As I said at the end of my previous review, Batman Forever made a ton of money, becoming the sixth highest grossing film of 1995 in terms of worldwide profit and the second highest grossing one in America. Very eager to cash in on this huge, renewed interest in the Batman character, Warner Bros. immediately commissioned Joel Schumacher to direct a follow-up. Now, keep that in mind and think back to what happened after the enormous success of the first film back in 1989. Starting to see a pattern here? However, that said, I do think what happened with this movie is a bit different than what happened with Batman Returns. There, the studio gave Tim Burton carte blanche, didn't really participate in the development of the script or the actual production other than insisting that the Penguin be the main villain, and was not prepared for the final product. Here, Warner Bros. had a much more hands-on approach, but it was not a good approach. They got extremely greedy, setting a release date for June of 1997, which meant that production would be quite rushed for such a big film. On top of that, they spent $15 million on the marketing alone, which was in addition to the actual production budget of $125 million, and went as far as to have toy companies involved with the film from the get go so they could have access to character designs, vehicle designs, and so on in order to make toys that could be out by the time the movie was released (Chris O'Donnell even admitted that he felt like he was making a toy commercial instead of a movie). Warner Bros. cared more about the marketing and the huge commercial potential of the film than making a good movie, making it a case of studio productivity and factory-line priorities at their absolute worst.
Still, you can't let Joel Schumacher off the hook either. The studio may have royally messed up the film's potential but he still went with it and bowed to their demands. He decided on the campy tone, he and Akiva Goldsman conceived the storyline and the latter wrote the screenplay (this time completely on his own instead of revising the work of some other writers, as had been the case previously), and, according to actor John Glover, before each take, Schumacher would yell on a megaphone, "Remember, everybody, it's a cartoon." Schumacher has said that he disapproved of the studio's "toyetic" approach but I still think he should have spoken up and drawn the line at some point. With the previous film's enormous success, I would think he would have had quite a bit of clout and could have said, "I'm going to make the Batman movie I want to make and I'm not going to just make it a product but something for the fans." He could have threatened to quit if they weren't willing to negotiate and I doubt they would have, again, due to the previous film's box-office. Of course, at the same time, I could be speaking out of turn since if I was in his position, I may have caved into studio pressure as well. I will give Schumacher this much: on the special features of the DVD, he does admit that he did give into the studio's demands and apologizes to all of those who were disappointed by Batman & Robin. And with that, I can't really hate Schumacher. He seems like a nice guy who understands that a lot of people hate this film and seems to know that he messed up. I still think he could have stood up to the studio more than he did, though.
As for the casting of Batman in this movie, there are two possible reasons why Val Kilmer didn't come back. Kilmer himself says that he didn't think another movie would get started up that quickly and, by that point, he had committed to The Saint. However, given Joel Schumacher's statement that Kilmer was extremely difficult to work with during Batman Forever, not to mention that Kilmer has a reputation for being difficult anyway, I'm more willing to bet that Schumacher just didn't want to deal with him again. (Although, in the documentary on the DVD, Schumacher makes it seem like he was willing to go with Kilmer again but the actor didn't tell him about his prior comments until at the last minute.) Whatever the case, Kilmer was replaced by George Clooney, whom Schumacher chose because he felt that, in keeping with the film's lighter tone, he would create a much more family-friendly portrayal of Batman than that of Michael Keaton or even Kilmer. Do I think he did? No. Actually, I don't think he created any portrayal whatsoever of Batman and Bruce Wayne in this film; it's just George Clooney being George Clooney. Now, I do like Clooney. He's a very good actor and I feel that he could have been an awesome Batman had the fates allowed it. Not only is he good looking but if you've seen some of his work like From Dusk Till Dawn, Solaris, and other films, you know that he's capable of playing dark, complicated, and tortured characters. Unfortunately, that was the last thing on everybody's mind when this film came around, which is a shame because, as I say, he had a lot of potential.
I don't know if it was Schumacher's direction or if Clooney read the script and decided that he wasn't even going to try but, whatever the case, he does nothing to bring the character to life. As much as I didn't care for Kilmer, at least he still tried to create a difference between Bruce Wayne and Batman. Clooney makes no such distinction. He doesn't change his voice, his mannerisms, or anything. When he crashes through the skylight of the museum and says to Mr. Freeze, "Hi, Freeze. I'm Batman," it comes across more like Clooney has just dressed up as Batman for Halloween rather than he's actually playing the character. In fact, not only does he not give a performance at all but his body language as Bruce Wayne is odd. Watch that movie again and look at Clooney when he's not in the suit. He's almost always leaning forward, moving his head back and forth, and he even walks in a strange way. He also just ER or, again, if he knew that this movie was just a big joke not worth any effort, but he is not invested in the proceedings. They try to give Bruce another arc in that he must learn the importance of family and to trust Robin but it's just shoved in there and by the end of the movie, you don't feel like anything became of it. As for his not trusting Robin, Bruce acts like kind of a jerk to Dick Grayson a couple of times early in the film. When Robin saves him from the enormous capsule that is about to fall back to Gotham, he criticizes him for doing so, and, as a result, enabling him to stop the thing from crashing back down to the city, instead of rounding up Freeze's men in the museum as he told him to. Later, Bruce admonishes him for rushing at Mr. Freeze and getting frozen in the process, telling him to spend ten hours in the simulator (ten hours, seriously?) He could have just said, "Next time, think before charging in." But the worst comes when they're chasing Mr. Freeze across the city and they drive on the arm of this enormous statue. Batman tells Robin that he can't make the jump and when Robin refuses to listen, he deactivates Robin's motorcycle. The thing is, Batman goes for the jump and does make it... but he does it with the Batmobile! So, Batman gunned it towards the end of that statue's arm, confident that his big, bulky Batmobile could make the jump, but he didn't think Robin's smaller and lighter motorcycle could make it? And he says that Robin wasn't thinking because he was under the influence of Poison Ivy's pheromone dust. News flash, Batman, she hit you with that stuff as well!
