Batman & Robin
Batman & Robin 1997
I decided to watch this as part of the ipc’s Shitfest 2013 so keep an eye out for a slightly different version of this review over there. When Batman & Robin first came out it was pretty anticipated. While Arnold Shwarzenegger wasn’t the most obvious choice for Mr. Freeze, he did at least look the part in the trailers, somewhat. I wish I could remember what my initial reaction to the movie was, but if I had to guess I would say that I enjoyed it but also noticed a few things that weren’t quite right with the movie. The puns that crept into the last movie have steamrolled into this one full force. The action became more cartoonish, and the neon visuals were bigger and more colorful. This movie seemed to have taken on a life of its own, and when all was said and done, it almost no longer resembled Batman outside of the costumes.
From the start of this movie, the casting choices were some of the biggest question marks. Batman went from a still fairly young looking Val Kilmer to a much older looking George Clooney while Robin was still played by Chris O’Donnell. And I have to say that George Clooney is by far the worst Batman or Bruce Wayne in the entire Batman movie series. The entire movie, he never once felt like he was playing Batman, he felt like he was playing George Clooney. At the core of Batman is the fact that he is really a tragic figure, a dark hero, and yet Clooney can never seem to quite get rid of a slight smirk in the way he delivers his lines. Whether he’s arguing or in a more dramatic moment, there’s always the hint of a sly smile on his face like he’s about to make some quippy remark. Arnold Shwarzenegger was also a poor casting choice, taking on the “dramatic” role of Mr. Freeze after his origin story had been redone so masterfully in the animated series. But instead of giving him the pathos that he deserved, he was a musclebound pun delivery device bent on stealing diamonds to power his freezing devices, spending his lair in an ice cream factory and forcing his minions to sing the Freeze Miser song from Year Without a Santa Clause. And finally Alicia Silverstone as Barbara Gordon, sorry just plain Barbara. I don’t think they ever mention her last name since they made her Alfred’s niece instead of Commissioner Gordon’s daughter. She didn’t get much screen time, but she also never gave much screen presence. Whether she was using her computer genius skills, her competitive motorcycle racing skills, or her advanced martial arts skills, she always acted like a pouty teenage girl.
Since I did mention Alfred I do want to point out the one thing this movie almost got right. Michael Gough has been the one constant through this four movie Batman run as Bruce Wayne’s butler and surrogate father even though he’s never been given a whole lot to do. This movie finally throws him a bone and Gough handles it nicely. All the scenes with Alfred in this movie have the right amount of drama, none of the puns, and are great to watch. It’s too bad that it had to be placed in this movie where everything else is a complete joke which makes these more serious scenes feel out of place. I also choose to blindly ignore the completely ridiculous moment where Alfred appears in the Batcomputer Max Headroom-like and reveals that he had already made his teenage niece a form-fitting rubber Batsuit. I really don’t want to know where the filmmakers thought that he managed to get her measurements from.
As for the villains, as with many later sequels, there are more than just the one villain. Aside from Mr. Freeze, there is also Poison Ivy and her henchman Bane. This version of Bane is a far cry from the Bane of the Dark Knight Rises. Here he’s basically a roided out zombie. He only speaks in one word sentences and follows the commands of Poison Ivy unquestioningly, even though there’s no real explanation as to why he would take orders from her, she never even has a moment where she uses her pheremone dust on him. I suppose it could be explained by the fact that he was initially created to be sold to other countries to create super soldiers so I suppose it would be an added benefit if they were highly suggestible. Though as it’s presented I would almost think that to defeat him, you could just tell him that you’re the one giving him the orders now. And Poison Ivy herself is also an odd concept. She gets tossed into a pile of various chemicals and survives along with the ability to control plants. But that part of her concept is never really used throughout the movie. Instead they give her poisoned lips as her only real ability. While she does populate her lair with massive amounts of plants, she’s never really seen controlling them. As a scientist studying plants it’s more likely that she developed formulas to create quicker growing plants. That’s also made more likely since she meets her demise at the hands of one of her beloved plants. She also has her pheremone dust that drives people wild, yet it’s never shown as coming off of her body, she either uses a powder puff, or it comes from a leaf decoration on the palm of her hand. And if that leaf is supposed to be a real leaf growing from her hand, it totally looks more like a fabric leaf that’s part of her outfit.
Poison Ivy is the cause of the major conflict between Batman and Robin in this movie, and nearly all they do once she shows up is argue with each other in a real sibling rivalry sort of way. It never feels serious, instead it feels much more childish, like everything else in this movie. I believe this movie was also noted for its big budget effects and set designs, but in every scene where something is frozen, it always looks like rubbery plastic rather than solid ice. Especially during all the moments where the “ice” can be seen wiggling around like a piece of rubber. This movie is just hands down a mess from start to finish. From the repeat of the opening butt and crotch close-ups, only double this time, to the final image of them running to the camera for no reason it’s a completely childish, pun-filled disaster of a movie. It’s like they wanted to go back to the Adam West days of Batman, except they keep trying to deny the fact that it’s actually a comedy, so there’s all the perceived humor, and yet none of the fun. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.