I'm as big a fan of the Batman franchise as any, but I think
it's time for a mercy killing. BATMAN & ROBIN is easily the worst
of the four recent BATMAN films. It's about on the level of the 1966
BATMAN movie; and that's no compliment. The '60s Batman was
taken as an abomination of comic book purity, but it was at least
funny and well-written at times. Akiva Goldsman's script for
BATMAN & ROBIN would probably earn him a D+ in a ninth grade
creative writing class.
The dialogue is a long string of horrible puns and cliches,
and the serious parts are even worse. The core of a good movie is
good writing, and rotten writing lies at the heart of a bad movie. The
art direction here is about the same as BATMAN FOREVER, even
using the same black light costuming and computer-generated
swooping graphics of Gotham City. The movie looks great but still
sucks because core is crap. You can dress a turd up in a nice little
baby bonnet, but it's still a turd.
Nothing remains the same from movie to movie in the
BATMAN films. Different costumes, different villians, different
Batmobile, even a different Batman. In one of those casting
decisions I'll never understand, they picked George "ER" Clooney
for BATMAN & ROBIN. He was passable in FROM DUSK TILL
DAWN, but he does nothing here to distinguish himself as Batman.
He's neither good nor bad nor memorable, but then again, it doesn't
really matter who's under the mask as long as it's a slim, dark-haired
white guy. It could be Howard Stern or John Bon Jovi for all we
It's always the villains that distinguish BATMAN films,
from Jack Nicholson's Joker to Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman.
Casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze seemed like a good
idea until I actually saw him in costume. Head shaved, painted silver
from head to toe in foreboding Tron armor that glows in the dark.
The bad writing is spread all around, but Freeze is the only
character who delivers 100 percent rotten lines, from "The iceman
cometh!" to "Forecast: cool!" They make comic book dialogue
balloons seem like they were written by Hemingway.
The rest of the cast is more or less adequate, although we
can never get over the garbage that's coming out of their mouths.
Returning actors Chris O'Donnell as Robin, Michael Gough as
Alfred and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon all step right back
into the roles they've filled before, and cameo players with five or 10
lines each, like Elle MacPherson as Bruce Wayne's steady girlfriend
and Vivica A. Fox as Freeze's lusty henchwoman (FOX: I'm hot for
you. FREEZE: I'm cold for you.) liven things up a little.
Then there are the two leading babes -- Uma Thurman and
Alicia Silverstone. Thurman plays comic book creation Poison Ivy, a
character irresistable to men who is similar to Carolyn "Morticia"
Jones as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds in the "Batman" TV show.
She's beguiling as always, even with green plant eyebrows, but her
character is written as a retread of Catwoman in BATMAN
RETURNS. Both had origins as hard workers who stumbled upon
their evil bosses' secrets and then the bosses tried to kill them.
Catwoman was brought back by cats, now Poison Ivy is revived by
Silverstone, who already seems past her prime, is Batgirl,
whose origin is a retread of Robin's. Like O'Donnell in the last
movie, she comes to stay at Wayne Manor after her parents are
killed (I don't think people are allowed into Wayne Manor unless
their parents are dead), stumbles upon Wayne's secret and decides
she wants to fight crime too. There's even a repeat of the scene
where Robin goes out by himself to battle a gang of neon thugs,
then ends up being bailed by Batman. Here, it's Batgirl who does the
fighting and Robin who does the bailing.
Just about everything in BATMAN & ROBIN borrows from
past films. Mr. Freeze's origin story is similar to Two-Face's. Both
did good for their fellow man -- Freeze as a scientist trying to find
the cure for his wife's disease (This is the second time in three years
Schwarzenegger has been uncredible as a scientist.) and Face as a
district attorney -- and went awry after an on-the-job accident.
Freeze falls into a vat of freezing solution and somehow survives,
although his appearance is greatly altered. In that respect, he might
as well be the Joker.
The two villains eventually pair up, just like Penguin and
Catwoman in BATMAN RETURNS and Riddler and Two-Face in
BATMAN FOREVER. Villains in Gotham City have to pair up
sooner or later, and this time there's a third super-villain. It's Poison
Ivy's henchman Bane, a grunting bohemoth who is created out of
some kind of super plant solution. In the comic book, Bane was the
ultra-intelligent villain who put Bruce Wayne out of commission;
here, he's dumbed down to make Schwarzenegger's character seem
like his IQ is above 100.
The plot is pretty shoestring here. Freeze wants to freeze
the city; Poison Ivy wants to kill Batman and Robin. There's not
much else to it -- a fourth of the movie is pure, convoluted action,
another fourth is origin scenes, a third fourth is criminal activity and
the last part is trouble in the Wayne household. Alfred's dying, and
they draw it out as much as they possibly can, so that eventually we
want to kill the old guy ourselves. Then there's Batman and Robin
fighting amongst themselves over Poison Ivy and how Batman
always has to be right. The height of this pathetic dramatic
exchange is Robin's line, "I'm sick of the Batsignal, I want a
BATMAN & ROBIN is on the elementary level as far as
writing goes. Schumacher has taken the worst elements of
surrealism and bad dialogue in BATMAN FOREVER and run with
them. Nothing is the least bit believable anymore, from the opening
stratosphere fight with Freeze on. There's a fifth BATMAN script
finished, but if it has the name Akiva Goldsman on it, I doubt many
people would tune in tomorrow. Same bad writing, same plot
Copyright © 1997 Andrew Hicks