Into the Knight: A Batman Film Retrospective- Week 4

Even though I didn’t love Batman Forever as much as I did Batman Returns, I completely bought into the franchise. In many respects, I was the sole target of Warner Bros. My mother didn’t hesitate to buy me all  the toys, clothes, and video games associated with the Forever film. I was the spoiled brat who helped line the deep pockets of the studio. Unbeknownst to my nine-year old self, children like me were the driving force behind Batman and Robin. Looking back now, I feel like an unwitting accomplice to a murder. Or, in the very least, the getaway driver in an armed robbery that saw Warner Bros. lift Batman’s dignity. Undoubtedly, Batman had lost his appeal. Instead of being a beacon of light in a time of darkness, he was a corruptible pile of cash. All it took was an over zealous capitalist entity, a frighteningly malleable director and toy crazed children like me. If I could turn back time…Perhaps, I’m being a bit dramatic . Or maybe not. Nonetheless, the transition from Batman Forever to Batman and Robin is jarring. How do we go from a polished summer adventure into a black hole of suck? Let’s take a look back at Batman’s deathblow. Here is the incomparable…

Batman and Robin (1997):

Not satisfied with putting Batman on life support, Joel Schumacher decided it was time to bury the legend with a story that was likely stolen from a third grader. Perpetuating the layers of shit shoveled on the film going public was Warner Bros.’ interest in rushing the film out and capitalizing on merchandising opportunities. What we’re left with is an atrocious film that should be on trial for crimes against humanity. Sure, Batman Forever was devoid of any lasting resonance, but Batman and Robin all but celebrated its shallow intent. At the center of Schumacher’s maelstrom of camp is Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, a muscle-bound scientist that incessantly makes puns and possesses a zero-degree suit that runs on diamonds. Uh, what? Anyways, matching Freeze’s incomprehensibility is Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. Thurman’s performance, which feels directionless, doesn’t strengthen her character’s inconsequential existence.

If two lame villains weren’t enough, the character of Bane is haphazardly introduced as Ivy’s brainless muscle. Thankfully, after being pumped up with liters of green muscle milk, Bane isn’t allowed to spew cringe inducing dialogue. Finally, an empty skull pays dividends. Further demonstrating their pointless existence, the three villains join forces to fight Batman and Robin for no reason other than the screenplay wants them to. Tonally stunted and visually cluttered, with enough neon glow to make us feel like we’re suffering from a bad acid trip at a Phish concert, Batman and Robin attempts to create a divided relationship between our two heroes, but it never materializes beyond an after school special that preaches about family and loyalty. So, basically it’s a Fat Albert episode minus Bill Cosby, but with more inane cartoon sound effects. Instinctively knowing this would be a skid mark on his filmography, Val Kilmer passed on the chance of donning rubber nipples.

Replacing Kilmer was one of the world’s sexiest TV actors in George Clooney. Kilmer was pretty weak, but Clooney was terrible. Outside of his winning smile, Clooney fades away into the background. He never possessed the mystique to deserve our gravity. Through some sort of miracle, Clooney’s career actually lived beyond this point.  The rest of the cast, well, they became collateral damage (sans Uma Thurman’s resurrection in Kill Bill). O’Donnell was beyond under-utilized, and Alicia Silverstone, who plays Bat-Girl, is a train wreck. Her placement in the film feels like a piece of stunt casting gone awry. Even franchise stalwart Michael Gough seems depressed by the affair. From horrible acting to terrible screenwriting, and let’s not forget misplaced shots of rubber asses, Batman and Robin is a laughable turd.  As time has passed, it’s mutated into an ironic comedy.  Much like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, a film so bad that it becomes a piece of worthwhile entertainment, Batman and Robin has gained new life as a cinematic punch line…and a drinking game revolving around snow puns. Because of greed and petulance, Batman wasted away in oblivion for eight ruthless years.


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