The "Batman" movie series has approached the mentality of the campy Adam West
TV series of yesteryear: stupid and juvenile. "Batman and Robin" is a bad film;
wholly uneven and one-dimensional unlike the previous "Batman" films that
relied so much on character. This one has so many fight scenes and Dolby-ized
explosions and car wrecks that, at first, I thought I was watching an overblown
action flick a la Stallone.
The miscast George Clooney (TV's "E.R.") stars as the lighthearted, rather than
brooding, Batman who is more concerned with bedroom theatrics and the look of
his belt buckle and body armor than with catching the bad guys. Chris O'Donnell
reprises his role as "Bird Boy," excuse me, Robin, the bird-brained Bat partner
who is always horny. Poor Michael Gough returns as the dutiful servant of Wayne
Manor, Alfred, who is getting quite ill (after seeing the script, no doubt)
Then there's Alicia Silverstone (also miscast) as a schoolgirl who is Alfred's
niece and loves to ride around in motorbikes because of the danger principle
(?). She eventually dons a Bat suit and presto (!), she's Batgirl. Red alert to
all screenwriters: where's the transition? Somehow, the idea that Alfred
prepared a Bat suit for her because he was expecting her to enter the Bat cave
is hardly credible.
Is there a story or a worthy plot in this movie? Answer: neither. There's a
plot thread which is left dangling longer than Batman does from the ceiling.
Arnold Schwarzeneger is Mr. Freeze, a Terminator-like villain who shoots every
innocent bystander with a freezing beam that turns them into ice sculptures.
Why is he doing this? Because he wants to save his cryogenically preserved wife
by finding a cure to a disease which the dying Alfred also suffers from. Got
it? And the villainess is Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), a sexy "Plant Girl" who has
venomous lips and chlorophyll for blood. "Don't kiss her!" utters Batman at one
point before Robin is lured into lip lock status. Poison Ivy wants Mother
Nature to begin plant life all over again and thus becomes partners with Mr.
Freeze who is ready to freeze Gotham City. Will Batman, Robin and Batgirl stop
them in time? Does anybody care anymore?
Joel Schumacher ("Batman Forever") helmed this travesty as well and it is a
considerable waste of celluloid. He shoots all the fight scenes in extremely
tight close-ups so it is hard to decipher what is happening sometimes. Some
action scenes do work, particularly the dazzling opening sequence, but how many
tight butt shots and shots below-the-belt can you stand? Holy sexual innuendos!
The characters are amazingly all underdeveloped. The duality of Batman and
Bruce Wayne is hardly represented anymore, and the script's idea of Bruce is to
have Clooney walk around in a black robe and smile incongruently. After a
while, I started to think that Batman and Bruce Wayne were not the same person!
Chris O'Donnell tries to act tough but appears more as a jealous, sexually
frustrated kid than a hero. Ditto Alicia Silverstone who is as clueless as
everyone else. Schwarzeneger seems to be having a good time but his one-liners
("The Iceman Cometh. Hell will freeze over. Just chill") get to be repetitive
after a while and do nothing to enhance the character - he's just a blue-eyed
hulk. Uma Thurman is marvelous in perhaps the best performance in the movie but
her Poison Ivy shtick (blowing kisses of purplish smoke) is thinly executed and
done with none of the relish that Michelle Pfeiffer had with Catwoman. And pity
Michael Gough who I hope will outlive this pointless franchise.
I am a big fan of the Batman series but this one is tired, unimaginative and
soulless. There's no excitement or spontaneity in the dusty Batcave anymore.
The music is loud enough to keep you awake, the explosions are delivered on
cue, and there's enough TV-style humor to make Adam West want to don his suit
again, but there's no sense of who Batman and Robin are or why they should be
considered heroes. As usual, the threadbare villains steal the show. One more
movie like this and the villains will become the heroes to root for. Maybe
that's not such a bad idea.
Copyright © 1997 Jerry Saravia