I don’t know anyone who’ll admit to liking BATMAN AND ROBIN.
Whaaaaat? A nitpicky Bat-fan like me? Enjoy a film that’s not only unanimously considered the worst Batman movie, but one of the worst movies ever made, period?
It was obvious to me when the first trailer hit what the tone of the movie would be. Other people seem to have not been similarly prepared, but come on…the preview opened with “Mi name isss Freeeze! Lyearn it well, foh it isss da CHILLING sound off ya DOOM!”
You expected anything other than camp after that? I enjoy BATMAN AND ROBIN like I enjoy BATMAN! THE MOVIE. Neither is in any way true to Batman as I understand him, but both are enjoyable camp. Some seem to doubt that BATMAN AND ROBIN was deliberate camp, but I need only point you to the scene in which Batman tries to bid for Poison Ivy’s “services” using a Bat-credit card with an expiration date of “forever.” You may hate Joel Schumacher, but he’s not an idiot — there’s no possible way he could have meant that scene as anything other than comedy.
Schumacher has never expressed much satisfaction with the film; he has repeatedly told the story that the first production meeting was Warner Bros. executives who insisted that their be a certain number of vehicles and characters that could be made into toys, which probably helps explain why there are three heroes and three villains this outing. Schumacher also defends his choices by claiming that there are many different interpretations of Batman throughout the character’s history, including the campy versions. He’s not wrong.
I suspect that given very confining mandates, Schumacher tried to be subversive in his own way by adding a lot of gay subtext. I also suspect that this bothers people more than the campy performances and storyline.
Having said that, I’m not sure all of the actors were in on the joke. Uma Thurman’s Mae West impersonation as Poison Ivy simply doesn’t work, seriously or unseriously. But Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze is a deranged triumph: he’s clearly trying as hard as he can to be hilariously funny, and expending a lot of energy in doing so, but the deliberate humor falls so incredibly flat that it becomes funny in a disastrous way. If you’re a Californian, watching BATMAN AND ROBIN will make you seriously fear for the sanity of the man in charge of the state.
George Clooney is indisputably the worst Batman, but I do think he was in on the joke a bit. Unlike Keaton, Kilmer, Bale, or Kevin Conroy in the cartoons, he makes no attempt to modify his voice or performance between Batman and Bruce Wayne. As Batman, he walks around in broad daylight examining a crime scene. And he does the stereotypical Clooney thing of looking down and bobbing his head, even while wearing Bat-ears. If he was meant to be channeling Adam West, he at least partially succeeds.
Echoes of the TV show include Mr. Freeze having a Germanic accent (Otto Preminger filled the role on TV), and the gang of ice hockey players that back him up, similar to the generic henchmen every TV villain would have. Robin doesn’t say “Holy…” but Batman does get to say things like “Batgirl? That’s not very PC, shouldn’t you be Bat-Person?” Alfred creates a Max Headroom-style hologram version of himself, and once again just blatantly assists a female character in entering the Batcave, where it just so happens that he’s created a Batsuit just on the offchance that she might need one. This all while suffering from a terminal disease (which just so happens to be the one Mr. Freeze is researching).
Speaking of the Batgirl-suit, Schumacher promised nipples, and screwed us on that. He also promised Poison Ivy would be wearing almost nothing, which also was not delivered.
At least Commisioner Gordon’s dopiness is not out of place in this one, though you’ve got to love the way he introduces Mr. Freeze in true toy commercial style as “a new villain!” Michael Gough’s Alfred is also less bothersome here — the homoerotic scene in which Bruce Wayne kisses him and says he loves him is most amusing.
No killing by Batman, and no revelation of identity to girlfriend (Elle MacPherson’s character of Julie Madison was originally killed off, but that scene got deleted). Batgirl discovers the secret rather easily, though.
In a gaffe reminiscent of the Penguin knocking over the tombstone in RETURNS, a policeman exits a “frozen” car, and the icicles on the door bounce. Possibly a deliberate camp touch? I don’t know.
Anyway, I find the movie endlessly entertaining in its own way. Love the Jesse Ventura cameo too.
Please note: I will not be reviewing BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM – THE ANIMATED MOVIE. I’m assessing live-action Batmen. MASK OF THE PHANTASM, like the rest of the Paul Dini cartoon, is flawless in its portrayal, and the best Batman movie to date. All the best comic adaptations are animated, with my personal favorite being MTV’s THE MAXX. But live-action is a different beast with different challenges, and that’s what’s relevant to my upcoming BATMAN BEGINS review.