Dan: With the upcoming, much-anticipated release of “The Dark Knight Rises,” we felt it was about time for the Batman franchise to be taken down a notch. Christopher Nolan’s two films about the Caped Crusader have been spectacular, with “The Dark Knight” a surefire contender for the best superhero movie of all time. The final part of the trilogy looks to be just as stellar, with a great source to work from (the “Knightfall” storyline is one of the most powerful in Batman’s comic history) and some great new actors entering the fray (Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, anyone?).
But it wasn’t always this way. Back in 1997, Joel Schumacher released a Batman sequel of his own, and “Batman & Robin” turned out to be one of the most unpleasant movie experiences of all time. The camp, though somewhat charming in his first Batman movie, “Batman Forever” in 1995, was completely overblown in the sequel, the plot and characters made less than no sense, and the whole thing left us wondering, “What just happened?”
It opens with Batman (George Clooney) and sidekick Robin (Chris O’Donnell) foiling the evil plans of Mr. Freeze (the Governator himself, Arnold Swartzenegger) while playing ice hockey and battling bad ice-related puns. Down the road, they also run into Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), who looks to team up with Freeze and destroy Gotham City. Throughout the entire movie, Robin complains about not getting to do enough on his own in his whiniest voice possible. The two are pitted against each other by Ivy, and it takes the random entrance of Batgirl, played by Alicia Silverstone, to set the boys right and save their skins. In the end, the three stop Freeze and Ivy for good and run off in the goofiest-looking costumes since the good ol’ days of Adam West to fight crime as a new team.
Caryn, in a movie with many low points, which would you say was the worst?
Caryn: “Batman & Robin” is a really campy movie. I’d have to say the worst scene is when Alicia Silverstone goes motorcycle racing. There’s a cameo from Coolio in the scene, which is just weird. As she races her motorcycle, colorful flames shoot everywhere and barrels along the race course explode with glittery magic! The whole scene had more glitter than “Glitter!”
I loved the way Uma Thurman played Poison Ivy, though. She’s my favorite Batman villain, with Catwoman coming in at a close second. Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy was cartoony and over-the-top in a way that was absolutely fabulous. My favorite scene is at the diamond auction when she does a choreographed dance with her henchmen and Batman and Robin fight over her. I’d love to see a gritty, Christopher Nolan interpretation of Poison Ivy, but she has more supernatural powers that Nolan decided he didn’t want in his movie. It’s a shame. What better motivation could a villain have than saving the environment from human impact?
Do you think “Batman & Robin” has any redeeming qualities?
Dan: Other than some occasional good Poison Ivy moments, no. I think this movie has no redeeming qualities. Everything is so ridiculous and absurd, but not in an enjoyable way like our favorites, “Birdemic” and “The Room.” Everything dumb that takes place is painful to watch, from the obnoxious costumes (why did the Batman and Robin uniforms need nipples?) to the stilted acting (I couldn’t stop yammering on about Alicia Silverstone’s inability to correctly move her mouth) to the preposterous plot (Mr. Freeze can’t save his wife … so why does he want to destroy the world?).
The first scene of the movie encapsulates the entire film. Batman and Robin make an asinine quip before racing off to fight Mr. Freeze, who proceeds to make 8 billion cold puns. Somehow, the diamond he is stealing falls on the floor, and his goons (who, by the way, are all decked out in ice skates) actually play hockey with the Dynamic Duo using the diamond as a hockey puck. Then, Mr. Freeze hops into a rocket ship … which emerges from the middle of the supposed museum in which the robbery is taking place. Somehow, Batman and Robin escape their interstellar demise … by riding hunks of metal like snowboards as they free fall thousands of feet to the earth below.
This is our introduction to the film! As someone who is no fan of action, Caryn, what did you make of all this nonsense?
Caryn: Honestly, I don’t know what brought Batman to this. Maybe a Batman expert (or someone more familiar with how decisions are made in Hollywood) could explain why such a cheesy adaptation was even allowed. Superheroes are self-sacrificing individuals who defend the weak. It’s a heavy concept when you think about it, and it’s a shame it needs to be embellished with corny quips and flamboyant characters. The Avengers is another such movie that was cartoonishly flippant about what the superheroes were trying to accomplish.
If you’re going to watch superhero films, check out Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.” Batman’s purpose and motivation is clear in the film, and he doesn’t need to come up with “clever” puns to accomplish it.
Dan: Again with “The Avengers.” We’re going to have to go to counseling about this, I fear.
There was an era of comics in which such antics were the norm, and those days are beloved by most die-hard fans of even Batman. But this movie seems to forcibly drag us back to those days without acknowledging the advancements the industry has made over the decades. I think the biggest flaw is the movie seems to take place entirely on a stage instead of in a real, functioning world. Nothing seemed to actually matter because everything was so obviously fake. You certainly won’t get that feeling from the Nolan films, though, nor from the equally excellent Tim Burton Batman movies of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Those give us a much more modern take on the Dark Knight.