Awfully Good: Batman and Robin
In preparation for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Awfully Good has been featuring a different Batman movie each week. Perhaps a little Schumacher will help you appreciate Christopher Nolan even more.
- Week #1: BATMAN: THE MOVIE
- Week #2: CATWOMAN
- Week #3: BATBABE: THE DARK NIGHTIE
Batman and Robin (1997)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Uma Thurman
The Caped Crusaders are faced with two of the most evil villains to ever descend upon Gotham City… Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman.
I’ve been a Batman fan since I was old enough to hold an action figure. My license plate says IMBTMN. I take my Dark Knight seriously. So I mean it when I say BATMAN AND ROBIN represents everything wrong and terrible with the world. I was 13 when I saw it and I specifically remember it being the first time I got physically angry at a film. I had to go to my father afterwards and ask him why a fair and just God would allow such bad things to happen.
Arnold is confronted with the TWINS sequel by the Ghost of Movies Future.
That being said, BATMAN AND ROBIN is almost the perfect film for this column, just for how mind-bogglingly awful it is on nearly every level. It’s an entire movie made out of Awfully Good Best Lines and Best Parts. I don't know if Hollywood could produce a disaster of this magnitude ever again. (Let's not test that, studios.) If I didn’t take my beloved Batman so personally, I might be able to enjoy it for how terrible it is…but I do. So forget Movie Jail; this flick can burn in Movie Hell.
I thought it was only supposed to be cold inside Mr. Freeze's suit?
From the very first frame, you know you’re screwed. BATMAN AND ROBIN actually starts out with a sequence of the title characters gearing up, which in Joel Schumacher’s mind means close up shots of Batman and Robin's costumed crotch, ass and nipples. You'd expect something like this from last week's BATBABE, not an actual movie. Before you can begin questioning what you're seeing on screen, the Dynamic Duo are off to fight Mr. Freeze at the Natural History Museum. The Dark Knight introduces himself by yelling "I'm Batman!" and skating down a dinosaur, while Robin subtly enters by driving his magic Batbike through a brick wall, leaving a hole in the shape of a perfect Bat symbol. Freeze says something cold-related and then his evil hockey team attacks. Not to be outdone, Barman and Robin reveal the ice skates they also happen to have built in to their shoes, and together everyone plays hockey with the diamond Freeze is trying to steal. The villain then blasts the dinosaur with his freeze ray (which roars for some reason as it collapses) and uses this opportunity to get away in his…space ship. The ever vigilant Batman notices this and is able to get in to the rocket before it blasts off in to the atmosphere. However, Freeze ices him to the wall and escapes. Luckily, Robin was able to scale the side of the space shuttle and frees his partner using a heat laser he conveniently carries around. The pair then use the doors of the ship to SURF DOWN FROM SPACE and fall safely to the ground.
I'm pretty sure that's actually a Chris O'Donnell action figure in this shot.
Just in these first ten minutes Schumacher has already violated the rules of physics, common sense and good taste.
I could essentially go shot by shot through the entirety of BATMAN AND ROBIN to explain why it disproves most reward-based religious ideologies, but I'll just focus on some general lowlights:
Wait, I thought John Kimball was supposed to be the party pooper? Now I'm confused.
AKIVA GOLDSMAN. I'll never forget the day the guy that wrote BATMAN AND ROBIN won an Oscar. This has to be one of the worst screenplays ever to come out of the studio system. It's an entire movie made of one-liners, full of unnecessary characters, lazy plot devices and enough general stupidity to make you hate the English language. If you told me this was fan fiction an 8 year old wrote I would believe you. (In fact, it might better explain those first ten minutes I described above.
JOEL SCHUMACHER. F*ck that guy.
…and good luck. (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)
BATMAN. I don't have much to say here. The Dark Knight is barely a character in his own movie. There's a bit of family drama (though no mention of his parents' death), but besides that, he spends his time lazily chasing after Freeze and not doing much. I like George Clooney but he was a horrible choice for both Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. His performance is a mixture or boredom, regret and disdain.
All popular gay porn duos eventually suffer the same fate.
ROBIN. Chris O'Donnell was like 30 years old when this was made but his Robin is full of angsty teen drama. Didn't we cover all this "rebellion" and "trust" crap with the last movie? And the way the title characters fight is more like jilted lovers than crimefighting partners. (And I'm not just saying that to stir up some tired "Batman and Robin are gay" argument. Only to point out how bad Goldsman's script is.)
Well, people hate when you talk during THIS movie.
MR. FREEZE. Yes, the idea behind the character is a bit silly, but it can be done well if you take the time to do it. (Take the Animated Series' hauntingly beautiful "Heart of Ice" episode, for example.) Here they turn him in to one long pun. It's like Akiva Goldsman had a bet going on how many cold-related jokes he could stuff in to the script. With his garish costume and evil hockey team henchman, the movie turns in to an actual ice capade whenever Mr. Freeze is on screen. (And don't get me started on the part where he forces his goons to sing in a chorus.) I don't even blame Schwarzenegger, really. The fact that Schumacher's second and third choices for the role were Sylvester Stallone and Hulk Hogan shows exactly what the director wanted.
