Film Review: ‘Batman & Robin’ (1997)

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Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

“This is why Superman works alone.”

Some films, originally panned or poorly-received upon release, have the ability of establishing a likability or even a fandom many years later. 1997’s Batman & Robin is widely regarded as being complete dog sh*t, the worst comic book movie of all time, and responsible for the disappearance of Batman on the big screen. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan saved the day with the perfect origins film, Batman Begins, in 2005. But is Batman & Robin that bad?

Existing as more of a sequel to its 1995 predecessor than Batman Forever did to Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, Batman & Robin retained both the modern landscape and cartoonish presentation of villains from the previous film, but instead, sent the camp tone into overdrive, also known as 60s Batman on steroids. Additionally, and quite importantly, like Jack Nicholson before him, Arnold Schwarzenegger received top billing over his Batman counterpart.

Though having the physique of Bane during his time around Conan the Barbarian, Schwarzenegger settled for Mr. Freeze briefly after his acting prime, opposing George Clooney’s Batman, somewhat before the Nespresso man’s acting prime, ironically. In Batman & Robin, Mr. Freeze begins his torment of icy puns with a diamond theft of the Gotham Museum, with help from the “Hockey team from Hell.” as described by Chris O’Donnell’s Robin, costumed similarly to Nightwing. Freeze’s long-term goal is to revive his wife, but in his way are the caped crusaders, though they are having their own issues as Robin idolises more leadership, and Alfred (Michael Gough) is dying. Like the two preceding films in the franchise, Batman & Robin boasted more than one headline villain – in this installment, to backup Mr. Freeze, was “Poison…Poison Ivy” (Uma Thurman) and her minimal-speaking-henchman, Bane (Jweep Swenson).

Batman & Robin is produced in a way that, essentially, everything looks ridiculous. Even in its own context, what occurs in the film can surpass any logic established. The events and action sequences which occur in Batman & Robin can be likened to the live-action imagination of a child. But with an incentive to sell ancillary products in the form of toys, is it of any surprise that Batman & Robin looked the way it did? From Robin climbing a rocket in the night sky to Batman driving his Batmobile along the fingertips of giant statues in Gotham City, Batman & Robin certainly didn’t take realism into consideration, but nor did it care…

Batman & Robin is a kids film. A kids film made with serious homage to 60s Batman, but taken to the extreme, or quite simply just a modernisation. This isn’t the Batman film a lot of people wanted to see, but nor were the previous three films, and nor was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy (not everybody wanted realistic Batman). Batman & Robin is a film where the human heroes have no limits in their possibilities, and the villains have the desire of domination, all in the presence and majesty of action exaggerated beyond belief.

Ultimately, Batman & Robin can be a horrendously bad film if it isn’t what you want out of a Batman movie. Of course, even in its own context and homage, it still is a bit sh*t and is prone to falling flat here and there, but it is far from being the worst film ever. If anything, Batman & Robin prides itself in knowing what it wants to be, rather than being a mixed bag, like its predecessors in the Burton-Schumacher series.

Batman & Robin is available on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD from all good retailers of physical media.

3 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image: By Source, Warner Bros. Pictures, Fair Use

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