Classic Film Review: Batman & Robin (1997)

Marvel vs. DC:

Batman & Robin, 1997

Directed by: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Elle Macpherson

 

Joel Shumacher is back in the director’s seat with Batman & Robin, a film that ruined the Batman character for me throughout most of my life. I was born in 1990 so I was about 7 when this film came out, and I remember watching it as a kid, and, yeah, I recall laughing at times (I was a kid) but it was still my first Batman experience. I watched it again a few years later and realised how terrible it was, and it was that frustration at watching it which caused me to hate the Batman character, and it wasn’t until The Dark Knight (I refused to watch Batman Begins initially) that I went back to give him another chance. While I’m thankful for going back over some of the other Batman films, having to watch this again brought back all of that hatred.

Bruce Wayne/Batman (George Clooney) and Dick Grayson/Robin (Chris O’Donnell, Batman Forever) are this time tasked with stopping Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who wants diamonds to help his dying wife but soon wants Gotham to freeze, Dr. Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Bane (Robert Swenson). Batman and Robin are soon joined by Barbara Wilson/Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), the niece of Alfred (Michael Gough, Batman Forever), who is dying of the same illness as Mr. Freeze’s wife.

The first thing to note is whoever made the casting decisions made some terrible, terrible decisions. George Clooney is not Batman, nor was he afforded a decent enough script to even convincingly portray himself as him. He’s the same incarnation of the character regardless if he’s Bruce Wayne in the public eye, Bruce Wayne in private or Batman: he speaks the same and acts the same. They write him poor dialogue, a strange romantic journey (where he’s apparently got a long-term girlfriend but still crushes on Poison Ivy (despite her later saying the dust doesn’t work on him) and seems to have an awkward moment with Barbara). It never goes anywhere with his girlfriend so just seems an unnecessary addition that isn’t needed or benefitted from. Much like the love tension between Bruce and Dick isn’t needed; I get why it’s there but it’s brushed aside so easily and quickly that it’s poor (one moment Robin says he’s going alone because Batman won’t let him have the girl but the next scene they’re back together and working together).

The villains, too, are just as bad as Batman Forever. Mr. Freeze is introduced much in the same way as Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones, Batman Forever) was in the previous film; immediately causing mayhem and not having any real introduction with regards to his creation. He’s actually got a pretty decent back-story which can have been properly told, but it’s brushed aside except for a few small barely-anything moments. Then his dialogue is woefully, woefully bad. Nearly everything he says is some form of ice-related pun (‘Cool party’, ‘What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age’ and ‘Let’s kick some ice’); can he not say anything that’s not related to ice? Yes, he’s an ice-related-villain but one or two is more than enough. He’s also introduced as a new villain at the beginning, but he’s robbed a lot of crystals by that point and makes no point of sparing lives so how would Batman not have known of him? Even from different towns he would have come across his name. Then we have Poison Ivy and Bane, who come packaged almost together, and, likewise, have terrible creations. Much like The Riddler (Jim Carrey, Batman Forever) got his powers/villainy instantly, Poison Ivy falls into a puddle of chemicals and is suddenly stupidly evil and wants to infest the planet with new plants (which is strange considering she aligns herself with Mr. Freeze who wants to freeze the planet). Bane is injected and becomes a strong character who immediately pairs himself with Poison Ivy after he escaped. Three villains and all three are terrible created. And Poison Ivy’s dialogue is terrible, too, but she’s more of a seductress than full of puns. Nearly everything she says is a way of seducing someone. And Bane barely speaks, just grunts one word of a sentence they say to him. Poor back-stories, poor dialogue, poor villains. Add a poor Batman, a poorly handled illness to Alfred, a poorly created Batgirl (who finds a suit and becomes instantly heroic and can fight with no training), a poorly executed camera angle of Batgirl falling (re-watch it, the shakes between the green-screen and the filming of Batgirl is atrocious), a poor lack of logical physics, a poor series of jokes, a poor-decision to have Batman have a credit card, a poor decision to have them play ice hockey with a precious diamond, a poor lack of thought to Batman’s saving of people (he leaves two people at the bottom of a giant cliff), a poorly thought up plan to save the day . . . I’m going to have to stop there, if I start getting into the nitty-gritty poor things that this film has then I wouldn’t get any sleep tonight!

There are moments that threaten to be good, and a much better writer and director with a more serious tone could have made this story much better, or even just having one villain and giving him a full creation (I don’t get why there’s so many villains battling Batman), but what we were given was a toy-selling mess of ice puns, close up of rubber backsides in suits and everyone fancying everyone else.

 

Plot: *     Acting: * *     Writing: *     Presentation: * *

Overall Rating: * ½

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