Batman and Robin is the absolute worst Batman film ever made, according to fans. It is degrading toward superhero movies, comic book properties, Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, storytelling, action scenes, cinematography, acting, set design, men, women, scientists, superheroes, villains, 90s fashion, hairstyles, architecture, urban design, color, sound, and smell. The movie has no sense of smell, but somehow is offensive to the very concept of odor.
However, I dare to ask, is it really that bad? Well… yes. It’s horrendous and always will be. But I underestimated how “so-bad-it’s-good” this train wreck actually is.
Joel Schumacher returned to direct, and Akiva Goldsmith wrote the script. For those of you who don’t know, Goldsmith has written some groundbreaking hits like, The Client, A Beautiful Mind, and the series Fringe. He’s also written some bombs like I, Robot, Starsky and Hutch, Deep Blue Sea, and this atrocity. He’s living proof that sometimes good writers can create garbage.
The film takes place after Batman Forever; Bruce Wayne is now full partners with Dick Grayson, and the two go out to fight crime as the dynamic duo. Chris O’Donnell returns to play the Boy Wonder (although in this case his title is “The Young Twenty Something Wonder” but that just doesn’t have a good ring to it) who whines more than Luke Skywalker ever could. Meanwhile, George Clooney comes in to fill in for Val Kilmer’s last-minute departure from the movie. In my review of Batman Forever, I mentioned that Val Kilmer didn’t really seem to fit into the role. This is even more so with Clooney. His demeanor, his movements, his actions are akin to some sort of lost puppy in a Batman costume, and not the Caped Crusader. Clooney did not enjoy this role, and to this day he talks about how horrible the film was.
However, not all the blame for this movie can be placed on Clooney. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy are laughably terrible as well. Thurman plays her Poison Ivy similar to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman: sexual, aggressive, and seductive. The difference is that Pfeiffer managed to create a popular fan base, and had a genuinely intriguing arc. Thurman did not, she gets the typical mad scientist gets doused with chemicals origin story that transforms her from an ugly nerd to a smoking hot nature goddess that has the typical, destroy humanity for the good of the Earth campaign.
And then there is Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. I’m personally convinced that he took this role specifically to say as many ice themed puns as possible. I don’t feel that Goldsmith wrote all the puns, I think Schwarzenegger made up all of them and just kept going with it because he was so happy that he came up with all of them. English wasn’t his first language as a young kid, so the fact that he mastered all these puns must have felt like a real triumph. To be fair, he looks like he’s having the time of his life performing in this role. Throughout most of his performance he wears this big smile, even in that armored suit.
What’s really funny is they chose to use the Mr. Freeze origin story from Batman: The Animated Series, which is the most popular and tragic story of the character. Somehow, even with the image of Nora Fries cryogenically suspended in water, and the great weight of Freeze’s back story, they still make him a goofy schmuck who makes terrible jokes all the time. Of course, they also turned Two-Face into a crazy weirdo who makes bad jokes too.
Batgirl and Bane make an appearance in the film as well. There’s not much to say about either of them considering both aren’t in the movie for that long. Bane is not the cold calculating force of pure muscle from the comics, but rather a mindless monster, and Alicia Silverstone plays a spunky, tough as nails Batgirl. Though for some reason she’s Alfred’s niece and not Commissioner Gordon’s daughter. It’s kind of weird to change the origin, but the film focuses on Alfred and Bruce’s relationship. It’s actually not that bad an idea for a plot about Batman, but it’s just not handled well at all.
Every joke is corny and cheesy. Every plot thread is over the top and unfocused. None of the actors fit their roles, even when they’re having a good time performing. It has an underwhelming lead, laughable bad guys, and a terrible script. However, it reaches the so bad it’s funny stage perfectly. It’s fun to watch with friends and laugh at all the stupid decisions made in the movie. It’s definitely the type of movie that you should make a drinking game out of with buddies, as it is incredibly entertaining. Just don’t watch it by yourself, or you might succumb to a form of nihilistic disdain toward all superhero movies.
Schumacher apologized for the film’s existence, and has said many times that the executives in charge weren’t interested in a good product, but rather trying their hardest to milk the Batman cash cow. However, the film was a huge box office bomb and the Warner Bros. decided against making another Batman movie with Schumacher again at the helm. They buried the franchise, and decided to move on… Until Christopher Nolan came into the picture, but we’ll get to that later.
Next time on “Road to Batman V. Superman” we dive right into the film that killed the Superman franchise, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. A movie that did understand the basic concepts of international politics, and had Nuclear Man, the supervillain with press on nails… This is going to be painful.