By Thomas Griffiths
Batman & Robin is directed by Joel Schumacher and stars George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone. This is the fourth film in the Batman franchise that started with 1989’s Batman by Tim Burton, and since I’ve done a review of The Dark Knight, naming it my favourite Batman movie of all time, it’s time to talk about my least favourite Batman movie of all time: Batman & Robin.
This film has absolutely nothing good about it, and that’s the honest truth. I have no idea what Joel Schumacher thought he was going to achieve with this film, and I don’t know what he was trying to achieve anyway. The most appealing parts of it aren’t even the story – but the fact that it’s a Batman movie, and that it has a really great cast…both of which feel woefully disgraced in this film. The opening scenes, where the cameraman zooms up deliberately on George Clooney’s butt, I can’t help but wonder what in the hell were they thinking? What purpose does this serve? In what way does this advance the plot or make you hooked into the film; it feels absurdly unnecessary.
I’m going to get this right out of the way: George Clooney is an extremely talented actor, and he’s proven that extensively in the films he’s been in throughout his career. And, if I were born before the 80s and grew up around the time this film came out, and I saw George Clooney cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman, I’d probably be okay with it. I’d think that George Clooney as Bruce Wayne would be a good choice, but in this film, he just didn’t appeal to me at all. I like George Clooney, but I did not like him in this movie at all – he didn’t embody the complexities of Bruce Wayne, nor did he seem at all like a badass – both of which is something that Michael Keaton nailed. Also, the Batsuit…I don’t even have the courage to go in depth into it, I’m just going to list a few things that I hated about it: It’s made of rubber; it doesn’t seem at all practical; George Clooney can barely, if at all, move his freaking neck; it is anatomically correct in every single way, including nipples! What is the point in that?
Again, still on the casting, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. I love Arnold Schwarzenegger as an actor, and he could have knocked this role out of the park…but he was also terrible in this film. There had been a trend in Batman villains in films up to this point, and most of them have been really great. I loved Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and Danny DeVito as the Penguin. I thought that Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones were sufficient in Batman Forever, I thought that Liam Neeson was perfect casting in Batman Begins, Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is one of the greatest performances of all time in my opinion, and Tom Hardy was awesomely menacing as Bane. But, dear God, the villains in Batman & Robin are absolute crap. Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy; again, could have worked, but it most certainly did not, despite Thurman’s best efforts. Don’t get me started on Bane in this movie.
They introduced Robin in Batman Forever and I tolerated him to a degree, but in this film he annoyed the hell out of me. I get it, Robin was supposed to be a young, impetuous asshole in these films, but in this particular film he was a complete and utter thorn in my side. Chris O’Donnell did nothing to make me like this guy anymore, and he didn’t seem at all like an asset to the film. He was a terrible sidekick by the standards of normal superhero standards, and I was disappointed in the wasted potential in the character. Alicia Silverstone gives, by far, the best performance in this film, but that isn’t saying much at all since the script she had to work with was atrocious.
Other things that are woefully wrong with Batman & Robin are the script: with the villains, there doesn’t seem to be a single scene where either Poison Ivy or Mr. Freeze are spouting at least five corny, terrible puns about ice or plants, winter or the jungle, or whatnot. Yes, the Batman villains, as well as general villains in comic books, tend to have a sense of humour regarding themselves, and there’s always some kind of joke played with their qualities, but in Batman & Robin it took up more than 40% of their dialogue. In fact, I challenge you to watch this movie and take a shot every time there is a pun made by either of the main villains in this film – you’ll get really hammered, trust me. The script surrounding almost every character doesn’t work.
In a Batman movie, there ought to be at least one cool action sequence, but no; there’s not a single fight or chase scene in this movie that works at all. Not only are there insultingly obvious wire shots, including a scene where Robin is thrown through the air by Mr. Freeze, and lands perfectly on an icy floor, and a scene where Batman freaking surfs down the skeleton of a dinosaur – I have no idea what they were thinking with these scenes. They don’t look realistic, there is a shocking lack of adherence to the laws of physics, and worst of all I wasn’t the slightest bit excited watching them. When Batman and the Joker faced off in that tower in 1989’s Batman by Tim Burton, my eyes were hooked to the screen. When Batman and Ra’s al Ghul duelled on that train in Batman Begins, I was transfixed. When Bane and Batman settled their scores on the streets of Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises, I was on the edge of my seat. Not a single part of the action sequences in this movie work.
Worse than the script and the direction and the action sequences is the plot of this movie – Poison Ivy wants to cover the world in plants, and Mr. Freeze wants to cover Gotham in ice…how do these plans coincide when these two villains team up? How?! I’m not going to go into all of the logical inconsistencies of this movie, because I don’t have the patience, but let’s just say that there is precious little that makes sense. One of the more glaring errors in this movie is the decision to introduce Batgirl into this movie in the most abrupt way possible – when Batman & Robin are outmatched by Poison Ivy, Batgirl shows up out of the blue in a corny, awful costume and is inexplicably a master martial artist, despite having zero training that we know of – I guess, the moment you put on a bat cowl, you’re instantly a superhero. Then we go straight to this stretched-out, honestly uninspiring climax where Batman defeats Mr. Freeze and he’s locked in the same cell as Mr. Freeze – honestly, why, in their right minds, would the Gotham police put the two villains who were teaming up and conspiring hours ago in the same cell.
Guys, I’m going to be completely and utterly honest, I don’t understand why this movie was made. I suppose the only reason they did it was so they could sell a ton of toys – there are actually vehicles, costumes, sets and characters that were only there for the purpose of selling toy replicas. Otherwise, I don’t understand why this film exists. Essentially the best part of this movie is the fact that, because it was so terrible, we were blown off our feet when Christopher Nolan knocked the story of Batman out of the park with The Dark Knight trilogy.
Let’s be honest, if you have a film where the director, and even the main cast, hate and even go so far as to apologise for its existence, you know you have a dreadful movie.