In fact, that leads into something else: let's analyze what led up to that chase. Batman and Robin appear at a charity auction of a large diamond that's being hosted by Wayne Enterprises, which is really bait to lure out Mr. Freeze who needs diamonds to power his sub-zero suit (and, unknown to them at the time, also for the plan to cure his wife of her disease). Notice something wrong with the basics of this whole scene? First off, Batman, the guy who used to lurk in the shadows, who took Vicki Vale's camera after she snapped pictures of him, and who was originally meant to be a silent protector of Gotham to be signaled by the police, is now appearing at a flipping charity auction! I know he actively worked with the police in the previous film but this goes way beyond that. But also, again, his and Robin's plan is to lure Mr. Freeze to the place with the promise of needed diamonds. They're putting dozens of innocent lives in danger with this plan! And guess what? A lot of people get frozen and the two of them only have eleven minutes to thaw them before the damage becomes fatal. In fact, I don't even remember if they did manage to thaw them out! Yeah, some heroes. People complain about Batman killing criminals in the Burton films but at least he didn't intentionally put innocent lives at risk.
If I can be fair for a bit, though, there are a couple of moments where it does look like Clooney is trying to be sincere, mainly in the scenes he has with Michael Gough as Alfred. With Alfred becoming terminally ill, Bruce thinks back to times in his childhood and all the times Alfred has been there for him: helping him up when he fell at one point, comforting him at his parents' grave (the only mention of that in the movie, I might add), and reading him a bedtime story. This culminates in a genuinely sweet moment when Alfred, as the disease begins to take its toll, is sick in bed and Bruce is sitting at his side. He says, "I love you, old man," and Alfred responds, "And I love you too," which is followed by Bruce hugging him. I thought that was actually genuine and really showed the bond between Bruce and the only parent/guardian he's had since he was a small boy. I also thought that the speech Batman gives to Mr. Freeze at the end of the climax, about how he used to have the power to save lives and that the man his wife loved is still inside him, was good as well. I feel that Clooney was at least trying at that point. I also do think the Batman suit in this film looks decent. I know it's more dark blue this time, as opposed to black as it has always been before, but I thought it looked kind of cool (the more noticeable nipples and big cod-piece here notwithstanding) and that Clooney did look good in it. Plus, while it was created just to sell more toys, I thought the Arctic suit that he wears during the film's climax was really cool-looking as well, with the contrast between the blue-black and the silvery white Bat symbol on his chest among other details (the ears of that particular suit look like those of the main suit from the previous film actually). But, those little points that I do like can't make up for the fact that both Clooney and the character sucked big time in this movie.
Chris O'Donnell reprises his role as Robin but this time, the character isn't very likable. Since having become Batman's crime-fighting partner, he's now beginning to get annoyed at his authority and overly-parental way of dealing with him. On top of that, when Poison Ivy sprays him with her love dust and plants the seeds of jealousy in him, he desires to get out from under Batman's shadow and become a well-known crime-fighter all his own. Now, as I said earlier, the way Bruce/Batman treats his partner is rather jerky and Dick has every reason to complain. However, when Robin grows an enormous ego due to Poison Ivy's love dust, he becomes an obnoxious crybaby. There are so many ways in which he complains about the same thing: he thinks Batman is jealous and wants Poison Ivy for himself. Watch that movie and count how many different ways he gripes about that. I guarantee you that you'll come up with at least three and maybe five at most. And furthermore, the fact that he wants Ivy at all is just stupid. I get it when she first appears at that charity auction because neither of them knows that she's a villain yet. But later, even when he knows that Ivy is working with Mr. Freeze, he still wants her and doesn't find it a bit suspicious at all when a Robin Signal suddenly appears in the sky. I know he's still under the influence of her love dust but at least Batman was smart enough to know that she's still a villain even after she did it to him. In fact, as Batman tries to tell him, some guards at Arkham Asylum were found dead by poison introduced through the mouth and when they encounter her, she's desperate to kiss them. Shouldn't that ring a bell for Robin? The only way Batman is able to convince Robin that she's evil is by making him wear rubber lips so he's protected against her poisonous kiss and yet, he didn't seem all that disappointed when she turned out to be trying to kill him either. People may defend it by saying that Robin is an impulsive, hot-headed teenager but there's a difference between that and just being plain stupid.
Also, I really wish that they hadn't decided to go with this type of story between Batman and Robin so soon. I think that since Robin was introduced in the previous film, they should have done at least two more movies before going with the idea of there being friction between the two of them. It's the same way I feel about Spider-Man 2. Although I think that film is great, in my opinion, they should have done a couple of more movies before going with the story of Peter Parker's responsibilities wearing him down. In this case, they should have shown us some more of the adventures that Batman and Robin get caught up in, allowing us to see their friendship and trust in one another grow. We've gone from Bruce initially rejecting a partner but finally accepting one straight into the two of them arguing with each other. As a result, it's hard to believe they were ever a good team to begin with. It's a story that I feel should have been saved for another movie but instead, it's one of many plotlines jammed into this one, making it an incomprehensible mess. It's not resolved all that well either. After Robin realizes that Poison Ivy was trying to kill him after all, the only other mention of it was at the end when he asks Bruce why he didn't "pick him up" when he and Batgirl fell off the side of the observatory and Bruce says that it was because he now trusts Robin's judgment and reiterates the idea that sometimes, the best method is counting on someone else. I'm thinking, "What a crock!' Batman didn't save him because, if I remember correctly, he was a little busy fighting Mr. Freeze. It's so stupid. The only good things I can say about Robin in this film is that he gets to kick a bit more ass than he did previously and that I do like this costume, with the black body and red Robin symbol, better than the one he wore originally. Like Batman, his Arctic costume at the end is well designed too. Other than that, the Boy Wonder is reduced to nothing more than a stupid, jealous brat here.
