A film where you take the biggest stars of the 90s, George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Uma Thurman, release it in summer and still create 2 hours and 5 mins worth of a disastrous opus. Yes, we’re talking about Batman and Robin – a summer film, which was a Franchise film lost to Hercules, Men in Black and the granddaddy of them all – Face/Off (hallelujah!)
Batman and Robin is a movie about dressing up people in order to look cool and showing nipples on a bat suit to make it alluring, I hope, was set to be DC’s most ambitious movie at that time. It sounds sort of unbelievable that a movie about companionship and the legacy of such a celebrated comic book hero would lose the moral high ground, the box office collection and the storytelling skill to a movie, in which Nicholas Cage is pretending to be John Travolta and vice versa.
Regardless of what you have heard of Batman and Robin, there are a lot of things to learn from the film. Believe it or not, some technical stuff in the movie is genuinely well done. There is another situation in which this movie helps. It helps you in understanding the humour of the absurd, something that TV shows like Rick and Morty do consciously.
We usually think that Batman vs Superman was started by a comic excerpt. The hype started exactly in 1997 when Batman very easily referenced Superman’s working manners without any studios putting in any cases.
Honestly, if we can look at this movie as a homage to the 60’s Batman, starring Adam West, this movie can be considered smart. However, Unlike Thor: Ragnarök or Kung Fury, this doesn’t even do that.
So, what makes this movie good? Let’s start with the good parts of this film (yes, there are a few)
The screenwriter of this film is Akiva Goldsman. Now, that does sound like a relatively common name, doesn’t it? He was a writer for (going from worst to best excluding Batman and Robin) Batman Forever, I, Robot, I am Legend and the Academy award-winning, Ron Howard directed A Beautiful Mind.
Some of the dialogues are genuinely very clever, but it suffers from the Riverdale Syndrome. Let me explain: Riverdale has snappy dialogue, but the setting is always wrong. For example, Jughead making a Silence of the Lambs reference makes sense, as he is a film buff but if Veronica makes reference from movies in any genre from any era, it has no development.
Similarly, Batman is developed to be a complex character who doesn’t sleep and spends most of his time delivering justice to the city of Gotham, never has it ever been mentioned that his inspirations are Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer.
Cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt follows all the rules that need to be followed to make an aesthetic and a perfectly aligned movie. The movie has a very aesthetic sense of framing and not even once do we feel like the camera handling hasn’t been done by a professional. Yet, because of the acting and the overall mise-en-scene (no fault of the production designer), the film looks campy and not convincing.
They even hired the most bankable editor in Hollywood for superhero films - Dennis Virkler. Fun fact about this film: It’s the first film to win a Golden Raspberry Award and a Grammy award (which was also a Razzie nomination).
This film is great if we pay homage to Adam West. The film is great if it wanted people to make spin-offs, funny jabs or even funnier more realistically hilarious movies. However, it was great for the character development of the caped crusader, who feels like an opening act to Sunil Pal.
Like how Roger Ebert said, it went for the “toy-ic approach”. However, I disagree. I feel like I wouldn’t let any 3-year olds be around such toys and ruin his/her imagination forever. I want kids to like Batman, our generation was lucky to have both Nolan and Schumacher within a span of around 8 years.
Staying in the technical realm, the best thing about Batman and Robin is its production design. Granted that it’s campy and over the top, but Barbara Ling stayed true to the vision of the film which was either made by the producers or the director. Either she was able to get the vision properly or the ecstasy trip that she had lasted a bit longer than she expected (if that is the case, please find me her number) but either way it worked.
Now we pull out the big guns.
A lot of the material has been taken from the animated series, or at least they tried, but they forgot to take the most important things from the animated series, the brilliant art, the compelling characters, and a genuinely good batman story. Also, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong. But I guess I can’t blame them for that.
Let’s start with the highest-paid actor of Batman and Robin. Not Batman, not Robin, not even the best part about Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, but Ice Terminator.
