Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Batman-a-thon Part 5: Batman and Robin (1997)

[Note: These links will be available as the reviews are posted: Batman (1966)/Batman Prime, Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Batman Awards Blog]

I could just avoid this, you know. I don't have to review this.

I could just as easily post this old review of Batman and Robin:
Or this review from the Nostalgia Critic:
Or even this run of cold puns!
But this is my gimmick, so I will review Batman and Robin.

The film begins with the Dynamic Duo getting dressed for action, and immediately it's clear that the changing of suits in Batman Forever has not only become permanent, but the crew has gone from making the suit a kind-of cool escalation in the fight against crime to a completely bizarre embarrassment that is only remembered for its Bat-nipples.

Robin's suit is no better, shifting from an armored version of the original Robin design, to something that I feel was meant to be like Nightwing but just winds up looking like a modern camp design, as if they were trying to channel the 1960s series.

And in many ways, this was a rehashing of the Silver Age show. Now, don't get me wrong, I have said through this review marathon that I do love the Silver Age and respect the stories.

However, this is a continuation of a trilogy that had been, while at many times ridiculous, pretty serious and dark. Suddenly going into a mode where the stories become completely unbelievable is bad form and it botches the film from the start.

After Robin calls back to the same stupid "Chicks love the car" line from the last movie, they go to a museum and fight Mr. Freeze, who is played by Arnold Swarzenegger.

The third video tells you all you need to about Freeze in this movie. It's not that he looks bad (the costume is actually really good), but it's that everything he says makes it impossible to make me feel bad for his backstory.

The tragedy of Mr. Freeze is Batman legend, and yet this movie is the only instance where the story is done to the letter, but comes up mostly flat because of dialogue and execution that makes it feel like Kindergarten Cop.

So, yeah, the entire fight scene is a slew of terrible dialogue and one-liners, and at one point, Batman slides down a brontosaurus skeleton like he's Fred freaking Flintstone.

Freeze gets away and goes to his "hideout" at a beyond obvious Sno-Cone factory. There he mulls over his wife while he teaches henchmen to sing Snow Miser's song from Year Without a Santa Claus. Who went down on whom to get that awesome Christmas special into this film?

Meanwhile, Pamela Isley works at some weird laboratory for Bruce Wayne where she shares an office with some random guy who turns a skinny Mexican guy into Bane. She sees this, tunes out the scientist's advances, and he tries to kill her.

You know, I keep typing these things and realize just how stupid it sounds.

Well, she rises back up and suddenly can control plants and kill people through venomous kissing.

These villains are botched in every way imaginable. All three were made famous in the darker eras of comic books - Mr. Freeze in the Animated Series, Bane in Knightfall, and Poison Ivy through some weird 70s and 80s storylines where Batman comics had to tread lightly on tentacle vines and sexed-up villainesses.

What comes along here is just awful. They all feel like campy 60s Batman villains. Heck, even 60s Mr. Freeze was more serious than Ah-nold!

Anyway, Bruce turns down Pamela's research ideas on ethical grounds (sound familiar) and she goes nuts. But that's not what is important here. What matters is that Bruce has yet ANOTHER girlfriend.

I get the billionaire playboy thing, but come on! Batman Forever gave all the main characters an arc that made them grow up. By the end of the third film, they were matured individuals. Now, I see that not only was all that good work killed off by this film, but I see a Bruce Wayne that might as well have been gay (and may well have been, if you believe George Clooney).

You can't have Batman portrayed a certain way for three movies and then suddenly throw this characterization at the viewer. It makes no sense!

Incidentally, Clooney plays a serviceable Bruce if you ignore the larger context of the film set, but in no world is this man a good Batman. Adam West would be far more believable today than Clooney was at the time.

Uma Thurman did not do much better as Poison Ivy. Besides the weird sexualized auction where she shows up as a gorilla and starts a bidding war between Robin and Clooney's Bat-Master Card (never leave the Cave without it), the dialogue is just awful.

She did a decent acting job and looked like she was enjoying the role, but no actor/actress could make this film's dialogue not sound idiotic.

Lastly, we are introduced to Barbara, who is Alfred's niece (because Commissioner Gordon in these films is as important as that interviewer b**** who annoys the crap out of me).

As the auction comes to a close, Freeze arrives, steals a diamond to power his suit and draws the attention of Ivy's loins (Warner Bros didn't take this seriously, why should I?). Freeze gets trapped under Batman's cape (somehow) and winds up motionless but apparently conscious. I don't know what happened under that cape, but... eh, enough people have made this joke, just pick one.

Ivy and Bane (oh right, he's here too) break Freeze out of Arkham and Ivy tries to kill Nora Fries. Meanwhile, her femme games keep tearing a rift between Batman and Robin. (If Nightwing was endgame here, this is NOT how you lead into a spin-off series with my favorite superhero!) They chuckle at female anatomy plant puns and reference past films of the series all while introducing us to more stupid devices that will end up being sold in toy stores.

All while this is happening, the film tries to ground itself in a sad story that Alfred is dying of the same illness Nora Fries has. Michael Gough puts on an amazing performance that will be forever overshadowed by the insanity that is this film.

Freeze, in grief over Nora's death, tries to freeze the city so that poison ivy can overrun the world with... I guess plants that have adapted to extreme cold? I don't know. These two do not match up well together.

Batman and Robin are able to overcome their differences and set up a sting for Ivy, but because man-on-woman violence would spike the rating slightly, Barbara finds the Batcave via Alfred's computer with the phone-sex password voice and discovers that he made a Batgirl suit for her (because she has clearly shown skills that make her worthy of the role).

I'm running long, so I'll move to the end. They stop Freeze with a long-winded plan that clearly took more effort than the rest of the script and Freeze reforms at the last second, handing over the cure to Alfred's sickness. I guess he found it for Stage 1 of the sickness, and he keeps the cure in his arm at all times instead of more fuel because... I don't freaking know! This film didn't even try to be coherent.

Alfred is saved, Ivy is Ah-nold's prison b****, Bane goes back to being a skinny Mexican (I almost forgot about him, but so did everyone else), and the Terrific Trio rides off into the sunset.


It basically destroyed all the progress Forever made and created a Batman who is completely unrecognizable from the first film. The saddest thing is that I can see every single progression of the series in a way that leads to this, and that just horrifies me.

I think the reason Forever gets so much flack is because elements introduced in the final few scenes clearly lead into this film. I don't think Val Kilmer could have saved this picture, but I do really wish he and Schumacher got along better so I could have seen what would have happened.

Schumacher is even ashamed of this and apologized for the film. I respect that and actually feel bad for him. He wanted to do a Batman: Year One story, but was forced into this. Sadly, the first film of the reboot, which gets reviewed next, is a Year One adaption. Sorry Joel. At least we have those awesome flashbacks you worked into Forever.

Overall, I give this film a 1 out of 4 star rating and a 3.2 out of 10. This is mostly due to diverging from source material, diverging from the films that preceded it, canceling character development, trying to have "a moment" in a campy film and being an overall insane asylum of a plot. I still have fun watching it because it was the first Batman film I ever saw, but it's now more for humor purposes.

Batman Begins is next up. Stay tuned!

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