze decides to take vengeance into freezing Gotham for good. With Ivy disguised as Isley approaches at an opening for the telescope, Bruce learns who she really is as he tries to stop Robin from coming to her. Barbara learns the secret as she becomes Batgirl where she helps Robin and Batman stop Freeze and Poison Ivy. Do they succeed? Will Robin score with Poison Ivy? Will Mr. Freeze find a cure for the rare disease? Do.... we even care at this point?

For many purists and fans of Batman, they know Batman as simply as one thing. A superhero who brings fear to his enemies. This Batman however, doesn't scare you. He doesn't even do anything but make a fool of himself and say the most inane things while carrying a credit card. That is not Batman! Batman doesn't go out, stop for Big Macs, hitting on women, fighting criminals with lame gadgets, and having to breast-feed Robin. NO!!!! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, HELL TO THE NO!!!!!!

The fault shouldn't just totally be on just Joel Schumacher but also screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, the guy who wrote A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. He also wrote such crap-fest as Deep Blue Sea and Lost in Space. Obviously, this guy has not read a single Batman comic book and really doesn't understand the mystique and dark humor that the Caped Crusader has. There's no depth into what Batman does or says, not even Bruce Wayne does anything except go to parties with his girlfriend, mope on Alfred, and be an overbearing dad to Robin. The dramatics of the script feels contrived and uninspiring as it gets overshadowed by bad puns, one-liners, and worst of all, the lines that the audience will know is coming. This is by far one of the worst screenplays ever conceived.

If the script was bad enough, nothing could get any worse in the film's meandering, bloated direction from Joel Schumacher. Not only does he miscalculate in what the audience wants, he presents things and ideas that shouldn't be on a franchise film like Batman. There's fireworks explosions and slow camera action in every action scene and there's a feeling on what is expected. There's nothing going on in the film and the fighting is just.... yawn. Ok, the campy style of the 1960s TV show was entertaining and all but in this film, it just goes way too far. Do we really need batskates, surfboarding, motorcycles, car chases, and all of this into one film where nothing really happens?

It gets worse as when Schumacher tries to take a break from the action, he aims for drama and comedy where it feels flat. The comedy aspect of the film is just silly and only funny in a very bad way. The drama with the subplot of Alfred dying doesn't give much to the story and we know he's going to live. We just don't care. The childhood image flashbacks that Bruce has is supposed to be sentimental but comes out in a very contrived, cheesy way. Nothing in the story works or directing works. The subplots of Barbara doing her thing, Ivy's attempt to destroy the world for her plants, and Freeze wanting to save his wife is really a distraction. The main story is supposed to be about Batman and Robin trying to find equal footing but there's not much going on. Robin gets all bitchy, Batman gets all possessive, they fight over Ivy, and in the end, decide to become partners. Wow...

When the third act arrives and there's a chance to save the world, whatever intelligence is left in the film has vanished into a contrive moment where Batman tries to get Mr. Freeze to be good. It's pathetic. Schumacher should've been shot after making this film and there's never a moment where the film works in any way, even in the technical area. The production of the film feels like it's shot in a studio where it just feels lifeless. The whole area in the exteriors feels like a cartoon where even in the car chase scenes, it's like watching toy cars chasing each other. The interiors don't work either since it comes off in a bloated way. The film's production design by Barbara Ling is just awful in what Schumacher wanted in got while Stephen Goldblatt's cinematography is just off-the-wall with excessive color lighting that is unnecessary. And the costumes by Ingrid Ferrin and Robert Turturice that features nipples on the Batsuits where Schumacher has an excuse to have butt shots and nipple shots in the suits. Ugh!!!!!!!! Oh, Batman has a new Batmobile, it was like the last one. Lame.

Anyone who watches the film closely will definitely see errors and there's many of them. The sound dubbing is awful on a few parts where throughout the entire film, it's mixed way too loud, even if you turn your TV down. The editing by Dennis Virkler doesn't do anything to the film in its overlong running time of 130-minutes plus a scene that is badly edited where Robin is in a pool and suddenly, the film rewinds as he is stuck in the pool. That is some very bad editing. The film score Eliot Goldenthal really does nothing to the film only to know what's coming along with its lame theme. Then, we have the film's awful soundtrack featuring one of the Smashing Pumpkins' worst songs ever and an awful ballad from R. Kelly for Gotham City. (in singing voice) Oh, I love Gotham City, My body's calling!!!! Please buy my new album!!!!! I need to beat my case!!!

Tracks from R.E.M., the Goo Goo Dolls, Jewel, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Moloko, Soul Coughing, Underworld, Eric Benet, and Me'Shell Ndegeocello add nothing to the film at all since it's all merely used for commercial reasons.

Then there's your cast and ok... what else is there to say? They all sucked!!!!! They all should've gotten a Razzie Award for worst ensemble cast. Ok, we have supermodel Vendela being stuck in a tank and Vivica A. Fox as a wannabe squeeze for Mr. Freeze. Next. Oh, we have former pro wrestler turned former Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura in a cameo. There's also Coolio and Nicky Katt in the bike racing scenes. Ok... The worst character to come from this and the previous film Batman Forever was a character named Gossip Gerty played by Elizabeth Sanders who just does nothing but blabs and blabs. Ugh... Bane is just a terrible character who just acts like King Kong without the brains and breaks things. This was Jeep Swenson's last role and months later, he died which is sad but this is what he'll be remembered for? For shame. Elle MacPherson plays Bruce Wayne's new girlfriend and does nothing but look pretty. Ok. John Glover goes overboard as a mad scientist, he's not funny, he's not scary. He's just stupid.