Ice terminator is the world’s most complex character ever written. More complex than John Nash from a beautiful mind. In A Beautiful Mind, John Nash copes with his sadness with the help of mathematics. In Batman and Robin, the Ice Terminator uses ice puns to not melt his icy heart. After his wife is suffering from some Irish Syndrome (which I feel like only happens after drinking their beer), our Ice Man starts curing her and suddenly meets with an accident. However, unlike the terminator, he falls in cold lava and lo and behold the Ice Terminator. (Is this much ice okay for the recognition, Google?)
Now people can say whatever they want to about the film, but I feel like George Clooney is the perfect casting for Bruce Wayne. However, I feel like the producers felt like he wasn’t even fit to play Batman. Let me elaborate, the most iconic dialogue of the caped crusader is his introduction. He uses it with great levels of intimidation. It’s probably as iconic as James Bond’s introduction and the, “We are gonna need a bigger boat” line. But the moment we hear Clooney say, “I am Batman”, we have Arnold in the frame who, I guess after reading the previous rant you would know, is not the fucking Batman. I just feel like the producers wanted to jizz off to Arnold, so they put him in all the iconic shots where, you know, he wasn’t even supposed to be. They were so obsessed with him that back then if I pitched the idea of the movie Locke starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be writing this review on an Acer laptop, but would rather be in a mansion and living the Shah Rukh Khan life in Om Shaanti Om, or his life in general.
And don’t get me wrong. I am one of the biggest Arnold fans out there. It’s just a tad bit disappointing that after doing several classics he ended up doing this and ever since this film he has hardly done any concepts that he became famous for. Also, they used George Clooney very poorly. From his, “I am Batman” to “I trust you, Alfred” all looked like a courtesy lick.
Remember the complex character Bane from The Dark knight Rises? Remember how he meant something? Remember how for a short period of time we rooted for him? Remember how broke the soul of Batman? Well fuck that, cos this is a dumbed-down version of Bane which could’ve easily Given George Lucas the idea of Jar Jar Binks or Ang Lee the idea of Hulk, or Imtiaz Ali the Idea of Love Aaj Kal 2 ( yes I am going to use the number 2, its not anything like the first).
Chris O’ Donnel plays a try-hard annoying version of Matt Damon from Talented Mr Ripley. I am shocked that the Ice terminator’s wife didn’t catch this Irish Syndrome. Moving on.
Uma Thurman has the weirdest graph possible with her filmography. She went from Pulp fiction to Batman and Robin to The Avengers (the other one) to Kill Bill. I kid you not, it forms “u” in terms of a graph. She was by far the best part of this film. Unlike the rest of the characters, her puns come after a kill or an action. She gives a very Total Recall vibe, while Schwarzenegger after killing says the iconic, “Consider that a divorce” unlike in this film, where he cracks the ice puns like, “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice age.” in between a fucking fight.
The most confused character in the entire film has to be Alicia Silverstone who plays, Batgirl/Alfred’s niece/Nightrider/Bruce Wayne-hater/Bruce Wayne-lover/Equal rights activist/men hater… wait, what? Oh yeah, I remember. Towards the end of the film, she starts dissing all the men she has ever experienced except for her uncle Alfred. I guess the producers had just gotten to know about the Bechdel-Wallace test exactly when 90% of the film was done and they realized they could pander to a larger audience.
Before reaching the conclusion, I would like to point out the reason or the scene where I stopped taking the movie seriously. When the Ice Terminator can’t get a very important gem, a very valuable gem from the hands of Batman and Robin, he calls out his Arctic Monkeys (yes literally) and they come with their hockey sticks and within two minutes this gem becomes a hockey puck, and every actor on set starts acting like they are auditioning for Chak De! India. And in a few scenes, I could actually suggest the filmmakers see how smooth the hockey scenes go. Just like Chak De. A superhero film. Like Chak de. Yeah, it’s understandable why George Clooney still apologizes for Batman and Robin.
In conclusion, I would like to say that Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote had more evil plans as compared to the aforementioned antagonists. At least in Looney Tunes, the end goal is to either kill the bunny or kill the roadrunner. Whereas, here the main goal is to bring equilibrium and care about the environment. So, the next time you watch this movie (which you will, I know it), ask yourself this one question, Are they the bad guys or is Batman the bad guy? Or are you?