The most useless hero in this film Barbara Wilson aka Batgirl, played by Alicia Silverstone. I have a problem with this character for several reasons. One is just the idea of her altogether. We already had Robin. Did we need another crime-fighting ally for Batman? The only reason she was even created in the first place was to attract a female audience and I understand and agree that girls deserve heroes too but the idea of Batgirl has never sat well with me. (As with so much of the legacy, the animated series is the only incarnation of Batman to create a version of the character that I like.) Second, introducing her in this movie is an overload. Again, you introduced Robin in the last movie. Do you really need Batgirl in the very next one? What is the movie called again? It's Batman & Robin, not Batman, Robin, and Batgirl! (I'm willing to blame Warner Bros.'s overblown marketing approach for her inclusion in the film. Plus, in hindsight, I smirk at Alfred's final line of, "We're going to need a bigger cave," because I think to myself, "No, you won't.") Finally, in the context of the movie, the character and the way she actually becomes Batgirl is pointless. You could write her out of this movie and I guarantee you, nothing would be changed. She just shows up out of the blue as Alfred's niece (instead of as Commissioner Gordon's daughter, as she typically is), moves in, sneaks out at night to go motorcycle racing, plans to make enough money by doing so in order to take her Uncle Alfred out of a life of servitude that she thinks has to make him unhappy (which goes nowhere), and, ultimately, to help cure his illness. The way she becomes Batgirl is the definition of contrived. Alfred gives her a pamphlet with a disc that he tells Barbara to give to his brother Wilfred if she can find him (another subplot that goes nowhere) and tells her to never open it. Barbara, of course, does open it, manages to find the password needed to activate the disc, discovers that Bruce and Dick are Batman and Robin (she's not at all surprised by this either, I might add), finds her way into the Batcave, and after the place's motion sensors detect her, she is greeted with Alfred's image on the computer. Here's the exchange of dialogue that follows: "I expected you might find you way down here. I programmed my brain algorithms into the Batcomputer to create a virtual simulation." "I want to help Batman and Robin." "I anticipated you would, and took the liberty to create something in your size." "Suit me up, Uncle Alfred." Even though he told Barbara not to open that disc, he still created a suit and a computer simulation of himself just in case she did open it up. He must have been really counting on her to be nosy! And ironically, she doesn't do much to help Batman and Robin accept have a brief scuffle with Poison Ivy. Even if she hadn't come, Batman had a device to cut himself out of the vines Ivy had him ensnared in so, her intervention didn't mean crap. She also doesn't do squat in the final battle with Mr. Freeze accept help Robin reposition the satellite computer, something I'm sure he could have done himself. Silverstone's very bland performance doesn't help either, serving as evidence as to why she went nowhere after Clueless. She may be hot but she can't act to save her life. Her speech to Poison Ivy about using feminine wiles to get what she wants is just cringe-worthy and cliche. The suit that she wears is fine, although it's a pretty generic looking female body-suit with a leather, blue cape, a face-mask similar to the one Robin wears, high-heel shoes, and comically pointed ends on the breasts (the nipples on that particular suit are very subtle, mind you, but they are there). Her arctic one is pretty good as well. I probably sound overly harsh but I don't care for this character or her inclusion in this film at all.
You know, for a while, I would have said that, as cheesy and bad as it was, I enjoyed Arnold Schwarzenegger's performance as Mr. Freeze. I felt that since Arnold seemed to be having fun with his hammy dialogue and over-the-top performance, I could have fun along with him. However, after watching the movie again, I take it all back. This has to be one of the lowest points of Arnold's career. First, he simply does not fit the part at all. On top of that, apparently Schumacher was going to try to get Sylvester Stallone if he was unable to snag Arnold, which makes me wonder if Schumacher knows anything about Batman. First he makes Two-Face a bland Joker-knockoff and now he turns Mr. Freeze, who has always been characterized as a cultured, intelligent, but, as his name implies, icy cold (both physically and emotionally) man, into a beefed up, one-liner spewing buffoon. That leads us to another problem with the character: the constant puns. Just about every single sentence he says has a joke or some corny reference to ice or cold. I know Arnold is known for dishing out witty one-liners in his action movies but the thing is he doesn't say them in every... single... sentence! The first four lines he has in the movie are ice-puns. The first four!: "The ice man cometh!" "Mercy? I'm afraid that my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy." "In this universe, there is one absolute: everything freezes." "You're not sending me to the cooler." And it doesn't stop there, oh, no. I can't remember what the number was but I know that he makes at least forty such puns throughout the entire movie. "Cool party!" "Okay, everyone, chill!" "Stay cool, Birdboy." "Let's kick some ice." "Tonight, hell freezes over!" "Tonight's forecast: a freeze is coming." It really does make you want to scream, "Shut up!" at the television. (I was originally going to find a bunch of close-captioned images of him saying that stuff but I think that meme I put in there says it all nicely.) And finally, there's the whole idea of Arnold having been a brilliant scientist and still is despite his condition. I love Arnold, don't get me wrong, but I cannot buy him as a serious intellectual. At least in this movie, they didn't have him speak scientific jargon like he did in Junior, where it was impossible to keep a straight face while he was doing so (althought that was the least of that movie's problems). It's simply the casting itself that makes me scratch my head. I'm not saying that Arnold can't play a villain (you watch The Terminator, you know he can be an intimidating figure) but he's not good at this kind of villain. This role needed a cultured, Shakespearean-style actor. In fact, Patrick Stewart was originally considered for the part before it was changed to suit Arnold and he would have been absolutely perfect. He would have captured the cultured, sophisticated manner of the character as well as been able to give the needed pathos in the scenes involving Freeze's wife.