Pat Hingle does nothing but be idiotic as Commissioner Gordon, where's Gary Oldman when you need him? Michael Gough does nothing but acts like he's in constipation throughout the film as he gives a very uninspiring performance. Michael Caine was better as Alfred since he actually makes Alfred not only cool but is the moral guide for Batman and actually gets to kick some ass Just get the kid who played the young Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins in this movie and he'll just out act everyone.

Now we go to the main cast. Ok, Uma Thurman is a great actress but what was she thinking when she did this and The Avengers? Oh, $$$$$. Thankfully, she would redeem herself with Kill Bill but imagine if the Bride was in Batman & Robin and was going up against Poison Ivy and Batgirl. Hell, let's add Halle Berry's Catwoman into the mix. It would be done in five seconds as the Bride wins victorious with her Hanzo sword. Thurman is a walking joke throughout the film with her awful, big red hair, overly-done costumes, and does nothing but say awful one-liners in a bad noir-like female voice. Then in her fight scene with Batgirl, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad!!!!!! Ok, everyone has been found guilty and is forced to live in fear of the new Batman. Uma, since you've done Kill Bill, you're free to go but remind yourself to not do things like this again.

Alicia Silverstone is just awful as Batgirl/Barbara Wilson. She not only gives out bad one-liners but also some horrific acting. I had a crush on her during the Aerosmith video days but when I saw this film on TV, it was over. She does nothing to the film but attract young horny boys but they would be totally disgruntled in the end. After the wonderful Clueless, she was definitely poised to be a star but what has she done since that was relevant? She's done nothing and just became another "It" girl who fell and fast too. Sorry, she is guilty and she should be punished. Chris O'Donnell is annoying as Robin and does nothing but pout and whine and give out some awful one liners including the first line of the film, &#147I want the car, chicks dig the car". Shut up!!!! He went on to do a small part in Kinsey while has done some good early work and stayed out the spotlight. He can go with a bit of dignity but he's going to have to wear the Batman/Robin symbol to remind himself of his sins.

George Clooney may have the chin to be Batman and he's a great actor but he is probably the last guy you would expect to play Batman/Bruce Wayne. He's not bad but the lines he's been given and the way his character is written forced Clooney to pretty much, sleepwalk throughout the entire film. You can tell that he isn't into it and even in some dramatic moments, he comes off in a very lazy way. He does what he can do but he probably doesn't think he was right for the role at all. He at least can walk away with dignity for the fact that he knew that he sucked as the Caped Crusader. The film's worst performance is really no-contest and that honor goes to the current Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold just basically brings out some of the worst one-liners and puns that is ever said in any film and when he actually, really tries to act. It's just hilarious because it's so bad. He's not even funny when he tries to be or even when he's trying to be intimidating, he's not scary. He's just a stupid big man wearing a stupid big costume. Sorry but it's time to vote this Governor out!!!!!!

When Batman & Robin was released in the summer of 1997, it was expected to be this massive blockbuster hit but poor reviews and mediocre box office numbers helped sunk the entire franchise. Making things worse just as the film was ready for release, plans for another Batman film was in the works. During an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Adam West who played the TV Batman said that he was up for the fifth to play Uncle Batman. Whether it was a joke or not, fans of the Caped Crusader had enough. Warner Brothers in the end decided to give the franchise a break as fans were ready to kill.

To this day, Batman & Robin isn't just regarded as the worst film of the Batman series but a reminder of how idiotic Hollywood can be into handling a franchise. What made things worse when the film came out was the commercialization of it where McDonalds was promoting the film and it really got to the point that Batman had become a joke. If the Batman of now would appear in Batman & Robin, that entire cast would be scared to death while Alfred would die a more horrible death by Michael Caine's Alfred while Gary Oldman's Gordon would beat the living crap out of Hingle's Gordon. Kids shouldn't watch this film because it insults their intelligence. No one should see this film except for camp value. Nothing in this movie works and people will probably say, it's only a movie. No it's not, it's a clip of everything that is wrong with Hollywood films that are still being continued. It doesn't even deserve to be called a film or a movie, it doesn't even go as far as being called a snuff film. It's just an exercise in pure garbage.

Joel Schumacher Films: (The Incredible Shrinking Woman) - (D.C. Cab) - (St. Elmo's Fire) - (The Lost Boys) - (Cousins) - (Flatliners) - (The Client) - Batman Forever - (A Time to Kill) - (8MM) - (Flawless) - (Tigerland) - (Bad Company (2002 film)) - (Phone Booth) - (Veronica Guerin) - (The Phantom of the Opera (2004 film)) - (The Number 23) - (Blood Creek) - (Twelve) - (Trespass)

Batman Films: (Batman (1966 film)) - Batman (1989 film) - Batman Returns - Batman Begins - The Dark Knight - The Dark Knight Rises - (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) - The Lego Batman Movie - The Batman (2022 film)

© thevoid99 2012


Chip Lary said...

Honestly? The first Schumacher Batman movie (Batman Forever) disappointed me more than this one. That's because it was such a come down after the second one. After that I wasn't expecting much of anything from the 4th movie, so as bad as it was, it didn't disappoint me as much.

thevoid99 said...

I actually kind of liked Batman Forever when it came out. I was 14 when I saw it. I would see it now and I think it's an alright film.

I just despise Batman & Robin because it didn't feel like a movie. It tried so hard to be all things and it fucking sucked. It's one of my shortlist of the Hall of Shame.