It was a beautiful Saturday morning in June 1997 when my sidekick John and I traveled to the General Cinema in Braintree MA to see the latest Batman live action adventure, “Batman & Robin.”
Things were simpler back in 1997, these were the early days of the internet after all, so movie spoilers were harder to find. Social media didn’t exist yet, and Rotten Tomatoes were only found at my local Shaw’s store. Due to all of this, I went into “Batman & Robin” with an open mind, hoping to see the Dark Knight I knew from the comics.
The film was directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Akiva Goldsman. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger (getting top billing), George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, and Uma Thurman. In “Batman & Robin,” the heroes attempt to prevent Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy from freezing all mankind to death and repopulating the earth with mutant plants .. I think.
Anyways,, I didn’t mind the opening scene in the Batcave when Batman tells Robin “This is why Superman works alone.” As a comic fan I geeked out because this meant Batman and Superman existed in the same world, and Batman could cameo in the Superman movie that was supposed to come out the following year.
Then came a moment that let me know this was going to be a train wreck. As Batman is battling Mr. Freeze and his hockey team from hell, Robin burst through the wall on his motorcycle. The hole he and the bike leave behind is a perfect Nightwing logo. I mean, how is that possible??
“Batman & Robin” got only worse from there: Batman carries his own branded credit card; the Batman and Robin suits have giant nipples; and Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy talk in puns. And I’m not even going to mention what they did to poor old Bane.
The audience John and I saw the movie with started to turn on the movie by the time Robin shouted “Cowabunga!” as he sky surfed back to Gotham. Later on, everyone in the theater let out a huge groan when Bane and Poison Ivy showed up in gorilla costumes. And one couple sitting in front of us, walked out when Barbara’s computer kept saying “Access Denies” over and over again.
For a few years I placed all the blame for “Batman & Robin” on George Clooney.I was so mad at the guy that I refused to see him in anything for a while. But over the last two decades, I’ve softened my stance on this for a couple of reasons. The more I thought about it the more I realize that
- George Clooney had no control over the script, or over the director.
- George Clooney was still coming into his own as an actor. If you look at his 1997 work in “Batman & Robin,” “E.R.” and “The Peacemaker,” his acting doesn’t change. It wasn’t until at least 2001 where Clooney finally found his groove.
I still watch “Batman & Robin” occasionally, and its clear to me now that George Clooney is actually one of the better aspects of this movie. Not counting Adam West in the 60’s, Clooney was the first to play a Bruce Wayne that wasn’t always thinking about his parents. The Bruce Wayne in “Batman & Robin” looks like he’s able to have fun now and then, and that isn’t always a bad thing.
Don’t get me wrong, “Batman & Robin” still has a lot of problems. One of them being that the movie has too many plotlines, and none of them get a satisfacory arc. Let’s see there was the one about the two heroes not working as a team; Bruce afraid to commit to girlfriend Elle Macpherson; Alfred’s illness; and each of the villains plans. And that’s just a few of them. But the one that still ticks me off is the one with Alicia Silverstone as Barbara Wilson.
If I remember correctly, the script says Barbara is daughter of Alfred’s youngest sister Margaret. I’d say Barbara Wilson is around 18-21 years old in the movie, so her mom should be in her late 40’s at most. Yet, later in the movie we see a picture of her mother that looks like it was taken in the 1930’s or 1940’s. It just doesn’t make sense, if anything, Barbara should be Alfred’s great grand-niece or something.
Plotholes and too many plotlines could be forgiven if either the acting or the action scenes were any good. But in “Batman & Robin” most of the action seems repetative, and almost all of it takes place indoors for unknown reasons. As for the acting, let’s just say they’ve all done better work elsewhere. But at least Uma Thurman looks good as Poison Ivy.
Joel Schumacher has made good movies before, but “Batman & Robin” is easily his worst. He knows it too, because just a few days ago Joel Schumacher apologized to fans for “Batman & Robin.”
I don’t feel he needed to apologize because I don’t think he was trying to make a bad movie on purpose. Plus, had it not been for the failure of “Batman & Robin,” we may have never gotten the Dark Knight trilogy.