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Batman and Robin
1997 - PG-13 - 125 Mins.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Producer: Peter MacGregor-Scott
Written By: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Chris O'Donnell
Review by: John Ulmer
   

Arnie looking pleased to have the grandest joy of playing such a finely written role.
Batman was never about huge stunts or masterful special effects. It was about a man tired with the filth on the streets who stood up to make a difference. I've often compared Batman to Travis Bickle--both characters live in a very grim world--at least through their own eyes--and try to deliver their own personal justice.

That is why the character of Batman has always appealed to me, in part, over such heroes as Superman. I was never into comic books very much, but from what I picked up from the Superman comics and films, I just could not relate to the character. He was an inhuman, flying superhero. Batman's just a hero--and the label "superhero" really doesn't apply to him at all. He's a super guy but nothing else is super about him.

Somewhere along the way, that vision that Tim Burton successfully retained in the first installment (1989) was lost. Perhaps the earliest note of this was the horrid first sequel, "Batman Returns," that moved Batman to the side of everything and tried to implement quirky characters and new plots.

"Batman Forever," which was at the very least a decent enough movie with a high entertainment quotient, was ruined by the over-the-top style, non-stop silliness and strange surroundings that weren't just gothic, but almost sickly Spielbergian. It has some very undesirable traits.

But at least it was tolerable. This one isn't.

"Batman and Robin" isn't just the worst film of the series, it isn't just the worst film of 1997, it's one of the top five worst mainstream films of the decade. Holy cow, Batman! It's absolutely horrible!

Thank Joel Schumacher, one of the most hit-and-miss directors of all time ("Falling Down" is arguably one of the greatest character studies of all time; "Lost Boys" isn't), we have a sorry mess of a narrative, driven by corny dialog that takes itself seriously--unlike the television show--and stiff acting that only gets stiffer as the hokey plot continues forward.

"Hi Freeze. I'm Batman!" says Bruce Wayne (George Clooney) with a grin behind his mask. Right, as if the pointed ears, leather suit, long gliding cape and huge symbol across his chest wasn't enough for a quick evaluation.

The man looking at him is Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his worst roles), a madman who has to steal big diamonds from history museums in order to thrive. You see; he mistakenly fell into a big pot of cold cryogenic stew years ago. "It would kill most people!" says Robin (Chris O'Donnell, one of the only returning actors), as if we haven't deducted that for ourselves already. But due to a strange quirk (also known as "plot contrivance" in my Merriam-Webster Dictionary), Freeze (who has a name as subtly indicative of his special powers as, well, Batman) lives and requires extreme cold in his shiny bodysuit.

This is a movie, so let's forget the fact that all of our costumes and props are over-the-top, glamorous and--as John Cleese might say--outrrrrrrrrageously expensive (!). The Batman costume itself weighted fourteen and a half pounds--hardly something efficient for a crime fighter, eh?

But as the years and sequels have passed, it seems Batman's ego has grown--his suit now even has chiseled abs and fits snugly around his buttocks (which we get more than a few close-up shots of, as if Schumacher has some sort of strange tight leather fetish that he wants to burden the audience with). What next, a crotch holder? Oh, wait, too late.

Soon we get a crazy plot about Mr. Freeze wanting to chill all of Gotham City with the help of the supposedly sexy Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), who Schumacher uses as a steamy seductress throughout the film, taking the audience for a pack of excited idiots. He made a big gamble by assuming everyone would think a redheaded, over-the-top Uma Thurman would be drop-dead gorgeous. He lost the roll.

Apart from George Clooney's overbearing smugness and Chris O'Donnell's increasingly annoying attributes and so-called acting, we also have Alicia Silverstone's poor interpretation of Batgirl. ("Who are you?" Batman asks. "It's me, Bruce, Barbara!" she shouts, despite the fact that all she's wearing is a very thin piece of leather over her eyes. Bob Kane is rolling in his grave!)

The pure atrocity of this film has fueled its popularity more than anything else. Sometimes it's good to make a bad film--no one would be watching "Manos" if not for its MST3K cult following. On the IMDb, "Batman and Robin" has almost about seven thousand more votes than its predecessor, "Batman Forever." The real question after "Batman and Robin" is if Joel Schumacher really regrets making this awful large budget turkey.

I'd like to give this movie the worst rating possible, but since I've seen worse I'll be generous and give it the second worst rating available. I'm not even sure it deserves that.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Unwatchable.  One of the worst of the year.  Skip it.
  0.5 out of 5 stars

 
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