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Batman & Robin

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Batman & Robin

Starring: Arnold Schwarznegger, George Clooney
Director: Joel Schumacher
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: June 1997
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Chris O'Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, John Glover, Elle MacPherson, Vivica Fox

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

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

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