January 18, 2017

Revisiting Batman & Robin: Is it Still THAT Bad?

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Written by: Lee Skavydis
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1997 may be memorable for the release of director James Cameron’s masterful epic movie, Titanic but it is also relatively easy to recall that Batman franchise killer Batman & Robin was unleashed upon the viewing public, facing an unending barrage of disparaging reviews and comments.
When Michael Keaton announced that he was going to no longer play the Caped Crusader soon after finishing filming Batman Returns everybody wondered who would don the cape next. Top Gun actor Val Kilmer stepped in to replace him, Batman creator Bob Kane’s original choice to play the part. Batman Forever was a decidedly lighter take in order to make the films more child friendly amidst complaints from parents that the first two movies were too dark. It’s likely that these same and particular parents referenced the 1960’s Adam West show and did not take into account that the original comics’ intentions were for the character and his adventures to have always been directed more at adults than the little ones.

Batman Forever’s budget was $100,000,000 and made a domestic gross of just over $184,000,00. The signs of decline were already in progress, but Warner Bros still marched on with producing a follow up. Due to conflict between actor and director, Kilmer turned down the role and opportunity to work with Joel Schumacher again and ER television actor George Clooney became the third man in four movies to give his take alongside Chris O’Donnell as sidekick, Robin.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, attempting to try his hand at different genre’s during the mid 1990’s, played Mr. Freeze while Pulp Fiction actress Uma Thurman was female villain, Poison Ivy. A third villain, Bane was played out as Ivy’s hulking henchman. The result? Batman & Robin was developed as the most light-hearted sequel yet. And it would be the last! Children under the age of 11 may have seen it as an enjoyable romp back then but it was almost unwatchable to any respectable Batman fan who was hoping for the fourth installment to mimic Tim Burton’s gothic dark fantasy style.

Two decades later, is the film still as bad as most said it was? Well, yes and no. Mostly, yes. It is very telling that the third sequel had literally jumped the shark. Cringe worthy scenes such as Batman whipping out his own personalised credit card to pay for the services of Poison Ivy and Schwarzenegger’s corny one liners gave the movie the sense that it was now just making fun of itself while simultaneously attempting to be “cool.” But almost constant self deprecating humour and trying to be cool just isn’t possible. Any sequel that does not come directly after an original finds it tough as it is!

George Clooney’s almost incessant grinning serves to make him the most annoying actor to play Batman in a feature length format. Check out his grinning even when beloved butler Alfred is dying on his death bed! Who does that?!? If anything, Clooney sure played Bruce Wayne as probably the most coldest bastard of them all!

Arnold Schwarzenegger has claimed that he does not regret playing Mr. Freeze, a statement that is both admirable and one that contains an air of possible deniability. But if there is anything positive to salvage, his hammy performance fits in with the context of the picture. And the same can be said for Uma Thurman.

Joel Schumacher was number one enemy of Batman devotees for many years to come, but has since explained that the fault actually lies with Warner Bros. He claimed that they wanted his movie to be more “toy friendly” so the studio could pump out many kinds of memorabilia to make more bucks. Considering how much studios have proven in the past that they can make or break a picture with imprudent choices, it isn’t out of the realms of actual truthfulness that Schumacher was genuine when he stated that.

Batman & Robin remains a movie in which one can view for the unintentional comedic factor. At least if you are a sensible adult. There are actually some well staged action sequences but it is marred by the constant sense that the narrative is not being taken seriously enough. And if you look between the lines, you get the feeling that Warner Bros were cashing out. Not that they had much choice when the flick came up well short of it’s budget of $125,000,000. The scathing opinions and reviews were, and still are, just insult to injury.

Blame whoever you want. Batman & Robin can be looked upon as a guilty pleasure if viewed with the right mind set. But it’s ineptness will always shine bright, no matter how many years have gone by.

About the Author

Lee Skavydis
Lee Skavydis
I am a die hard movie fan, owning over 500 movies on both DVD and Blu Ray. I try to go to the cinema at least once a week when time permits. My other hobbies include following fight sports such as boxing, travelling around, writing and editing, listening to heavy rock and cook the odd occasional recipe. I used to write for several prolific boxing websites, interviewing some of the most famous names associated with the sport around.


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