The Batman Project: 1997′s Batman and Robin, REALLY the Worst
No comments yetJul 18, 2012
While I have long been an indiscriminate and voracious reader, the same can not be said of my relationships with films. I will read, in dire straits, shampoo bottles and memoirs penned by right wing maniacs – anything at all. My eyes are perpetually hungry for words. For moving images, the same can not be said. I used to think this was meant I was a very good reader, a literary mind, an intellectual: my obsession with reading dominated. It is only now, and after much reflection that I realize that the inverse is probably true. I can read anything – and quickly – and maintain emotional stasis. I am more liable to turn a movie off, or walk out of it, not just because I’m bored, or annoyed, or confused (in a bad way), but because I come to the movies with an expectation I do not foist upon the written word: I expect film to move me. So it is natural that I would find myself shunning it when it failed to live up to the heady expectation I had for it.
That is a fancy way of making it perfectly clear, that when I say Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin 1997 left me feeling like this might be an acceptable place to use the word rape. Then I decided that while I adore each and every person who reads this website, you guys are tender, and I have no real desire to be burned alive on the web. Suffice to say that Schumacher’s second stab at the bat and his boy was enough to kill the franchise until the Nolan iteration. It is inexplicable in its badness. The very same elements that ruined Batman Forever are afoot here – of-the-moment design that dates badly, a script comprised of one-liners so lacklustre even Will Smith couldn’t handle them with any real deftness, and a fundamental misunderstanding of where the heart of the Batman mythos lie make a film that becomes almost stunning in its failure; a should-be classic of the camp variety.
The film itself is honestly something I think people should watch, if only to marvel over how George Clooney’s career survived it. I am not being a contrary dick in saying it is awful – after the film, the franchise was prematurely stopped by Warner Brothers, who quietly humored Joel with another meeting before being all “Yeeeah we think….it should be darker.” and then somewhere Tim Burton high-fived Michael Keaton on top of a pile of money and accolades and then maybe they kissed.
Like its horrible predecessor, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin starts abruptly, with jokes about chicks digging the Batmobile and Robin riding a giant and hideous motorized bicycle (proof positive and eternal that guys who ride bikes will never be as hot as guys in cars or on foot or down in my business – ya heard!) and close ups on their respective latex nipples and suit-assisted asses. They are off, per Commissioner Gordon’s very Charlie’s Angels update, to stop this guy name Freeze – Dr. Freeze? – I don’t know, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that it is Arnold Schwarzenegger wearing a cryogenic suit that is powered by diamonds and his inability to sell lines like “ICE TO YOU.” Other things that matter, in this very first fight scene, George Clooney glides down a brontosaurus tail (Schumacher’s attempt at a dig at Jurassic Park? At Dinosaurs? At me? IS IT ME JOEL?) and later on surfs the sky with Robin who is at one point briefly frozen. Chris O’Donnell’s appeal has never dissipated so quickly. No amount of mascara could make his whining man-child sexy, and if there is anything I am attracted to it’s mascara and man-children.
Luckily, just when I started belly laughing in a way foreign enough to alert my roommate as to my pending break with reality, WE ARE IN SOUTH AMERICA with Hollywood’s trickiest actress – Uma Thurman! I think Uma Thurman is so gifted that it is disgusting. I think she is really intuitive and works from the outside in to construct characters who are terribly specific and utterly, unique. I also gotta give it up to the girls with wide-set eyes! Don’t hate us because we are beautiful, world! (Then there was the time I compared myself to Uma Thurman.) Sadly, the engine that powers all of that fine work, is strong and in need of a firm director’s hand. When that does not exist, we are left with her portrayal of Dr. Pam and Poison Ivy. Uma starts as an unsexy lady scientist (HELLO MY TWIN!) trying to do all sort of cross breeding blah blah botany and then I was asleep. Her partner in the lab steals her venom and makes Bane, a clearly anti-Romney character – OH WAIT, THAT ARGUMENT MAKES NOT ONE BIT OF SENSE RUSH LIMBAUGH. This version of Bane looks like a Mexican Wrestler, but that doesn’t stop folks from wanting to buy him. Dr. Pam thinks this is terrible, and thusly, is killed – only she doesn’t die – instead she comes back as a deadly sex plant woman. There is no room in Joel Schumacher’s world for an intelligent woman who goes unpunished and un-hyper-sexualized. Chase Meridian may have been a doctor, but wasn’t characterized by her insights so much as rack and her libido. (THE BOOBS YOU GUYS). Dr. Pam we meet for only a handful of moments, and she is gawky and weird but very smart – that intelligence remains when she “gets hot” (and also evil), but that intelligence is weaponized. Also when she frenches people, they die -she is like an unrepentant Rogue! OH GOD I HAVE BEGUN TO RELATE THINGS TO EACH OTHER ONLY IN TERMS OF OTHER COMIC BOOK UNIVERSES! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! DAAAARK PHOENIX!…BUT BACK TO DC -
Back in Wayne Manor, Alfred is hamming. It. The. Hell. Up! It turns out he is dying – not of EXTREME OLDNESS, but of McGregor Disease….the same disease that Dr., I’m sorry MISTER, Freeze’s wife was stricken with. Alicia Silverstone is upset by this. Oh I’m sorry did I not mention that Alicia Silverstone is there? As his niece? From England? I just want to say one thing about how they make her Batgirl and how awful it is. Okay maybe 700 things. Barbara Gordon is a saint! I can’t believe they’d dilute her this way! I can’t believe that Pat Hingle -after FOUR FILMS – doesn’t get to be Bab’s daddy! It’s terrible! Also Alicia Silverstone was getting shit for being fat at the time and that is depressing as hell, way to detract from a potentially super-awesome character EVERYONE. I can’t even analyze her portrayal because her character even on the page was such a swing and a miss!
This is where everything gets boring and weird and Elle MacPherson is there and George Clooney is doing that thing he used to do where he waggled his head around like Katherine Hepburn (side note: He totally visited the cast of ER in costume.That happened. That happened and I love that it did so much. More than you will ever know.) While this is happening, Ivy is furious that Bruce Wayne won’t let her make Gotham a jungle – which is totally rational. So she seduces Robin and we are meant to care about the fact that Robin is pulling away from Batman but we don’t because Robin has been continually mostly a dick…Grayson! Lest you think I find Joel Schumacher to single out women for his sexism, he manages to under-value and over-simplfy the relationship between Bruce and Dick to such a degree that you will send no less than 45 minutes demanding your computer to let Mr. Freeze come on screen! Then he does and everyone fights and you think that Ivy has killed Freeze’s wife!
Then Batgirl – the pretender version – and Ivy fight because we love it when bitches fight, and ultimately everything works out and Mr. Freeze cures Alfred and then everyone makes out, because if Wayne Manor is a rockin’, don’t you even think about knockin’!
Tomorrow – BATMAN BEGINS! OH MY GOD! ANALYSIS! THOUGHTS! KATIE HOLMES! TOPICAL!