- Movie Rating -

Batman and Robin (1997)

| June 25, 1997 | 0 Comments

There is a moment in “Batman and Robin” when Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze (a mistake by itself) leads his shivering henchmen in a sing-a-long of “Snow Miser” from that old Christmas special “A Year Without a Santa Claus.”  Dressed in a bathrobe and polar bear slippers he conducts his men who look uncomfortable, having been given frozen TV dinners (I’ll spare you the Republican jokes here).  Oh, how I wish I could report that this was the most undignified moment in this movie.

The experience of Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin” is like sticking your head inside the world’s loudest pinball machine.  You come away with a headache and a sense of regret.  Shumacher has created a brobdingnagian monstrosity in which every minute has to be wall-to-wall with special effects and noise.  He has created, without a doubt, the single worst superhero movie ever made, a movie in which the only admirable merit is that he didn’t cast Richard Pryor.

The movie assaults both sight and sound with scene after scene of noise, special effects, flashing lights and confusing stunt work.  What’s worse is that they are in the service of a script so featherweight that it hardly seems to exist.  What remains is enough to fill a toy commercial which is actually all this movie amounts to.  It hardly matters.  This isn’t a movie; it’s a misguided act of pure capitalism, a stunt show designed to sell action figures, walkie-talkies, bedspreads, book bags, nightlights, and every other kind of soon-to-be discount bric-a-brac.  Why is it always bad summer movies that have the largest line of merchandise?

To fill those merchandise orders, the movie stuffs more and more characters into the mix but doesn’t bother to give them a personality, heaven’s no!  The moment that an emotion is detected the bat-signal goes on and the heroes are off to another overcooked stunt show. They are off to be part of action sequences that are not just substandard but remind me of those two motorcycle riders in the spherical cage at the circus.  Try to imagine two hours of that and you get the idea.

Those stunt shows are made worse by the modern art approach to Gotham City. The city looks like an artist’s rendering of something approximating a city.  The buildings twist and turn and gnarl and bend in a way that makes you wonder how in the world people live or work there. It’s less a city and more a skater’s pipe for disco rollerblading.

As I said, the movie is stuffed with so many characters that many of them get lost in the mix. Schumacher throws 6 lead characters into a movie when two would have sufficed. That is evidenced by the movie’s ad campaign which had to use 9 posters to sell the thing so that we won’t for a moment consider seeing something else.

We get a new Batman this time in the personage of George Clooney, who looks the part of the millionaire playboy but whose time as Bruce Wayne could almost be called a walk-on.  The opening scene has him almost kinda sorta halfway start discussing the idea of marriage with his current girlfriend (played in an insultingly brief cameo by Elle McPherson) before he is whisked away on an emergency. The scene is so brief that you get the feeling that the studio chopped it so as not to offend those with ADD by having them sit through a scene containing human communication (oh heaven for-fend!). But the lack of personality isn’t his fault, he’s at the mercy of a script that doesn’t allow him anything more intelligent to say then “Hi Freeze, I’m Batman”. By that point I was ready to stand up and say “Hi Bats, I’m leaving”.

Clooney may have made a mistake taking this script but at least he has the decency to look uncomfortable. That may be due to the lousy script but more over to that cumbersome batsuit. Squeezing into 80 pound suits, the heroes look impressively shiny but you can’t keep from wondering how men without superpowers can do anything but blink in those things. To make matters worse, the suits are designed with a fetishist eye for details. This time Clooney and Chris O’Donnell are given nipples, codpieces and buns of steel.

If Clooney at least looks to be trying, I can’t say the same for O’Donnell who’s Robin is the least appealing sidekick this side of Batmite. From his red metal suit to his Krazy Glued mask, O’Donnell’s talent is nowhere to be found here especially in the face of such vapid dialogue as “I hate to disappoint you but my rubber lips are immune to your charms.” Yeah, okay.

That line is a retort to Poison Ivy (played with good spirit by Uma Thurman) who looks like a Vegas showgirl and does her best to impersonate Mae West. The plan is that Ivy will use her charms to drive a wedge between B and R.  She almost succeeds and for a moment I had a faint hope that we would be spared Robin for Batman 5.  No such luck.

The big threat to these GQ models is that Gotham City is about to experience an ice age at the hands of Mr. Freeze, played by Ahh-nuld in the biggest piece of miscasting since John Wayne played Genghis Kahn in The Conqueror and uttered the painfully bad: “That’ll be the DAY, Mon-gull Wummun!” Ahh-nuld, by the way, is buried in his own suit of action figure posing. Wrapped in a clunky metal suit he looks like he got a good deal at a Cylon’s garage sale.

For no purpose whatsoever, the movie introduces us to Batgirl about an hour into the movie. She’s played with extreme blondeness by Alicia Silverstone and given just enough of the movie to remind us that she’s Alfred’s niece and then tuck herself behind the men. Now, you may ask why Barbara Gordon has been changed from Commissioner Gordon’s daughter to Alfred’s niece. Well, while doing my research on The Internet Movie Database, I found that the producers thought that 74 year-old Pat Hingle (who plays the Commissioner) was too old to plausibly have a daughter that was college age (ever hear of Tony Randall?). However, they thought that it WAS plausible that Alfred would have a niece that was college age AND HE’S 83!!  I gotta go get a Tylenol.

Eventually I got so bored with the caricatures in the foreground that I began to look behind them at the extras. Most of these hard working folks make up Freeze’s arsenal of henchmen, whose function is to skate around in goofy outfits, snarl and get their butts kicked. The movie is so dead for ideas that it doesn’t even break away from the oldest cliché in the book in which forty guys converge on two heroes and then attack one at a time.

What I found interesting about these faceless folks is how they are credited. Most of these guys are credited as “Ice Thug” (no s, just Thug) and in the closing credits there are no less than 27 people listed under that name (and not even with the decency to list them by number). After the movie I went to the Internet Movie Database and found that there was one poor sap who also played “Ice Thug” but the site listed him as “Uncredited.”  He got lucky.  I’ll bet he leaves it conveniently off his resume.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.