Let's talk about that aspect now, shall we? Before the 1990's, Mr. Freeze was more or less just a stereotypical mad scientist-style villain, however the animated series introduced the now widely-accepted and much more concrete origin and motivation of the character: he was a scientist whose beloved wife came down with a rare disease and he cryogenically froze her to keep her alive until he could find a cure but he became Mr. Freeze somewhere along the line. As a result, all of his criminal actions are for the noble, sympathetic cause of being with his beloved again. That's a great origin for a villain and, to his credit, Schumacher understood that and incorporated it into the story, so I give him props for there. However, it would work a lot more if the movie around it wasn't so goofy and stupid. Mr. Freeze is awfully happy and cheery when he's not mourning over his wife, making those latter, sorrowful moments very hard to take seriously. For God's sake, the first time you see Nora Fries is right after a scene where Mr. Freeze was trying to get his cronies to sing along with I'm Mr. White Christmas, all while wearing a silver-blue robe and bunny slippers! You can't throw that stuff at me and then, in the next part of the scene, treat me to something that's meant to be meaningful and poignant. In addition, there are moments where the poignancy almost works but then. something goofy messes it up. One example is when Mr. Freeze is watching a wedding video of him and his wife. It's quite moving, actually, because, as I've said in another review, I think Arnold is a better actor than people give him credit for. He does look genuinely sad and filled with melancholy while watching that video. And then, one of his thugs interrupts him, prompting to freeze him, commenting, "I hate it when people talk during the movie." Good going, Schumacher. Or how about at the end of the movie when Batman tells Freeze that his wife is still alive and gives that speech about how real power is the ability to save lives? Freeze is moved by those words and gives Batman the cure for the first stage of McGregor's syndrome, which Alfred has. But, while giving him the curse, he says, "Take two of these and call me in the morning," making me slap myself. It's like Schumacher doesn't know how to properly balance comedy and campiness with stuff that's meant to be sincere. Finally, there's the fact that here, we never get an explanation as to why Freeze became a criminal. We know that he's committing crimes as part of a plan to save his wife but we never find out why he's turned to crime in the first place in order to do so. It's not like Two-Face or many of the other villains because his transformation didn't cause him to lose his mind. Couldn't he just continue his research while staying in a cold environment the entire time? What, did the scientific community throw him out because of the mutated creature he became or something? In other incarnations (again, the most prominent one being from the animated series), we know he hates humanity because an evil man ruined one of his experiments to save his wife and turned him into Mr. Freeze in the process. Here, his transformation was just an accident, warranting no reason for him to turn to crime. So, even though Schumacher was smart enough to incorporate this accepted and popular backstory for the character into the film, he didn't think ahead enough to put all of it in there, leaving a big gaping plothole in the process.
As for the actual look of Mr. Freeze, it's okay. I think the look of the suit, though, which is powered by diamonds in this incarnation, is too overdone and silly-looking, with all of its different parts, the blue glow on the side, and the white, silver color on the outside. The actual makeup, with the gray texture of the skin and the contact lenses, I think does look good ,especially when photographed in blue light, as it often is. I still can't believe they gave him a silver-blue robe and bunny slippers to wear when he's in his lair, though. And if Mr. Freeze can only survive in sub-zero temperatures, why does he smoke cigars? Wouldn't that mess with his mutated biology? His thugs are also silly looking, wearing parkas and furcoats, acting like the hockey team from hell, as Robin describes them, and being forced to stay with Freeze in his lair, where they about die from the cold. Also, Vivica Fox shows up briefly as this really sexy assistant who tries to put the moves on Freeze. Freeze, however, tells her that the only woman who means anything to him is his wife. Two questions: first, how is she not dying of hypothermia in that outfit of hers and two, if he feels that way, then why does he have a sexy assistant like that in the first place? In fact, where did he find her and what exactly does she assist him with? All she seems to be there for is hanging around the lair to hit on him once in a while. I'm talking way too much about this, though. Bottom line, I agree with everyone else: Mr. Freeze is a joke in this movie and Arnold embarrasses himself big time.
The character who gets on my nerves the most in this movie is Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, and what surprises me even more is that Joel Schumacher, and some others as well, feel that her performance is really good. To me, Thurman hams it up so much here that it's really annoying. Even before she becomes Poison Ivy, when she's simply Pamela Isley, she overacts considerably when she discovers that her insane superior has corrupted her research by using her Venom to create Bane. Her performance is like something you'd see on those old Superfriends, it's so over-the-top. In any case, when she rejects said insane superior's offer to join him, he attempts to murder her by pushing her to the floor and then shoving a bunch of shelves full of Venom and other toxins onto her. At first, it seems to kill her but later, she's reborn as Poison Ivy, now part human and part plant. She puts her new venomous capabilities immediately to work by giving her would-be murderer her poisonous kiss. After dispensing with him, she, along with Bane, head to Gotham City to begin her plan to have her plant/animal hybrids overrun the Earth. I know the version of the character in the animated series had similar motivations but that voice actor's performance wasn't so stereotypically comic book as Thurman's is. She overdoes every single solitary line of her dialogue that it gets annoying as hell. That speech she makes at the Gotham observatory about the coming day of reckoning where plants will take back their planet is so silly that it's no wonder that everybody there laughs off her threats. And while the animated Ivy was a misguided ecoterrorist who really loved plants, Thurman is just unabashedly evil. Besides her plan to have her plant creatures take over the Earth, she also wants Mr, Freeze for herself and attempts to murder his wife, which confuses me because I don't get why someone who only likes plants and wants them to rule the world would care about having a big, studdly man for herself. I guess you could say it's to start a race of plant-people like her but that's not entirely true given how she acts towards Freeze, clearly wanting him for pure pleasure. And that's another thing about Poison Ivy: while Freeze makes his ice puns, Ivy is constantly saying stuff that is sexual in nature, sometimes combining the innuendoes with stuff about plants. When she hits on Batman at the charity auction, she says, "I need to sow some wild oats," and right after that when she turns her attention to Robin, she says, "My garden needs tending." She also says stuff like, "I'll bring everything you see here, as well as everything you don't," "There's something about an anatomically correct rubber suit that puts fire in a girl's lips," and, "How about 'slippery when wet'" Again, I know part of the character is that she's very sexual but I don't think it's ever been this blatant. Ivy even sums up what kind of villain she is herself when she's defeated by Batgirl before the climax of the movie: she actually yells, "Curses!" I rest my case. Maybe that was fine back in the old days of comics but in a movie from the 90's, it's laughable. And it'd be one thing if this was meant to be a parody but it's not, so it just makes you roll your eyes.
