Batman and Robin

George Clooney as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Chris O’Donnell as Robin/Dick Grayson
Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl/ Barbara Wilson
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze/Victor Fries
Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy/Pamela Isley
Jeep Swenson as Bane
Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon
Elle Macpherson as Julie Madison

Has there ever been a movie so ridiculed as Batman and Robin? I myself have seen it criticized on the Internet more than just about any other movie. It got roasted on TV as well; I remember Saturday Night Live and even stand-up comics mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lines and the nipples on the heroes’ suits.

Does it deserve the venom? A rebellious side of me wants to say “no,” But there are times when conventional wisdom could not be righter. There is nothing good and little average in this movie. Series of films do go downhill after the second or third installment with notable exceptions (nods in James Bond’s direction), but few go this far downhill. Until CatwomanB&R was certainly the worst comic book movie other than those with shoestring money and thought put into them. Even Superman IV: the Quest for Peace was not this bad. In fact, to this very day, I believe that this is one of those cynical, super-corporate films that sacrificed so much quality for the love of money as to insult our intelligence in doing so.


Reminder: Batman can’t fly.

The somewhat apologetic DVD commentary by director Joel Schumacher reveals that he was under pressure to make the movie kiddie-friendly, light, with lots of characters, with big stars, and a toyetic use of effects. That’s the exact word — “toyetic.” An attempt to shift blame away from himself? Probably, ‘specially since he blamed online fans for the movie’s box office failure when it was in theaters. But it makes sense. Schumacher has made plenty of dark, good movies. B&R really doesn’t seem to be his style.

This kind of soulless, greedy, strategy on Warner Brothers’ part is one you would hope we’re not stupid enough to fall for. And we’re not. But just barely. According to, B&R had a $125 million budget and grossed $238 million, nearly reaching the double the budget needed to break even (theaters get half the cash).

I guess I have to start with the actual movie somewhere. The first fundamental problem is that it’s basically a dumber Batman Forever with a few elements taken from other Bat-adaptations as well. By Schumacher’s own admission, they ripped material from the then-recent animated series. Also Poison Ivy’s origin seems very similar to Catwoman’s in Batman Returns. Here’s a list of similarities between Forever and Robin:

Batman Forever
Batman and Robin
First line: “Can I persuade you to take a sandwich with you, sir.” “I’ll get drive-through.”
First line: “I wanna car! chicks dig the car.” “This is why Superman works alone.”
A pre-villain Riddler makes a proposition to Bruce, but is dismissed as insane.
A pre-villain Poison Ivy makes a proposition to Bruce, but is dismissed as insane.
Number of heroes is increased by one.
Number of heroes and villains is increased by one each.
Dick fights a street gang.
Dick and Barbara have a motorcycle race with a street gang.
The Batman Forever musical score.
The Batman Forever musical score is recycled and called the Batman and Robin musical score.
Decent movie.

With the exception of Michael Gough (now in a much bigger role than usual), all the performances are awful. This was the first I ever saw of George Clooney and until I saw him in the Perfect Storm years later, I had concluded he was an incredibly bad actor. I have since come to realize that he was just scripted according to the pure-hearted 1950s superhero template. Clooney plays this role as a statue, not a performer. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a cold-hearted and tragic villain. He does the “cold-hearted” just fine, but I’m afraid that tragedy is a little out of the ‘roided-up bodybuilder’s league. Uma Thurman is way over the top here despite usually being a solid actress. I guess you have your ups and downs. Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone pretty much prove with their horrible performances that two over-rated teenagers were never going to be big stars for long.

And then there’s the two supermodels, Elle Macpherson and Vendela Kirseborn. Not really much to say about them, save that two supermodel “actresses” in one movie prove my point about corporate soullessness.

The good news about Batman and Robin is that there is a plot. The bad news is that it’s got too much going on. Here are all the subplots:

1.) Batman’s overprotective distrust of Robin creating a rift between them.
2.) Alfred catching a fatal disease.
3.) Alfred’s niece, Barbara, reuniting with him and trying to “take him away from this dismal life of servitude.”
4.) A predictable, half-assed romance between Dick and Barbara blossoms.
5.) Bruce’s girlfriend who becomes an important part of his life — getting Elle Macpherson into the movie.
6.) Eco-terrorist Poison Ivy is seeking to stop deforestation by exterminating all humans.
7.) Mr. Freeze, who has a terminally fatal and cryogenic-ally frozen wife, Nora, prepares to freeze Gotham unless its officials hand over the money Freeze needs to finish his research to find a cure.
8.) Freeze and Ivy team up.
9.) Barbara becomes Batgirl.

Nine subplots. That’s a lot. The focus is spread so thin that none of these concepts work. It’s no surprise when you look at that long cast above. Only very specific movies should have that many characters (the X-men and Avengers movies, for instance). It’s just not stirring the coffee here.


Couldn’t they spare less than $30 on concealing facial hair (you may need to  click the image to tell)?

Batman and Robin is not particularly true to the source material. Making Batgirl blonde is one thing, but Alfred’s niece instead of Commissioner Gordon’s daughter? Bane was a major villain in the comics but is basically Frankenstein’s monster here.

Batman, Robin, and Batgirl seem to have been bitten by the same spider that nicked into Spider-Man. Because they’re making forty-foot leaps all the time. Meanwhile the wiring for these jumps is terrible, creating a “hover” effect. Other examples of camp include  lots of giant statues on which there’s a car chase and people being frozen, instantly thawed out, and not even being winded.

The worst aspect of Batman and Robin would have to be the dialogue. Ugh. A sneak peek:

Batman: “Hi Freeze. I’m Batman.”
Freeze: “I’m afraid my condition has left me cold to you’re pleas for mercy.”
Freeze: “Kill the heroes!”
Robin: “It’s the hockey team from hell!”
Freeze: “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!”
Ivy: “Because It’s not nice to fool with mother nature.”
Batman: (revealing a Bat-credit card): “Never leave the Cave without it.”
Freeze: “Let’s kick some ice!”

I could go on and on and on. But that more than suffices.

For all Batman and Robin’s problems, there is exactly one thing it does well. Other than the aforementioned jumping problems, the effects are quite good. The CGI effect for Freeze’s freezing gun is one of the best of the 1990s. And the backgrounds, along with the lighting work great. There’s no question of what most of the $125 million went towards.


The one thing this movie does right.

But special effects do not a movie make. What makes a movie is plot and acting. As I have noted, B&R lacks utterly in those areas.

There was to be yet another sequel but that was scrapped when this movie didn’t do well. Otherwise, I imagine we’d have seen someone from the comics but who had never appeared anywhere else to be a fourth hero, four villains, cartoonish fights scenes, worse dialogue than ever, and a $200 million budget. Still, it’s good that the series got rebooted several years later because this is a very inglorious way to go out.

Overall: 2 out of 10


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