Batman & Robin Movie Review

This fourth episode in the Batman series isn't a movie so much as a theme park. It wasn't scripted so much as run through the Hollywood script mill, where every line of dialogue is reduced to a catchphrase. "Allow me to break the ice," says Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), "My name is Freeze. Learn it well. For it's the chilling sound of your doom." That groaner is representative of pretty much every line of Batman's arch-nemesis. He later posits such zingers as, "Tonight, hell freezes over!" and "You're not sending me to the cooler!" This is not character development so much as paint-by-numbers screenwriting, where you can imagine the gang sitting around wondering what incorrigible pun they'll come up with next.

Tim Burton's first two Batman films were all about this nerd auteur playing with a gigantic train set, so even though the stories were threadbare and superficial, at least Burton brought a highly stylized pop Gothic look. Jack Nicholson hammed it up nicely as the Joker and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman was an unforgettably sexy femme fatale who was able to hold her own in a power struggle with the caped crusader. Say what you will, the films had their moments, and even miscast Michael Keaton was an enjoyable wild card.

All that changed with the third Batman, helmed by Joel Schumacher, who transformed the series into a paint-set of gaudy "splash" colors, dizzying Dutch angles, and hyperactive snip-snip cutting in the editing room, to the point where one sits and watches the screen, eyes glazed over, not even able to comprehend the logical flow of an action sequence. There is some vestige of a plot, where a scientist transforms into Mr. Freeze and decides to create a new ice age, and some other nonsense involving villain #2, Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), who wants to take over the world using genetically engineered plants.

These villains would indeed be colorful if they had any personality, but instead they're a series of one-liners pointed in the general direction of Batman (George Clooney, who doesn't even get top billing), Robin (Chris O'Donnell), and Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), who lack the benefit of a super-power gimmick to give them personality. Clooney, who has proven himself an actor of some integrity in recent years (Out of Sight and Three Kings were when he started taking some responsibility for his career), admitted in interviews he did Batman & Robin for the cash, and I don't think I've ever seen a Hollywood star coast through a movie so cavalierly, so without caring. And who on earth can blame him, considering he isn't given much of a character to play? Bruce Wayne wears a suit and Batman wears a cowl. There's your character!

Let's not kid ourselves. The studio wanted to keep up the franchise and keep toys on the shelves. But they did the capital mistake of underestimating the audience, which was in no mood for putting up with this crap again. When storytelling gets reduced to one big explosion after another, the effect is ultimately exhausting and unfulfilling. But here's a pet theory for you as to why the movie tanked: All those leering shots of Batman and Robin's codpieces. Now, someone is going to make a connection between the global homophobia that made Batman & Robin tank as opposed to the repugnant gay panic scenes that are in almost every would-be successful major motion picture coming out of Hollywood (most recently in Wedding Crashers, The Dukes of Hazzard, and The Island). But that's not worth going into here because Batman & Robin deserves no justification for existing. It was made assuming people would be dumb enough to ladle into their mouths whatever the Hollywood sequel machine would throw at them. Maybe the fact that they put some real effort into revitalizing Batman Begins (I didn't love it, but at least they tried) speaks well for the dream factory; at least they learned from their mistake.

The new Anthology DVD set includes the first four Batman films: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin. Each comes in a two-disc pack (that's eight discs total), with commentary tracks, making-of featurettes, music videos, and deleted scenes (for Forever and Robin). Extra points for an impressive box design.


Batman & Robin Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: PG, 1997


Editors Recommendations

Kiefer Sutherland Issues Professional Response To Freddie Prinze Jr.'s "Unprofessional" Criticism

The 47 year-old actor only had fond memories of working with Prinze Jr...

Kiefer Sutherland Issues Professional Response To Freddie Prinze Jr.'s

Jessie J's New Single "Bang Bang" Is A Summer Playlist Staple

Ariana Grande is checking off rap babes to collaborate with one by one...

Jessie J's New Single

Reason #23435 To Like Chris Pratt - "Guardians Of The Galaxy" Star Connects With Fans At Charity Screening

Chris Pratt may just be the best human – in Hollywood, anyway. The Guardians...

Reason #23435 To Like Chris Pratt -

Zayn Malik told to kill himself after controversial tweet

One Direction’s Zayn Malik has attracted enormous criticism on Twitter after simply...

Zayn Malik told to kill himself after controversial tweet

La Toya Jackson - Feels Like Love

La Toya Jackson is re-booting her showbiz career with a brand new music video for latest single...

La Toya Jackson - Feels Like Love Video

Quentin Tarantino Confirms That 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Made For Big-Screen

Quentin Tarantino seems to have had a change of heart against the individuals...

 Quentin Tarantino Confirms That 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Made For Big-Screen

Allegations of sexual harassment at Comic-Con

A group of young women from Philadelphia that founded a website titled...

Allegations of sexual harassment at Comic-Con

Ashton Kutcher And Mila Kunis Are Set To Tie The Knot Next Year

Excited fans first heard the news that former 'That 70's Show' co-stars...

Ashton Kutcher And Mila Kunis Are Set To Tie The Knot Next Year

More recommendations