Another thing I don't like about Poison Ivy is the very casting of Thurman. Ivy is supposed to be an extremely attractive woman and, while I like Thurman as an actor, I don't think she's all that sexy. Nicole Kidman, with her hair dyed red, or someone similar, would have made for a much sexier Ivy. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all but that's my personal opinion. The outfits that she tends to wear, with those grass-green dresses, bodices, body-suits, and capes, along with those nutty hairdos, makeup, and green, plastic facial wear above the eyes, are more likely to inspire laughter than to get somebody hot. When she fights Batgirl near the end of the movie, she was supposed to have a rather menacing suit with thorns on it but it got scrapped due to time constraints, so she's just wearing a generic red dress there. Her entrance into that charity auction where she's dressed up in a purple gorilla outfit and slowly takes it off in a strip tease isn't erotic so much as it's just... weird (the music that plays during that scene adds to it). She'd had to use her love dust to get people horny over that! Speaking of which, she doesn't really use her plant capabilities all that much, save for said love dust and her poisonous kisses. We know that she's able to create an army of plant-animal hybrids but the only time we see those things in action are in the battle in her lair. Otherwise, she uses Bane to do her muscle work while she could be creating plant monsters left and right to do so. A little hint of what she plans to populate the world with is all I'm asking. And as far as actual weapons, the only thing that comes close is this little switchblade knife that she pulls out while fighting Batgirl (looking in the reflection of the blade in order to check her hair, no less). I know some may find her hammy acting entertaining but for me, Uma Thurman wasn't a good Poison Ivy and the character, like nearly everything else in the film, is just laughable in some parts and annoying in others.
There's nothing I can say about Jeep Swenson (who died two months after the movie's release) as Bane other than, again, Schumacher and Goldsman took a character that was threatening both in his physicality and intellect and turned him into a joke. He starts out as a skinny little criminal named Antonio Diego (Michael Reid MacKay), whom Pamela Isley's superior, Dr. Woodrue, uses as a test subject for the Venom solution that turns him into a super-soldier. After becoming Bane, the character is just a mindless, muscle-bound body-guard for Poison Ivy, doing nothing except fighting Batman and Robin, breaking stuff, yelling, and talking like a caveman with lines like, "Bane!", "Monkey work," and "Bomb," among others. He's ultimately defeated by Robin and Batgirl when they sever the lines in his mask that keep the Venom flowing through his body, turning him back into Diego. (By the way, do Robin and Batgirl save him after that? Nope. They leave him to die in the collapsing observatory. Again, some heroes.) It's a shame that they felt the need to cram so many different characters into one film and, in the process, reduced a really good villain down to a basic, stupid thug. As for his look, the mask and the outfit looks close to the way the character is usually portrayed but the green/yellow skin caused by the Venom reinforces how ridiculous this version of Batman's universe is. Like Two-Face, I'm glad that Bane finally got the live-action treatment he deserved by Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight Rises.
Pat Hingle, on the other hand, doesn't have much of anything to do in his final performance as Commissioner Gordon. The character may not have had a major role in any of these movies but at least in Batman, he took part in some of the action. By this point, he's reduced to simply informing Batman of Mr. Freeze's attack on the museum at the beginning of the film and being seduced by Poison Ivy into giving him the keys to the roof of police headquarters so she can tamper with the Bat Signal. In fact, I think the shot of him begging Ivy to come back after she decides not to kill him with her poisonous kiss may be the last shot of Gordon in this entire series (if he was in the climactic freezing of Gotham sequence, I don't remember him) and if so, what a waste. John Glover has a brief role as Dr. Jason Woodrue, the mad scientist who creates Bane and ends up creating Poison Ivy in his attempt to kill Pamela Isley. It's interesting to note that Glover actually voiced the Riddler in the animated series, which makes him one of the few actors to be involved with both that and the live-action movies. In any case, Glover's actual performance is that of a stereotypical mad scientist. He acts as crazed as he looks (which is considerable, given his Bride of Frankenstein-like hair coloring and beard), especially when he tries to kill Isley. He also has a very dumb line when she's reborn as Poison Ivy, saying, "You look great, for a dead woman." He's killed when Ivy kisses him with her poisonous lips. Finally, there's Elle Macpherson as Julie Madison, Bruce's girlfriend who wants to marry the billionaire but he, of course, pushes her away. She's also part of a scene that shows how much influence Ivy has over Bruce when he, off-camera, calls her by the villain's name. Other than that, she's part of yet another subplot that goes nowhere and feels shoved in.
Like its predecessor, Batman & Robin is quite impressive in terms of production designs, with enormous, colorful sets that, if nothing else, do make it feel like a comic book. Gotham City itself looks basically the same as it did in the previous film: very bright with a lot of neon and spotlights. In fact, the city seems to literally glow with all of the lights in it. You see some statues built amongst the buildings, the most prominent being this one with its arms stretched out that is right in the middle of the city, with a highway behind it and buildings in front of it. There are other statues here and there and the observatory that Mr. Freeze uses to freeze the city is held up in the arms of a gigantic metal torso. There is one shot of Gotham, when Poison Ivy pulls up in her limousine to the observatory, where it does retain a hint of the feeling that Tim Burton gave to it. I guess it's because the shot is in the daytime and there are no bright lights and colors but the slightly overcast sky and wet street does give the feeling of that dreary city that Gotham once was before Schumacher turned it into a World's Fair on acid.
