Batman on Film Part 6: Batman & Robin (1997)

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BATMAN & ROBIN
Joel Schumacher
1997 • 125 Minutes • 1.85:1 • United States
Color • English • Warner Bros.

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma THurman, Alicia Silverstone
Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman
Producer: Peter Macgregor-Scott
Cinematography: Stephen Goldblatt

Awards & Honors

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films
Nominee: Best Costumes
Nominee: Best Fantasy Film
Nominee: Best Make-Up

The Essential Films
100 Worst Films of All Time – #24

Razzie Awards
Winner: Worst Supporting Actress – Alicia Silverstone
Nominee: Worst Director- Joel Schumacher
Nominee: Worst Original Song – Billy Corgan For the song “The End is The Beginning is The End”
Nominee: Worst Picture
Nominee: Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property
Nominee: Worst Remake or Sequel
Nominee: Worst Screen Couple – George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell
Nominee: Worst Screenplay
Nominee: Worst Supporting Actor – Chris O’Donnell
Nominee: Worst Supporting Actor – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Nominee: Worst Supporting Actress – Uma Thurman

There is no defeat in death, Master Bruce. Victory comes in defending what we know is right while we still live.

Oh man. Here we go. I’ve been avoiding this, but it looks like the time has come. I must review it. Batman & Robin is by far the worst Batman film ever made and hopefully that ever will be made. If not for the existence of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, this would undoubtedly be the worst comic book film of all time. Ever. Period.

Since Batman Forever did so remarkably well at the box office, it seems Warner Bros. just looked at Joel Schumacher and said “You know what, just do whatever you want. You got this.” And boy, did he ever. He took everything that made Batman Forever bad and amped it up to 11. Back where the Bat Nipples, the ass shots, and smiling Batman. It’s just a train wreck of a film.

This time around Batman has to deal with a rampaging Mr. Freeze, who is doing cold-related crimes to steal diamonds and power his suit. Freeze teams up with Poison Ivy to terrorize Gotham City, all the while Alfred is dying and his niece Barbara Wilson (not Gordon) has come to visit. Barbara by the way ends up being Batgirl. Oh! And Bane is in this movie too! Remember how awesome he was in The Dark Knight Rises? Yeah, well… let’s just say he had some humble on-screen beginnings.

Batman & Robin released (escaped) on June 20, 1997 to a juggernaut of terrible reviews. (It’s currently rocking a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes.) Despite that, the film did well on its opening weekend, raking in $42 million. But the following week saw it plunge drastically as word-of-mouth got around of just how absolutely awful this film is. Critics blasted it for it’s campy approach. Schumacher made a very good big-screen version of the 1960s camp TV show, but in 1997 no one wanted to see that.

So how bad is this film? Well…

You’ve got Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. Not quite what you expected when you pictured the comic book character? Yeah, 1997 comic books fans didn’t either. Interestingly enough, Mr. Freeze in this film borrows the origin story from his “Batman: The Animated Series” counterpart, in where Dr. Victor Fries suffers a terrible accident that leaves in his “frozen” state while trying to find a cure for his beloved Nora. That’s as faithful to source material as you’re going to get, because from this point on Freeze is a PUN MACHINE. Check it out:

It’s so campy it hurts.

George Clooney becomes the fourth actor to portray Batman on-screen in a major motion picture. Clooney, for his part, is fine. His acting choices aren’t really his fault. He essentially plays an updated version of Adam West, and in that sense, he succeeds. Clooney was cast after Val Kilmer and Joel Schumacher discovered that they just could not work together during the filming of Batman Forever. His Bruce Wayne is actually pretty good, his Batman is goofy, but again, that’s what this movie was supposed to be. Of all the complaints you can have of this film, Clooney is probably the least troublesome.

Chris O’Donnell returns as Dick Grayson, a.k.a Robin. And guess what? He still kinda sucks. They never quite explained why a 25 year-old MAN needs to be adopted by a billionaire, but it certainly added (intentionally or unintentionally) to the homosexual vibe the film had going for it. The film essentially killed his career for almost 15 years. It’s only recently that he’s started appearing in higher-profile roles such as on television’s “NCIS.” Of the film O’Donnell said “I felt like I was making a kid’s toy commercial.” That’s how we felt watching it, Chris.

Uma Thurman portrays Poison Ivy. Sigh. Really? Poison Ivy is supposed to be a seductive knock-out. And while I love her as “The Bride” in Kill Bill, Uma Thurman always kind of strikes me as a dirty hippie and not a devilish temptress that Ivy is supposed to be. She was horribly miscast, but in the end result of this film… does it really matter? Thurman was obviously cast because after the success of Pulp Fiction, she was kind of an “It” girl.

Alicia Silverstone. Talk about stunt casting. After Clueless was such a huge box office and cultural success, Silverstone went on to skyrocket to stardom and was cast in a wide array of box office… failures. While she was great as a ditzy blonde in a high school movie, she came up short playing anything else. Including Batgirl. And why wasn’t she Commissioner Gordon’s daughter? Well that probably had a lot to do with the fact that Gordon was really downplayed in this series of movies, and when he did show up he was kind of a buffoon. Thankfully his next appearance on the big screen did him justice. So Silverstone was made to be Alfred’s niece from England (where was her accent?), which pretty much was just a set up for her to discover the Batcave and become Batgirl. So nice that there was convenient crime-fighting costume in just her size in the Batcave. And why the hell didn’t HERS have nipples? Bull shit.

And then there’s Bane. Jesus. Remember how awesome Tom Hardy was in The Dark Knight Rises? Remember how he OWNED that role? Yeah, well, take that performance and that character portrayal and think of the exact opposite. THIS Bane, played by roided up ex-pro wrestler Jeep Swenson, never speaks, never breaks Batman’s back, and is essentially just a hired thug that goes around saying “Bomb. Bomb. Bomb.” Fuck. It’s terrible.

As stated before, the severe box office drop off and thrashing it received from critics, caused Warner Bros. to cancel the planned 5th movie in the series, titled Batman Triumphant. It was actually already in pre-production with O’Donnell and Clooney verbally committed to return. Again, after the failure of the last film, they both swore off making another one. Batman Triumphant started pre-production work when Warner Bros. executives were happy with the dailies they saw coming in from the set of B&R. In this incarnation, The Scarecrow (played by Howard Stern) was set to be the main villain terrorizing Batman with his sidekicks Harley Quinn (who was getting revenge for The Joker’s death) and Mad Hatter. Considering how Batman & Robin turned out, we should probably be thankful Warner executives cancelled this thing.

And that’s that. For 8 years Batman would not appear on the big screen. He would have straight-to-video releases like Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (which are all better than Batman & Robin) but it wouldn’t be until an up-and-coming director would take the reins in 2005 that we would get perhaps not the Batman we deserve, but the one we needed.

All that said, Batman and Robin is almost worth watching. If for any other reason than from a “it’s so bad it’s good” kind of angle.  See you next time.

BATMAN & ROBIN is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as for digital rental or purchase via iTunes, Google, YouTube or Amazon.

MORE BATMAN & ROBIN
Click here to listen to the Forced Perspective Batman Special focused on the Schumacher films
Click here to check out the 100 Worst Movies of All Time

Adolfo

Adolfo is a pretentious film douche bag that feels better about wasting four years of film school by posting movie reviews online.

About Adolfo

Adolfo is a pretentious film douche bag that feels better about wasting four years of film school by posting movie reviews online.
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