"Seriously, we didn't just make this movie to sell toys!"
POISON IVY. In this version, Pamela Isley is swallowed up by the Earth along with a bunch of toxins and poisonous waste. When she reemerges she instantaneously knows that the accident "replaced my blood with aloe, my skin with chlorophyll, and filled my lips with poison." Unfortunately it didn't give her any actual power over plants. (In the end she's actually attacked by a giant plant, which is just sad.) The one ability she does possess is a superhuman mastery of sexual innuendo unseen since Mrs. Roper on "Three's Company." The sad part is Uma Thurman actually tries, doing her best to fit in to the Adam West-Batman model that the rest of the movie fails so hard at.
Bane was the worst master of disguise since Dana Carvey.
BANE. I don't know why Bane is in this movie. Poison Ivy can control minds, so she doesn't need a henchman. All his character does is repeat single words and laughably growl like Frankenstein. Like every incarnation of Bane (except hopefully Christopher Nolan's), he is easily defeated by ripping out his venom tube.
BATGIRL. Since Commissioner Gordon is a non-character in this movie, Batgirl is now Alfred’s inexplicably American niece and she again adds zilch to the movie. It would probably be a better film if she wasn't in it, especially when you consider the fact that Alicia Silverstone already played a different character in BATMAN FOREVER. Despite having no training whatsoever (aside from British street cred), Batgirl is able to fight alongside the Caped Crusaders and use all their weaponry, operate high-tech computer and satellite systems, and race motorcycles against Coolio. And look, I didn't even make a joke about Silverstone's weight!
ALFRED. I don't know what's worse, that Alfred just happens to be dying from the exact same fictional disease Freeze’s wife had, or that the icy villain carries around the cure in his suit at all times. Alfred's predicament is a cheap way to wring some unearned emotion out of the audience (based on Michael Gough's performances in the last three films, not this one). It's also a lazy way for Goldsman to shoehorn in some stuff about the importance of "family." I don't know; maybe if your characters spent more time having conversations with each other instead of talking in quippy sound bytes, then you could start worrying about dramatic themes.
ELLE MACPHERESON. Her Julie Madison only exists to make sure you know Bruce Wayne isn’t actually gay. She's the definition of a non-character. Same goes for Vivica A. Fox's cameo as "Ms. B. Haven." God almighty.
How does Batman get a credit card without giving away his identity? The mechanics of it are mind boggling.
TONE. Schumacher was clearly going for cartoonish this time around and it's all just confused and embarrassing. The 1960s Adam West series was purposefully campy, but not in the awful, belittling way BATMAN AND ROBIN is. It's not tongue and cheek, just making a joke out of Batman at his expense. The result is a movie that's silly to the point where the actors don't know what to do and no one has chemistry with anyone. Even Clooney’s usual charming self is unlikable.
THE RUNNING TIME. Oh my God, it’s so long.
Why do they all look overweight and mentally challenged?
COSTUMES AND GADGETS. Ignoring the anatomically exaggerated outfits, the costumes here are just plain ugly and clearly made to sell toys. Look at that! For God's sake… And who thought it was a good idea to put the lovely Uma Thurman in a giant pink gorilla costume? As for the high-tech elements, there's nothing as glorious as Shark Repellent, but you do get heat laser guns, whatever weird vehicle Robin rides at the end, and the Batskates. (So any time Batman and Robin's shoes are tapped, ice skates are supposed to come out? That's not inconvenient at all.)
Hopefully you're referring to the day you die in a fire.
THE OBSERVATORY STAFF. During the final confrontation between Batman and Mr. Freeze, we're "treated" to the hilarity of an ethnically diverse team of scientists who provide insightful commentary during the fight, like "Good job, Batman!" and "Dirty fighter!" I think even Batman was annoyed by them because he leaves them hanging on the side of the giant telescope for an unnecessarily long time, before "rescuing" them i.e. leaving them stranded at the bottom of an icy cliff with no visible means of escape. Why do we even need these characters other than for terrible comedic relief? They serve no purpose. Batman understands the science of how to realign the satellites, Batgirl is the computer whiz who can hack the system and Robin already makes stupid one-liners. Why do I need Affirmative Action Science Team in my Batman movie? Why?!
F*ck this movie.
Some of Mr. Freeze's worst cold-related puns and other gems from Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman.
I could just include the entire movie here, but instead enjoy some Bat-Nipples, the opening skate-and-surf sequences and the final fight with annoying scientist people.
If you have a rubber fetish, prepare to lose your frickin' mind.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Mr. Freeze makes a cold-related pun
- Poison Ivy speaks in sexual innuendo
- Robin acts like a punk
- Bane growls
- Batman or Robin falls in love
Double shot if:
- The movie turns in to a Visa commercial
Thanks to Dan, Juan. Chris and Razvan for suggesting this week's movie!
Enjoy THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, everybody!
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