17 July 2012

DARK KNIGHT LEGEND: Batman & Robin [1997]


proudly presents


 Batman & Robin

Some sixteen years later, and Batman & Robin is universally heralded as the Apocalypse of Batman, so, so, sooo bad that it beat the shit out of the franchise and left it dying on the ground. The horrible puns, the lame one liners, the beyond ridiculous script and gadgets and everything that encompasses this movie. Not one iota of the flick is considered even halfway decent by the fanbase and general critics alike. As for me, I think it all comes back to the feeling of Batman Forever - it depends entirely on how you enter the party.

Looking back at all four of the Original Movies (encompassing 1989-1997), we see the Dark Origin of the character, where the mysterious masked man dressed as a bat strikes fear into the hearts of Gotham's criminals and works with the police - in the shadows. And as Gotham enters a new generation, so does the dark knight, no longer secluded to the darkness and whispers of fearful bad guys, but a front and center symbol of justice. Gotham's icon, boasting incredible gadgetry and friends, stopping at nothing to save Gothamites. Enter Batman & Robin, the conclusion of Batman's 'journey'. No longer the instrument of fear, Batman is a celebrity, One of the People, and the manner in which his exploits are dramatized resort to humorous sound bites, sulty villains and one-liner villains, and a tongue-in-cheek tone that, 'hey, isn't this fun? Let's have an nifty adventure with all these cool new toys!' We've come full circle. Batman, the celebrity icon of the late 60's on television, now once again the crown prince of jocularity and bafoonery on the cinema screen.

Taking it in as a Batman fan who immerses himself in the world that Christopher Nolan realized and the dark and gritty graphic novels that celebrate the ambiguous, obsessed crime fighter, watching Batman & Robin is very, very difficult. So the only way for me to be okay with it, to not just hate on every second of the movie, is to recognize that the Batman brand evolved. At the time these were made, audiences didn't want a genuine character, or a genuine story of the man behind the mask or his motivations behind that life choice. They wanted a comic book, on the big screen. And that's exactly what they got.

But because this is Batman & Robin and thousands of words have been written on it in both a comical and serious manner, chronicling exactly how shitty the film is, I'm going to approach this review more in a bullet point, topic-like manner. So, let us begin:

* "You must be new in town. In Gotham, Batman and Robin save us. Even from plants and flowers." This is spoken to Poison Ivy before she becomes a insatiable vixen by a reporter, in response to Uma Thurman's plea to Bruce Wayne that action must be done to save Mother Earth (!). I dare say that this quote from the reporter just about sums up the entire tone of the film. It blatantly speaks to the duo's celebrity status, and considering that the woman is speaking with complete earnestness, it seems that plants and flowers as big bad's is just another day in the park in Gotham. More than that, it speaks volumes to a Gotham that is content with sitting back and letting Batman and Robin do all the work for them. They "save us", meaning that Gothamites - well, they don't seem to really make any effort to take care of themselves. So, corny line, but surprisingly lots can be taken from it.

* I'm perfectly fine with a character using a pun or two, or saying "freeze" a lot because his newly christened name is "Mr. Freeze", but there's a lot, and there's the amount Arnold Schwarrzzennegger says it. I (stupidly) didn't tally it all down, but I would not be surprised at all if the number of times "freeze" was said by Arnie's mouth alone would be in the hundred range.

* "What is Batman, if not an effort to master the chaos that sweeps our world? An attempt to control death itself." Oh my God, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman is actually trying to bring some sort of drama and pathos to Batman in this movie? Futile, but bravo Akiva for making the attempt. Still, it's a interesting way to look at the character. Batman making himself Master of Death, refusing to allow anyone to die on his watch. And in this universe, Batman isn't against killing, so there's a tad more credence to that. But still, how are we supposed to take Batman seriously in a movie that features this:

* George Clooney is a great Bruce Wayne. He has the charisma, that look of a billionaire playboy who couldn't give less of a shit about the city, and the New Random Girl to have his arms all over. But as Batman? Horrible, horrible casting. His face looks all freaky deaky as the Bats, and just not representative of the dark knight. That said, I need to recognize the tone change from Kilmer to Clooney, and then maybe I'll be okay with it. Outlook, not so good.

* Barbara Wilson? Alfred's niece? Okay....

* Speaking of Alfred, I'm beyond glad Goldsman gave the fantastic actor some genuine material to work with. I love how Barbara comes into the mix and tries to shame Bruce and Dick for having Alfred in this line of servitude, and Alfred's response later, that he has the greatest honor to serve heroes - that's tremendous writing and acting. Michael Gough really owns this movie, and makes it a far memorable experience than the goofy one liners and obvious action figure cash-ins.

* Horrible one-liners aside, Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze were actually kinda fun villains. All pretense of being serious movie monsters was dropped, and Uma and Arnold where given free license to just ham it up and just go nuts. This makes for Uma's Poison Ivy to be the second most entertaining bad "person" of the Original Films. Bane, though, is a disgrace. It's insulting to the original intention of Bane, and it's an insult to all moviegoers. Even at the age of seven, I know for a fact - I was un-freakin'-amused.

* I could get into suit designs and how they're absolutely ridiculous (see pic below), but as we all know, they're all simply meant to be flashy, with absolutely no desire to think of them in a real world setting. They look the part, but they aren't really the part. Many have remarked that Schumacher designed the costumes to have similarities to Greek sculptures, make them akin to the heroes of the past, I take it. Then what might one gather from the pic below? Greek heroes changed outfits between one scene to another for a more splashy effect before they head back out in battle?

* Batman & Robin is a pretty shitty movie if you're coming to it from the viewpoint of someone who worships Batman Begins and everything Christopher Nolan has done for the saga (such as myself), but it helps - barely - to understand that the intent of this movie wasn't to be good, even. Which is a monumental shame. It's that aim which killed the Bat franchise for several years. The dark knight became a laughing stock, an embarrassment. We've reached the pinnacle of its 1960's cartoonish glory, and when it's resurrected eight years later, audiences and fans were treated with the pinnacle of Batman being Batman, for good. Just sad it had to come to this before we came to that.


TheVern said...

This movie was horrible but Uma Thurman was fun to look at.

btw I heard ya on The Reel Insight Podcast. It's great to know another Minnesota born movie geek.

Time Lord said...

Hey Vern! Thanks for stopping by! Sorry about the Reel Insight thing - first time doing it, I was petrified! I blame that for my ramblyness!

Yo, how'd you like CON? I went as well. Thought it was pretty nifty (first time going). Bit disappointed by the Dealer's Room, which had way less sci-fi geeky merchandise than I would have expected. Was more of a clothing shop, really. Read that you went to the film scores panel - I didn't so much attend that one, but did you happen to go to THE AVENGERS and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN panels? They were hilarious, absolutely brilliant. And I was flabbergasted by how this sci-fi convention turned into a GIGANTAMOUS PARTY at 11PM. Wowzers.

As for Uma, yeah, very much with the fun to look at. HOWEVER, thanks to Tarantino, I now watch this movie expecting her to rip off the green outfit, revealing her yellow Bruce Lee jump suit and unleashing her katana on Bats and Robin - which woulda been a way cooler film, IMO. Cheers!