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BlokeBusting the Essentials #98: Batman & Robin

Batman and Robin

#98: Batman & Robin

Or

The Dark, Dark, Dark Night Before The Dawn

Ok. This film has quite a few things that we can talk about, right off the bat (no pun intended). I’ll try to keep from jumping around too much, since I’m sure you already know what I’ll be bringing up. So this review will be a little different. I’m going to try and review it as if the last 20 years haven’t happened. This film is VERY much a product of its time and I think it needs to be viewed as such. So without further ado, here’s my take on this piece of Batman history.

First Impressions

This film was not one that I really cared about seeing at the time. I don’t recall if I’d seen the first instalment beforehand, though I’m fairly confident that I’d seen Batman Returns & Batman Forever. However, given that I was just under 10 years old when this one came out, I was clearly their prime audience. Well, that’s not true. I still don’t know who their audience was supposed to be, though I have a hunch that if I’d been about 6 years older I’d have been more interested in certain parts of the film. I remember not hating this film when I first saw it. I wasn’t really invested in the characters, I kinda enjoyed Arnie as Dr Freeze (mostly because he was a one-trick character that slotted into the film setting perfectly) and I didn’t mind Clooney as Wayne. But now that I’m older, a little wiser and way more invested in film, I have a few things that REALLY bothered me.

Wacky Sound Effects Are NOT COOL!

A major issue I had with this film is just how cartoon-y they tried to make it. Yes, that was the way comic-book films were made back then because comic-books were still seen wit the stigma of just being nerdy and childish. But this film was really bad about this. And I mean awful. The fights are filled with Power Rangers style moves where the punches/kicks CLEARLY do not hit their target and apparently at least 2 flips are required by law in every fight.

So how do we distract from some of the worst choreography I’ve ever seen? Let’s put some of the loudest punching sounds you can find in there. Poison Ivy has a vine “whip” that’s clearly a piece of rope dyed green with some tissue paper attached? Let’s Indiana Jones it up! There’s even a part near the end where Robin falls into a pool. He comes up for air but would be annoying to deal with in the fight scene, so let’s just reverse the shot (that we use again later for when he finally breaks free of *insert-possible-reason-for-being-stuck-underwater-in-post* after another minute of fight passes) despite the fact that anybody watching knows that water doesn’t do that in real life.

Logic? What Logic?

Even for a comic-book film of the time, this one just throws its hands in the air, says “Screw you logic, I’ll do what I want!” and just goes insane. As a comic-book fan, I’ve enjoyed the stories they tell and the ways they work in extraordinary abilities that the characters have. Bruce Wayne has spent years training and perfecting his fighting and gadgetry. Dr Freeze got mutated, Poison Ivy got…mutated. Bane got……. you get the idea. But even with that suspension of disbelief as a standard, this film also asks that you believe the following:

1) Robin can apparently breathe outside of a capsule at 30,000 feet with no gear (when Dr Freeze wants you to think that a human heart would freeze, which is totally false unless it’s outside of the body already).

2) Gotham has statues on the sides of buildings that have to be at least 50 stories tall. We’re talking MULTIPLE Statue Of Liberty size statues.

3) Poison Ivy and Bane (a man who has many tubes coming out of his head and is about 7 feet tall) arrived at an airport in Gotham wearing Casablanca style trench-coats and wide brimmed hats, had a photo taken with such clarity that it had to be taken by a man standing in front of them using an old-school camera with a giant flash bulb and nobody says a bloody word until something weird happens.

4) Robin is a good character. Because this film gives us nothing to back that up. He’s whiny, he’s sexist (yeah, yeah, of the time. It’s still messed up) and he’s only really any good at ice skating or flipping back to his feet.

And that’s along with the basic idea that things like sky-surfing without parachute from 30,000 ft and then scrapping along a roof will result in no injuries are totally possible, don’t worry about it. Even for its time, this film asks too much of everyone in the audience.

The Costumes

Yep. These costumes exist. I’m going to say 4 words and then move on. You may take from them what you wish, but they are essentially all you need to know about the costume design in the film:

Bat Nipples and Butts.

Poison Ivy

This character has the potential to be awesome. Even without relying on special effects (which, thankfully they did not), the persona of Poison Ivy is one that makes her one of the most loved villains in the entire Batman comics. And they decided to both bring her into this film, where the writing is as lazy as I’ve ever seen, & have her be portrayed by Uma Thurman. I have nothing against her myself (She’s awesome in Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction) but Poison Ivy she is not. And teaming her up with Bane, who actually looks exactly right but everything else is just wrong, might have worked if Freeze wasn’t in the film. So yeah, just badly done.

Credit Cards Suck

Fair warning here. I’m about to link to a Nostalgia Critic clip from many years ago when he reviewed this film. It has some swearing in it, which I try not to do in my reviews, but I think it perfectly sums up one of the dumbest things in the entire film. And he doesn’t even point out that before the thing in question, the film STOPS DEAD FOR A MINUTE AND A HALF while Poison Ivy has a show-stopping entrance to the party. It might have been warranted if this was our first look at her, but we’d seen her in action twice before now. Anyway, here’s the clip. If you don’t want to watch it, that’s fine. I shall say only this: Bat-Credit Card.