Wayne Manor looks basically the same here as it did in the previous film, both on the inside and the outside (the exterior being so because they used the same actual mansion for those shots). You do get to see some more of the place's areas and rooms, like the garage that doubles as a car museum, Alfred's bed- and work-room, and a garden that Bruce, Dick, Alfred, and Barbara walk through when she first arrives at the mansion. The Batcave has the same basic design as it did in the previous film, only it's a lot brighter with more flashing lights and neon. The turntable that the Batmobile rises up on is also much more elaborate, with the vehicle and the pattern on the table forming the Bat Symbol when seen from above. There's a capsule that rises out of the floor that contains Robin's motorcycle the Redbird. We also see how the vehicles get out of the Batcave, which is via this long tunnel lined with more neon lights.
As before, the villains have hideouts that suit them. With Mr. Freeze, everything about him is, naturally, to do with ice and cold, so he lives in an abandoned ice-cream factory (I'm not kidding) that he's turned into an ice-cave. Even the TV monitors in the place are carved out of ice and it's all bathed in a blue light that looks beautiful. The room that houses the suspension tube that his wife is in is also nicely designed, with a deep blue color to the surrounding environment. However, it's revealed that the room is behind a fake wall housing frozen food that acts like a walk-in freezer, which kind of diminishes the effect. After Freeze is captured and the place is thawed, we see what it looked like as a normal factory, and when Batman and Robin battle Poison Ivy and Bane in the lair later in the scene, we see a sublevel of the factory, with a big catwalk over vats of this green goop which I'm guessing is meant to be the basic component of ice cream. Freeze not only has his own cold lair but also transforms every environment he's in. The first scene with him in the museum has him freeze the place and turn it into an ice skating rink, where Batman and Robin battle his hockey team-like army of cronies. The lighting of the place is not only blue but there are also areas of purple and pink in there as well, turning it into another surreal environment that is undeniably interesting to look at. He does the same thing to this furnace he falls in, creating an ice-cave similar to his lair as he escapes from Batman and Robin. At the end of the movie, he uses Gotham Observatory to freeze the city and while the frozen city is impressive to look at (especially when you realize it was all practical with no CGI), after it's defrosted you can see some imperfections in the effects, most notably in some ice-sickles that are clearly rubber. However, the way Gotham looks when the heroes redirect sunlight from the other side of the planet to melt the ice is quite pretty. Speaking of the observatory, while we do see what it looks like early in the film, the sheer scale of it becomes obvious in the climax of the movie, particularly with the dancing holograms of the planets traveling across the walls and the actual telescope with all of the ice hanging off of it. On the outside, the place becomes a frozen tower when Freeze takes it over and freezes the city.
When we first see Pamela Isley, she's working in a laboratory in the South American jungle that looks like the Frankenstein lab from the classic Universal films, only cranked up to the tenth power. It's just a mish-mash of typical mad-scientist machinery, beakers and test tubes full of chemicals, and, in Isley's section, a lot of plants. And naturally, it's all bathed in a green light to suit Isley's transformation into Poison Ivy. For some reason, though, when she erupts out of the floor as Ivy (who knows how she did that), she brings some pink light with her. When she moves to Gotham, she and Bane take over an abandoned Turkish bath. At first, it's home to some of those gang members from the previous film who like to dress up in glowpaint and wear neon bits of clothing (what is your fetish with neon, Mr. Schumacher?) but after kicking them out, Ivy turns their graffiti-covered dump into a green and pink-lit lair filled with her plant creations. The middle of the room has a pool of water with huge lily pads that you can walk across and a large throne that is actually a big plant that opens up by itself. There are also some vines that grab intruders and a separate cold room that Mr. Freeze makes for himself when he stays at the place. Interestingly, the charity auction where Ivy first makes her presence known to Gotham is of a rainforest design, with artificial plants and vines, dancers dressed up as natives, and the like. As I said before, Ivy does that weird dance while taking off that gorilla costume here which I still think is weird more than it is erotic. Finally, we get a bigger look at Arkham Asylum this time around, which is still the same dull, depressing, brick building that it was before (as it should be) but we also see an evidence room where Freeze's suit, as well as the costumes of Two-Face and the Riddler from the previous film, are kept, and a specific cell for Freeze that has a beam of cold in the middle where he must stay. We see the outside of the place as well and, as buildings tend to be in this universe, it's on a cliff overlooking a small river that the villains jump into in order to escape.
Of the four original Batman movies, this is the only one not to be nominated for any Oscars whatsoever, a far cry from the nominations its predecessors got for art direction, visual effects, cinematography, makeup, and sound. It's interesting, too, because I do think there is effects work in the film that deserved some consideration and yet, at the same time, there are others that I guess blew the chances of the film getting a nomination altogether. The really good stuff is still the minature work. There are panning shots of Gotham and specific buildings that you'd swear were of a full-scale city and there's also some really good integration of miniatures and practical effects with CGI. An example of the latter that comes to my mind is when Batman and Robin are chasing Mr. Freeze after he steals the diamond from the charity auction, where you have a shot of the Batmobile and the Redbird driving side-by-side through the city. While the city and the Batmobile are in miniature form, the Redbird is CGI, which I had no idea that was the case until I heard the effects men talk about it and I actually looked at it closer. Now, that's good effects work. The CGI effects of Mr. Freeze's ice-gun look fine and so do the shots of Batman and Robin falling from great heights like in the opening sky-surfing scene (some parts of those sequences, mind you). There are some CGI effects in the film that do look pretty bad, though. The absolute worst are when Bane is being created early in the film and when Poison Ivy grows her plants in her lair. Really terrible, cartoony stuff there, which I'm willing to bet is what kept the movie from getting nominated for an Oscar since, as I said, there is some remarkable stuff here as well.
