Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Batman and Robin (1997 Review, 6th review of 9)

    The Batman series has gone through its up’s and downs and now comes the film that literally put the series on ice. After the success of “Batman Forever”, Joel Schumacher was called back to direct the 4th installment in the Warner Brothers Batman series, and then in 1997 we got “Batman and Robin”.

     This was the first of the live action Warner Brothers Batman movies that Tim Burton was not involved in, and it has a huge reputation for being regarded as, not just the worst Batman movie but also one of the all time worst movie sequels ever, that’s pretty extreme. So is it really that bad, well, in all honesty, there are some movies that are so bad there good, you can actually take joy from watching bad films like that, they go so far in stupidity that they become great all over again. For some people, the perfect so bad its great movie is either Ed Woods “Plan 9 from Outer Space” or Wes Craven’s “The People Under the Stairs” but for me personally, the greatest so bad it’s good movie is Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin”. Seriously, I can’t think of another movie that I’ve enjoyed hating so much. It’s a stupid film, no argument there, but it just doesn’t bother me at all, maybe it’s because the series didn’t have much going for it before this or maybe because the following movies are so good that there really isn’t any need to complain about it, I don’t know, but I can safely say that while this movie is the worst of the series, there’s this big “what were they thinking” joy attached to it.

    One great thing about “Batman and Robin” that is actually an improvement over the next two Batman films is that it features one of the coolest opening title sequences ever, unfortunately, even though this title sequence is a sheer spectacle, everything goes down hill soon after. This film suffers from way to much colorful illumination and neon lights, in fact, with so many colors, silly objects and statues, this Gotham City looks like a combination of Disney Land, the Ringling Brothers Circus, Toon Town, Christmas Town and the city from the 1927 movie “Metropolis”, all rolled into one.

     Now there are some cool locations, like the new Arkham Asylum, which feels very reminiscent of the models seen in Tim Burtons Batman films. While most of the sets are silly looking, there still impressive on some technical level, they couldn't have been easy to make. 

We also have a silly supply of new Bat vehicles that just come out of nowhere near the end of the film and most look like rejected “Power Ranger” vehicles. There’s the new over the top Bat mobile, two new motorbikes, and two new devices meant for traveling on ice terrain.

    The costumes are also very stupid, the nipples and butts on the costumes are shown off so much more than in the last film, it’s nasty. Latter, all the costumes get another change, with grey stripes and symbols. The film also has a huge abundance of heroes and villains going head to head but instead of it being an awesome spectacle, it’s a convoluted mess. The characters aren't developed and everything that takes place between the characters is either an annoying argument or a stupid one liner, literally 90% of this movies dialog is nothing but lame puns. The only character growth is with Alfred, and we see a few flash backs to when he was razzing young Bruce. That’s all good but we want to see the heroes and villains develop, not the butler. Now to be fair, the conversations between Alfred and Bruce are very good. I'd actually go so far as to say that there some of the best conversations in the entire series, addressing how there's no defeat in death and how not every hero wears a mask. So there’s no way that this really is the absolute worst squeal ever and trust me, I’ve seen far, far, far worse than this film. 

     Now for what ever reason, Val Kilmer couldn't return in the lead role of Batman, now he's replaced with George Clooney. A good actor that I've enjoyed in films like “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “O Brother Where Art Thou”, but in this film, there is something really bland and boring about George Clooney’s performance. It honestly doesn't feel like Batman anymore, it's just George Clooney in a Batman costume. Never once does he disguise his voice, he’s extremely un-intimidating and he never acts like he’s in any real danger. I know he’s supposed to be tough but in this film, he acts like there is no threat to himself or anyone in the city. This Batman is also too smilly, he always has this big, silly grin on his face and never looks imposing. Worst of all, he does things that no superhero should do, like luring a supper villain to a party full of innocent people and guess what, innocent people get injured because of his planning, nice going there.

     Chris O’Donnell is back as Robin and I'll admit that his arguing in the last film was annoying but at least it was understandable and it was all part of the characters journey. Now there partnership should be sealed, instead they're constantly arguing like a dysfunctional married couple. You can replace Robins dialog with the sound effects of a whining baby and you’ll have the same thing. Robins costume no longer has its traditional colors from before or the R on his shoulder, instead it’s a big red robin symbol across his chest.

    The worst character of all is Batgirl played by Alicia Silverstone. She deliverer's a boring performance, shows little to no emotion, even after an entire city is frozen she continues to act like she's just playing a video game or watching T.V. All the characters in this film have lame one liners but Bat Girl has the worst by far, trying to act all tough but really just sounding stupid. Worst of all is how her character fits in the film, she doesn't do a thing until the tail end of the movie and when she finally becomes Bat girl, well, let's just say that it's awfully convenient that two different bat girl costumes and her own Bat bike just happen to be there in the bat cave for her. 

     The villains are actually an improvement over the hero’s but that’s not saying much. First there’s Poison Ivy played by Uma Thurman. Now from a casting point of view, I think she fits the role quiet well and I'm certainly not going to say that she isn't attractive as hell in that skimpy green outfit, because she is. Unfortunately she’s written off as the most cliché villain ever with the simple intentions of taking over the world, never seen that before. I also wish she commanded more powerful plants, isn’t that part of the character, to have killer plants do her bidding when she’s not killing people with her venom filled kisses. Overall, not a bad villain but certainly not a great one either.   