Please Mast Bruce, just leave the card in the cave tonight…”

The Diamonds In The VERY Rough

Before I hand you over to Bubbawheat for his take on this film, I want to cover a few things that this film did that weren’t that bad. They don’t exactly make up for everything else, but still.

– George Clooney is actually a very good Bruce Wayne. There, I said it. He’s charming, he’s calm and collected and he’s got the feel of the animated series Bruce. Now, he’s about as good at Batman as Jared Leto is as Joker, but you just can’t win them all.

– Dr Freeze is quite enjoyable. He really is. As I said before, he’s one dimensional, he’s cheesy and he’s a one-trick pony (I’ll use my freeze gun to get diamonds so I can use my BIG freeze gun). But even so, Arnie just has fun with him and it shows. The only time I really smiled during this film was when Freeze was on the screen.

– Alfred. The man is a legend and his character is the only one in the entire film that is actually able to make you care about them.

That’s it. There’s not much I enjoyed about this film, as you can see, so you’re lucky you got what you did! Anyway, it’s your time to shine Bubba!

This is one of those movies that has grown a life of its own, something that exists outside of Batman lore and has become an ultimate joke. I’ve seen this probably more times than I’d like to admit including when it originally came out in theaters. At this point, I knew exactly what I was getting into and it’s like watching a train wreck. I know that it’s bad but I just can’t look away. There’s so many bad puns, over the top acting, cartoon sound effects, neon lights flashing at me from every direction it’s a complete assault on my senses. But it comes around as being something that’s more fun to laugh at than it is to laugh with. Arnold is constantly spouting puns as a character that’s supposed to have pathos but instead has his henchmen wearing hockey gear and licking frozen dinners like they’re popsicles. It even feels like it’s a shame to try and call this a live action cartoon, because the actual cartoon Batman is so much better on so many levels. The only moment of actual pathos is given to Alfred but it’s shortly followed up with a Max Headroom version of himself giving his teenage niece a form-fitting rubber outfit. And out of all of the actors who act like they’re in a cartoon, Batgirl gives the most bored and wooden performance of anyone. Just ridiculous on every level.

But aside from the quality of the film overall, this is basically the film that killed the Burtonverse version of Gotham City. Despite massive tonal changes in the latter two films, there were still some connective tissue from the first Michael Keaton Batman movie. This  movie seemingly also had the most studio interference with the direction to make it more “toyetic” with the hopes of making more money on merchandise rather than just the box office profits. The film ultimately made less than any of the previous three Batman movies barely making over $100M and still stands as the lowest grossing modern live-action Batman film. The stars and director have apologized multiple times for making this film the joke that it became despite initial plans to spin this off into multiple sequels including one that would focus on Robin transitioning into Nightwing. It’s a fascinating study on how studio interference and a clueless director turned a franchise into a joke until Christopher Nolan turned things around 8 years later with Batman Begins.

And now we delve into the crime-riddled alleyways of the 3 questions we always ask. And they are:

1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?

So, since Batman would start at the top, so shall I.

1) It really depends. This film is actually kinda important because it marked the ending of an era of the 90’s superhero/comic-book films. The public reaction was totally justified and studios started to feel uneasy about touching these properties. So it’s really a good piece of cinematic history, but that doesn’t make it actually worth watching. I’d suggest only watching this film if you’re either a Batman fanatic who needs to see all the films AND/OR if you go in fully expecting a terrible 90’s film. Other than that, feel free to skip it.

2) Yes. For the reason I mentioned in the last answer. This film spelled the end of that era of comic-book films and without that and the lessons learnt from it we wouldn’t have the current run of films from the MCU or the Nolan Batman series. People making these films now lived through the 90’s (or even grew up in them) and they saw what happened when the studios simply took a well known character and a few random other villains/supporting roles and just wrote their own things without adhering to the canon. If this film exists solely so that those lessons could be learnt then I’m all for it!

3) Well, this may look interesting to you but:

1) Batman & Robin
2) The Amazing Spider-Man
3) Supergirl
4) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
5) BvS: Dawn Of Justice

I’m totally serious. Remember, this list is of importance, not quality. Plus despite the terrible execution, the sloppy plot and horrible script, this film was fun to watch. You can laugh at the stupid stuff, you can enjoy the rare good joke or fun character and you can think back on what used to be and enjoy how far we’ve come.

So thanks for joining us on this ride so far! Next up is a fun one, so don’t forget to keep checking in until it drops. Until then, make sure you’ve stocked up on Bat-Shark Repellant, rubber lips (don’t ask) and whatever that Bat-cutter thing was. You never know when evil will strike next!

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About Hurricane Hawk

I'm a Brit in the US. Yes, my accent is real. No, I'm not from Australia. Oh yeah, I have 2 film podcasts!

Posted on March 1, 2019, in Blokebusting the Essentials, DC and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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