As with Batman Forever, Batman & Robin introduces a new Batmobile (which makes dramatic sense this time, seeing as how the Riddler destroyed the last one) and in keeping with the extremely flashy look of the whole film, this vehicle is very extravangant in its look, even more so than the previous one. Its long, black shape is spotless in its texture, as if it's been polished many times over; there are plenty of lights on the vehicle, with the wheels having a blue glow to them ( and with Bat symbols on the sides, of course), rotating lights from the engine on the nose of the car with blue lights underneath them, red, glowing lights on the sides of the car, and a lit-up cockpit; and there's a pair of big bat wings on the back of the car along with six exhaust ports that has bright red flames blowing out of them when the car is in motion. While it's still maybe a little too flashy like its predecessor, I'd be lying if I said this vehicle wasn't impressive. But, that said, my problem with both of the Schumacher Batmobiles is that they go through the trouble of designing these amazing-looking cars but don't show off what they can do in action sequences, like they built them just so you could look at them (and to sell toys, naturally). Case in point, while the Batmobile in Batman Forever didn't get to do much, at least it was involved in an action scene and got to show off one capability; the Batmobile here does absolutely nothing, save for when we see that it can communicate with Robin's Redbird and enable Batman to disable the bike's engine when he feels that Robin can't make the upcoming jump. Other than that, we get nothing and the car is only involved in that one particular action scene where they're chasing Mr. Freeze. In fact, the thing gets frozen by Freeze's gun and crashes and yet, in the following scene in the Batcave, it's perfectly fine. Robin also has a vehicle, the Redbird, which is fundamentally a motorcyle that's designed to be as flashy as the Batmobile, with glowing red and blue lights on the sides as well as the blue glowing explosed engines and cylinder heads. But, as with the Batmobile, I don't remember it doing anything that special in the film other than its pure speed capabilities.
During the climax of the movie when Mr. Freeze freezes Gotham City, the heroes break out some special arctic vehicles (again, purely to suit the toyetic aesthetic of the movie). Batman drives this enormous, bat-shaped vehicle with long wings that bend downward to the ground with small, ski-like mechanisms on the bottoms, a red glowing exposed engine, and the same type of chrome, black polish to it as the Batmobile. It does have some special shields, as well as missiles, but that's about it. Robin drives a big, hovercraft-like vehicle with a big red Robin symbol on the front, a large fan on the back that propels the craft, and two lights on the front of the vehicle as well as four red lights along the top of the fan. Batgirl just drives a snow-configured version of a motorcycle with a Bat Symbol on the front while wearing a Bat-mask to protect her head. Mr. Freeze has a vehicle as well: an enormous, long, tank-like vehicle painted silver with long spikes sticking out of the front. Not only can the thing fire missiles from the front but it also has a mounted freeze cannon there as well in order to freeze wide areas (ironically, as big as the thing is, in reality it was actually very quiet when it was running). Other than a limousine that Bane drives for her, Poison Ivy has no vehicle to speak of.
Gadget-wise, this is where Batman and Robin start having one for every single possible situation. Instead of grappling guns, they now mainly use miniature, arm-mounted versions of the device and they also have Bat-suction pads, which Robin uses to climb up alongside the capsule that Mr. Freeze traps Batman in and shoots into the sky; a miniature buzz-saw that Batman uses to cut himself loose from Poison Ivy's vines; a miniature video recorder that Batman uses to show Mr. Freeze that Poison Ivy was the one who attempted to kill his wife (when the hell did he film that?); small heating devices that they use to defrost the people who have fallen victim to Freeze's weapon as well as a similar device that shoots a beam of heat which Batman uses to defrost Robin at the beginning of the film; and, most ridiculously of all, boots that have built-in ice skates that Batman and Robin use at the beginning of the movie in order to battle Freeze's thugs in the frozen museum. Obviously, this stuff harkens back to the spirit of the Adam West show but man, this gets ridiculous after a while. Mr. Freeze has his fair share of gadgets, too. Freeze's most prominent weapon is the freeze gun that he uses constantly throughout the film (which also leads to him making the majority of those annoying ice-puns), as well as his aforementioned vehicle. He also uses the diamonds he needs to power his suit in order to make an enormous freezing weapon that he uses to blanket Gotham in winter. As we see when he, Poison Ivy and Bane escape from Arkham Asylum, he can freeze water with the exhaust from the cold gas running through his suit. He can even construct ice-bombs, which he has Bane plant throughout Gotham Observatory to use if his plans are interferred with. His suit has an added emergency feature that he uses after jumping from the capsule he launches into the sky with Batman: wings that deploy out of the back to let him glide safely to the ground. And finally, there are moments where he is spontaneously wearing goggles to shield his eyes, although it's mainly during that big fall.
Besides the campiness, the sheer stupidity, and the awful acting, another major problem that Batman & Robin has is that it's boring as crap. There are action scenes in the movie but they do nothing to excite you at all, and it comes down to two reasons. One is that, due to the poor acting, you don't care about the characters or what the outcome of the action scenes will be and the other is that, with all of the flashing colors, fast editing, stupid lines, and moments thrown into them, the sequences become a blur of images and noises that are disorienting and unpleasant more than exhilarating, not to mention that they feel like they go on forever, which is something action scenes should never do.
them plant a bomb inside the rocket to destroy it before it can harm anybody and they use its doors as makeshift surfboards to sky-surf their way back down. Batman grabs Freeze, causing him to lose the diamond, which Robin catches. The three of them continue falling, one of them skates along the roof of a building, Robin lamely yells, "Kallabunga!" at one point, and Freeze manages to freeze a furnace so he can safely slide down it. Batman and Robin continue their chase but Freeze turns Robin into an ice statue when he charges straight at him at one point. Freeze takes the diamond from the frozen Robin and as Batman is about to continue the pursuit, Freeze warns him that he has eleven minutes to thaw Robin out. Batman is forced to stay behind and help his partner, while Freeze escapes, gloating, "I'll kill you next time!" (Like the Nostalgia Critic said, I don't know what's stopping him from killing him then and there. I'm sure Batman wouldn't waste time fighting him if it meant losing his partner, so he should be easy pickings.)
