Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Review of Batman & Robin (1997)

Written by Akiva Goldsmith
Directed by Joel Schumacher

Poison Ivy: "There's just something about an anatomically correct rubber suit that puts fire in a girl's lips."
Batman: "Why is it that all the beautiful ones are homicidal maniacs? Is it me?"

Oh dear. And here's where things went down the pan for the Batman franchise until Christopher Nolan would later restore. It's like everything that was fun about Batman Forever was upped several notches and ended up having the most adverse of effects on the dynamic duo/not so terrific trio.

So what exactly went wrong with this movie? Well, let's talk about George Clooney for a start. A great actor in some respects but not exactly a riveting Batman (though he gets the Bruce Wayne bits right) and one who was also hampered by an erratic script and slightly dodgy suit to an extent and that's not even getting into the tedious rivalry between Batman and Robin that took up way too much screen time as well.

For a movie that should've been about the strength of the dynamic duo, it became more of an annoying rivalry with Robin mainly bleating on about not being seen as an equal or the not so interesting love 'triangle' between him, Batman and Poison Ivy. It's a shame really because Chris O'Donnell is still good as Robin but he's given such tedious material to work with in this movie that there were times when you almost wished Batman had left him as an ice sculpture early in the movie.

Alicia Silverstone does fare marginally better as Barbara Wilson/Batgirl, who is at least useful and more proactive/butt kicking than Robin or even Batman are allowed to be to a degree. It also helps that she's got a likeability factor as well and the rewrite of her being Alfred's niece instead of Commissioner Gordon's daughter works considering how much of a nonentity the latter remained throughout this entire franchise as well.

The best part of this movie concerned Alfred though. Giving him a niece was one thing but dangling the possibility of him not making it out of the movie alive was another. While this might be the worst movie of the four, it is also without a doubt the one where Michael Gough was given plenty to do and gave his best performance throughout. It kind of makes me wish that the previous movie had given him more to do.

As for the villains of the piece - ugh, what was done with Bane pretty much equaled character assassination. The character might be a brute but he's usually an intelligent, calculating one. Here he's basically reduced to a 'grab/smash' henchman for the other two baddies before eventually being dispatched off. At least fifteen years after this movie was released, Tom Hardy was able to give an accurate depiction of the character. Jeep Swenson isn't given that luxury here though.

Then there's Mr Freeze. He's certainly a cool customer and like with the Carrey/Jones double act of the previous movie, there's a competition of sorts with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy as to see who can chew up the scenery the most but at times, this genuinely did hamper the movie more than anything. Still, Freeze's almost successful plan to reduce Gotham to an icy world did at least look nice visually but it's Thurman's take on Ivy that enabled her to be the successful villain of the bunch, even if it meant having to sit through that tedious rivalry with Batman and Robin for her affections.

- Julie Madison (Elle Macpherson) - what was the point of the character? At least Vicki and Chase served a purpose in their movies.
- Had this movie not sunk the franchise, there was the possibility of a follow up called Batman Triumphant ...
- Did we really need to see two versions of each of Batman/Robin/Batgirl's costumes?
- This was also the only film where none of the baddies learned about Batman's real identity. I guess that's pretty interesting.

After such a promising start to this whole franchise, it's a shame that Batman & Robin's too goofy tone at times was the thing that shot the franchise. Perhaps in retrospect, it did benefit from the rest before Nolan's trilogy rejuvenated things but despite some fun moments here and there, this was certainly a disappointing movie.

Rating: 5 out of 10

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