“Batman and Robin” doesn’t require a lot of thought, except for this notion: Why didn’t the filmmakers call the third installment “Batman and Robin” and save the title “Batman Forever” for this fourth installment? Since the third installment introduces Robin into the Bat universe, “Batman and Robin” would be a perfect title. Then you could have used “Batman Forever”, which was used for the third installment, instead for the fourth, thus employing a play on words — “forever” and “four”. Get it?
Even more bewildering than the lack of imagination involved in the titling of the movies post-Tim Burton are the movies themselves. I have sworn off not reviewing “Batman and Robin”, mostly because I did not wish to relive the travesties that were the “Schumacher Batmans”. In a perfect world, both Schumacher and writer Akiva Goldsman would be sentenced to life imprisonment for their villainous burial of the Batman franchise.
With “Batman and Robin” story has given way to extreme camp, with some actors employing more campiness than others. Actual dialogue has been replaced by tedious and groan-inducing one-liners. Batman is now played by George Clooney (“Out of Sight”), and Chris O’Donnell returns as the not-so-boyish wonder Dick Grayson aka Robin. Alicia Silverstone also joins the cast as Batgirl, aka Barbara Wilson. Yes, you read that correctly. For some unfathomable reason, Batgirl’s comic book origin as the daughter of Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) has been altered with nary an explanation.
But the villains are even worst than the heroes. Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Conan”) and Uma Thurman seem to be competing for the worst actor in the history of film as villains Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, respectively. Thurman, in particular, is literally oozing with campiness for no other reason except to be campy. Of course the dialogue written for her by Goldsman doesn’t exactly help matters. Compared to the silly turn by Thurman, Schwarzenegger looks like a muscle bound Olivier. I think Thurman is going for an exaggerated Bette Davis impression here — aw geez, does it even matter? Every time someone mentions “Batman and Robin” to her she probably cringes at the memory of her “performance.”
Goldsman, who would eventually go on to redeem his existence with “A Beautiful Mind”, is responsible for half of the travesty that is “Batman and Robin”. The other half belongs to director Joel Schumacher, who would go on to direct “Tigerland” and “Phone Booth”, thereby convincing me that redemption is possible for anyone, even the man who nearly single-handedly killed off the Batman franchise.
“Batman and Robin” isn’t really a movie, but an attempt to transfer as many characters from the Batman comic book universe over to the movies as possible, though for whatever reason seems unclear. Although the words “action figures” and “expanded merchandising” might have something to do with it. The action sequences are really elaborate Vegas stage shows, complete with flashing lights, colorful backgrounds, gaudy costumes, and silly wireworks. George Clooney makes a less convincing Batman than Val Kilmer, which is saying tons. We’re talking about early Clooney here, where he still equated “acting” with how low he can make his head droop and still eyeball you.
As Batgirl, chunky monkey Alicia Silverstone makes a less convincing action star than fellow chunky monkey Drew Barrymore did in “Charlie’s Angels”. It also goes without saying that altering Batgirl’s origins for no apparent reason except to give her a reason to come home to care for the ailing Alfred (Michael Gough) is bound to piss off fans. On the other hand, Aflred’s storyline is perhaps the most interesting of the whole movie, which isn’t saying much about the movie.
“Batman and Robin” is as bad as they come. It’s a terrible big-budget Hollywood junk in the guise of viable entertainment. Worst of all, it soiled the good name of the Dark Knight, and that’s one thing that simply cannot be forgiven.
Joel Schumacher (director) / Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)
CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger …. Mr. Freeze/Dr. Victor Fries
George Clooney …. Batman/Bruce Wayne
Chris O’Donnell …. Robin (Dick Grayson)
Uma Thurman …. Poison Ivy/Dr. Pamela Isley
Alicia Silverstone …. Batgirl/Barbara Wilson
Michael Gough …. Alfred Pennyworth