     At her side is a human juggernaut named Bane played by Jeep Swenson. Honestly, when I first saw this film I thought that Bane was just made up for the movie, it wasn't until years latter that I learned he was actually a primary Batman villain. A lot of fans were disappointed that he wasn’t treated like a main villain and just a lumbering fool who just makes “Frankenstein” groan’s. I honestly couldn’t see this character be anything else then an assistant villain, however I do wish he was more intelligent and more of a threat because he was a lousy fighter and gets beaten way too easily. Even his costume looks a little silly, he has green skin and he wear’s a gimp mask, just kidding, it’s actually supposed to be like a Mexican wrestlers mask.

    At last, when it comes to disappointing villains, no one tips the ice berg like Mr. Freeze played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Aside from being played by one of my favorite actors, he was also my most highly anticipated villain. Mr. Freeze always stood out as the best of Batman villain’s, not just because he looked threatening and had a cool gun, but because he was the most complex and interesting, after all, the best villains are those born of tragedy, similar to the way Batman himself was born from horrific events. I couldn’t wait to see my favorite villain in a motion picture film, unfortunately, his costume is a bit over the top, he does nothing except make annoying puns to things that are cold related, he lives in a giant neon lit snow man head, spends his time wearing a silly bath robe with studied polar bear slippers, and dances around to a sing along tape of the famous Christmas special “The Year Without a Santa Claus”. So you probably think I’m really upset with them for completely ruining one of my favorite villains of all time, right. Well, to be honest, Arnold is clearly having a blast in this role and when I see one of my favorite actors having fun, it’s really hard for me not to have fun along with them on some level. Being an actor myself, I know how much fun it is to loose yourself in a wild and hammy performance and to be fare, there are some moments when Arnold shows some descent emotion. Even though he's all wrong for Mr. Freeze, the character was still written badly, so even if someone fitting for the role like Patrick Stewart was in his place, it still wouldn't have mattered. Naturally, the character would be far more compelling if they’d focus more on his frozen wife or his personal demons. There are a few scenes when they have the right idea but unfortunately they all fall flat and the end result is a villain that’s to jokey to care much for, but at the same time, I really wouldn't call him one of the worst villains, either.    


    There’s plenty of stupid individual moments too, a personal favorite of mine is this scene when Robin crashes through a wall on his motorcycle and it leaves behind a perfect outline of the Robin symbol. That’s like something out of a loony Toons cartoon, actually in reminds me of that one joke from “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”, when that bat Gremlin crashes through a wall and leaves behind a perfect outline of the Batman logo. Then there’s that scene with Batman and Robin sky surfing together, with Robin shouting “COWABUGA!” One of the most famous stupid moments of all is when Batman pulls out a bat credit card. I didn’t even give it a moment’s thought but now that I think about it, ya, it does seem like something that belongs in a spoof. I mean, does Batman actually plan on going shopping with a credit card, imagine working at a bank and seeing Batman making a withdraw. I especially love how the price is labeled “Forever”, does that mean he has a forever amount of money or is that a reference to the last film “Batman Forever”, oh, I don’t care.

     The action scenes in this film are also way over the top, with the characters pulling off absurd stunts and the climax is a circus of flashy effects, over the top stunts and some really awkward fighting choreograph. I do love the final scene of batman pleading to Freeze to become a better man, this was a fairly well acted scene, with some genuinely good dialog and it’s always awesome to have a hero and villain come to an understanding and forgive each other. This one little scene really shows what a good film this could have been but ultimately failed to be. 


    There are some fun bits of trivia and some other elements that are worth mentioning. There’s a scene in a villain locker room where we see both The Riddlers costume and Two faces costume from “Batman Forever”. Also, there's two police men that put Mr. Freeze in his cell and one of them is played by Governor Jesse Ventura. Interesting to see a governor and future governor in the same scene, even more interesting is that this is the third film with the two of them together. The first of cores is the 1987 classic “Predator”. Great movie and I remember thinking to myself, how cool it was to see two future governors in the same film, then in that same year there was “The Running Man”, in that film the two governors got into a fist fight. Then finally, there’s this, so I guise you can call it a trilogy of these two actors/ governors in the same film. The song during the end credits titled “Gotham City” and performed by R. Kelly, is actually quiet good. It fits with the character, puts me in the right mood and if a film can keep me watching the credits, it can’t be that bad. 

     Overall, this film goes way beyond the simple comic book entertainment of “Batman Forever” or the campiness of “Batman The Movie” up to the point where it feels like a comedy satire of a comic book film. It’s a movie that’s really targeted to kids and to promote a line of action figures. However, like I said before, there’s plenty of enjoyment that comes from its sheer stupidity that it becomes funny and entertaining. If this film came out after “The Dark Knight”, then I would have hated it but there wasn’t that much depth to the series before this, so it didn’t bother me that much.  If you want a few laughs, check it out but for the hard core fans, and anyone with a higher IQ then me, stay away. I give “Batman and Robin” at least 2 stars out of 5, any more and I might be clinically insane.

      Stay tuned for review number 7, things are going to take an amazing turn with the cinematic masterpiece that brought Batman back to the theater, “Batman Begins” is up next.
P.S. Is it just me or dose Bane look like he could have been played by Hulk Hogan?

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