The next action scene is one that I barely remember the details of. Dick, suspecting that Barbara is hiding something when he catches her in the garage at one point after she said she's not interested in vehicles, follows her when he sees her leave the mansion on a motorcycle. He finds out that she's been partaking in motorcycle races through dangerous streets and back-alleys of Gotham each night (the reason, we later find out, is that she plans to use the money she's won from the races to take Alfred away from his life of servitude and, more than likely, to also find a cure for his disease). She takes part in a particularly dangerous one which Dick also enters. It's a really long, tedious scene that's not all that exciting or memorable. Some of the racers gang up on Barbara at several points during the race and while she's mainly able to take care of herself, Dick does have to intervene at points (I think). I do know that Barbara is thrown off her bike near the end of the race and slides to the edge of a cliff, which Dick saves her from at the last minute (the blue-screen effect of her hanging above the drop-off really sucks, I might add). At the same time, Poison Ivy and Bane have a brief scuffle with those glow-paint covered punks when they burst into the abandoned Turkish bath they're using as a hang out point. Several of the punks fling neon chains around Bane's arms but the big brute effortlessly manages to send them flying for that stupid move (honestly, did they actually look at that enormous guy and think they could take him on?) After dispensing with them, Ivy proceeds to turn the place into her lair.
underwhelming. Batgirl and Ivy do some flips and kicks, Ivy comes at Batgirl while twirling a vine-whip (looking very stupid while doing that, I might add), they have a dumb stand-off with Ivy checking her hair in this small blade she pulls out, and it ends when Batgirl manages to kick Ivy inside of her large, living plant throne, which closes around her and traps her. Batman and Robin manage to free themselves and the
You may think that it pointless for me to devote a section of this review to the stupid and campy stuff in this movie since I've mentioned so much of it already but there are some that I feel are so strikingly bad that they deserve it. Like the previous film, the very opening of the movie lets you know exactly what you're in for; in fact, it's almost beat for beat like that of Batman Forever. Think about it: a Bat Symbol with Warner Bros. Presents in front of it, the main stars' names flying past the camera (albeit in a different pattern this time), cutting from the actual title of the film to Batman and Robin suiting up and getting their gadgets ready, the two of them entering the Batcave and watching the Batmobile rise up on its turntable, virtually the same music is playing, there's a corny exchange of dialogue, and the rest of the credits are shoved into a lower corner of the screen. Does Joel Schumacher not know any other way to begin a superhero movie? In any case, while the first exchange of dialogue between Batman and Alfred in the opening Batman Forever was corny, the first exchange between Batman and Robin here is infinitely worse. Upon looking at the Batmobile, Robin says, "I want a car. Chicks dig the car." (Obviously, he watched the previous film since he's sharing Batman's sentiments about it.) Batman responds, "This is why Superman works alone." Now, granted, Bruce mentioned Metropolis in the previous film (although it was so brief and understated that I don't think many catch it) but, yeah, this pretty much confirms that, at least in this continuity, Batman and Superman both exist. I know they do in the comic books but, again, these films were meant to be an interpretation of those comics, not real adaptations. In any case, there's a lot more stupid dialogue in this flick bar Mr. Freeze's annoying cold puns and Poison Ivy chewing the scenery and spitting it out like nobody's business. During fight in the museum, a vase is knocked up into the air and Batman catches it and puts it back. When Robin comments, "Nice catch," Batman says, "You break it, you buy it." (Not like he can't afford it.) When they meet Batgirl for the first time and she tells Batman her name, he says, "That's not very PC. What about Batwoman or Batperson?" Going back to Poison Ivy, the biggest bit of overacting Uma Thurman does here, and that's saying something, is after she kills Dr. Woodrue and tears apart the laboratory, spouting, "I am Nature's arm. Her spirit. Her will. Hell, I am Mother Nature, and the time has come for plants to take back the world that is so rightfully ours, 'cause it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature." I don't know what's worse: that, "Curses!" or, "So many people to kill, so little time." Speaking of which, Batman and Robin later talk about how they're both over Poison Ivy and they have this weird exchange: "Great stems, though." "Buds too." "Yeah, those were nice." I'm assuming that they're talking about Ivy's legs and boobs but that was just weird. There are these very corny exchanges between Robin and Batgirl during the climax of the movie. When they're falling, Robin grabs her and says, "I got you," but when the grappling hook he fires comes loose and they continue falling, she deploys another one, grabs him, and says, "No, I got you." There's another one where they're preparing to reactivate the telescope necessary to thaw Gotham and Robin realizes, "We're going to have to do this upside down." Batgirl responds, "Men, always doing things the hard way." Ugh, shut up!"
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Batman & Robin is truly an insult to one of the greatest superheroes of all time. Great actors are wasted in embarrassing roles and are saddled with horrible dialogue, there is a constant stream of annoying, cheesy lines and visuals, the action scenes are boring and run together due to the constant flashiness when they should be exciting, and, ultimately, it was a waste of a lot of money. While there is some good stuff here and there, like Michael Gough, some decent effects-work, and some memorable songs, it's ultimately an overdone, stupid, boring mess of a comic book movie and remains a prime example of what happens when a studio cares more about marketing and merchandising than actually making a good movie. While it wasn't exactly a bomb, taking in a worldwide gross of $238.2 million, for a movie that had a $125 million budget and another $15 million spent on marketing, it wasn't the big payday that Warner Bros. had hoped for either. But, although the studio was a big part of the failure, Joel Schumacher himself still deserves some flack because he helped develop the story and he also didn't use the clout he got from the success of the previous film to talk down the studio. To wrap things up, there's a very good reason why this film has the awful reputation it does, with a current 3.6 rating on IMDB, and why the Batman franchise took almost a decade to recover. It's just a stupid, excruciating viewing experience and I don't recommend it even for those who get enjoyment out of bad movies. Just plain bad.