Batman and Robin (1997).

§ October 6th, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized § 1 Comment

So I’ve mentioned once or twice on this site that of the four Bat-films from the Tim Burton-launched franchise of the late ’80s/early ’90s, the only one I never got around to seeing was the fourth and final installment, Batman and Robin. The trailer alone was enough to warn me off, so garish and shrill and annoying…and in the years since, I’ve heard enough about the performances from the leads, mostly in the context of “OH GOD MY EYES,” that I’ve never really wanted to go out of my way to correct this cinematic omission.

Well, a few months ago I got the idea in my head that, hey, maybe watching the film would be a good way to create some content for my site. Then I thought, “wouldn’t it be a good gag if, after The Dark Knight opens, I do one of my movie reviews, but on Batman and Robin? That’d be great!”

That never happened, unfortunately, but I still kept meaning to rent the movie from Netflix and cover it on the site…and when I mentioned this at the shop, New Employee Tim piped up with “hey, I’ve got that movie on DVD! Want to borrow it?” And lo, I did say “yes,” as renting it from Netflix would only result in messages for me on their site like “based on your interest in Batman and Robin you may also enjoy: A Syringe Being Jabbed Directly into Your Eyeball.”

And yes, I watched it. (That’s the reason for this Twitter post of mine, by the way). I planned on live blogging the “event,” but instead I just took notes and transcribed them below. There was a lot of pausing and rewinding going on, so ultimately I spent far more than the film’s running time watching it, for which I deserve some kind of reward, or at least PayPal donations.

A few words about the notes: oddly, I didn’t have much to say about Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. She didn’t have much of an impact on me one way or the other, I guess. Also, some notes are in the form of “Oh, [ACTOR’S NAME], no” which is apparently in reaction to whatever performance they’re giving, but I didn’t leave myself much context for why I said that, and I ain’t going back to look. Maybe you’d like to rewatch the film yourself along with a printout of my post here. (NOTE TO MY READERS: Don’t do this.)

I haven’t read any reviews of the film (at least, not lately), and I haven’t even listened to the Rifftrax commentary (since this is my first time through the film, after all), so if I duplicate any observations, it’s inadvertent and I apologize. But really, there are only so many ways one can react to getting a full-screen close-up of Batman’s rubber-clad butt.

And I should also note that the time codes may not be exact…these are the times I pulled off my DVD player, but I noticed when I had the DVD in the computer drive, the times were off by a few seconds. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this that will eventually appear in my comments section.

Anyway, here we go…I’ll have a brief wrap-up at the end with some final comments:

00:00:15 – Okay, I like the Warner Brothers logo turning into a frozen Batman emblem. So far, so good.

00:00:46 – I don’t want to hear the opening credits make “woooooshing” sounds as they fly onto the screen (and did Alicia Silverstone’s credit get a motorcycle sound?). I had enough of that in the first Superman movie.

00:01:06 – Am I supposed to be reading anything sexual into the Batman and Robin emblems flying around on screen and ultimately mounting each other?

00:01:18 – Ah, the famous Bat-butt close-up. This scene’s reputation precedes itself.

00:01:23 – That’s a nasty crunching sound Batman’s cowl made as it was being donned. I hope Bruce didn’t do any permanent damage to his neck.

00:01:43 – I’ll give the movie this…that’s one sweet looking Batmobile.

00:02:23 – “This is why Superman works alone.” Throwing a bone to the nerds, are we?

00:02:58 – So they keep Robin’s motorcycle in a big case that emerges up from the ground and splits open, revealing big glowing Robin logos inside. That smacks of a bit of overkill, really.

00:03:16 – Oh, so they’re gonna go with the “Sick Alfred” subplot, are they? “Okay, now pretend to feel sick.” “Sure, let me just picture the script in my mind….”

00:03:58 – “Directed by Joel Schumacher” – well, at least they’re warning you up front.

00:04:16 – I do like the Mr. Freeze make-up. Shame about who it’s applied to.

00:04:21 – “The Iceman cometh!” What did Eugene O’Neill do to deserve this?

00:05:20 – My, that was an entirely unconvincing Batman-jump.

00:05:32 – “You’re not taking me to the cooler!” Oh, Arnie, no.

00:05:48 – I’m really not getting the physics at work in this fight scene.

00:06:26 – “It’s the hockey team from hell!” I believe the “[something] from hell!” cliche was well over and done with by this point.

00:06:58 – Ah, another scene I knew by reputation: the “Bat ice-skates.”

00:07:47 – Thank God, someone finally picked up the diamond instead of knocking around like a hockey puck like they have for the last hour.

00:08:47 – You know, considering this franchise was doing its level best to get away from the ’60s Batman TV show, they’re sure trying to emulate it.

00:10:05 – So Arnie is piloting his phallic rocket while moaning “oh, yes.” Still less homoerotic than Pumping Iron.

00:11:00 – That may have been the least convincing Batman voice ever.

00:11:13 – Yeah, okay, I call “no way” on Mr. Freeze being able to fly away from the rocket, wings or no wings.

00:11:15 – Are you telling me that big, tough, leaping-across-rooms-in-defiance-of-all-physics Batman would break those two spindly bits of ice across his wrists without help?

00:12:06 – So now Batman and Robin plummet to their deaths because clearly those little skateboard-thingies aren’t enough to allow them to glide through the air. Right?

00:12:42 – Please tell me I didn’t hear Robin shout “cowabunga.”

00:13:08 – At this point of the film, physics just completely gave up and left the room crying.

00:14:33 – Okay…Arnie waving “bye bye” at Batman through the frozen pane of ice was kinda cute.

00:15:30 – Oh, and here’s Uma Thurman as Ivy. Surely she’ll save the film.

00:15:49 – And the Swamp Thing fan in me perks up as we get John Glover as Dr. Jason Woodrue. Huzzah!

00:16:50 – Oh, John Glover, no.

00:17:14 – “Super Soldier Serum?” They’re, like, tying into Marvel’s current movie plans eleven years ahead.

00:19:04 – So while Bane was asleep, his dormmates totally drew veins all over his arms with magic markers. What a bunch of jerks.

00:19:14 – Man, Uma can’t even chew scenery properly. If you’re gonna deliver the phrase “maniacal scheme for world domination,” do it right.

00:20:06 – I had a teacher in grade school whose husband wore glasses like Glover’s here.

00:20:12 – “I’m afraid you’ll have to die!” – John Glover gets the best line read in the film thus far.

00:20:26 – Oh, good, she’s dead. Well, one less bad performance in this film.

00:21:20 – I think so far Michael Gough as Alfred has managed to keep some level of dignity for himself.

00:22:05 – More “Sick Alfred” subplot. Not sure why I’m noting this.

00:23:50 – A brief flashback with young Bruce and less-old Alfred. Oddly and effectively emotional in this giant punch-in-the-face of a movie.

00:24:51 – So dying ‘n’ coming back makes Ivy’s performance even worse.

00:25:10 – Oh, John, stop doing that with your lips.

00:26:09 – Just sort of dawned on me at this very moment how very different the performances are in this film versus The Dark Knight. Not sure why it stuck me right now.

00:26:39 – To borrow a lesson from Mystery Science Theatre 3000: never put a good movie in the middle of your bad movie. A Year Without Santa Claus is just reminding your viewers what a film made with some level of competence is like.

00:27:42 – A henchmen named “Frosty.” Man, you should have just put ’em in shirts with their names on them at this point.

00:28:52 – You know, a children’s cartoon handled the tragedy of Mr. Freeze’s wife with a lot more emotional effectiveness.

[At this point Alicia Silverstone is introduced as Alfred’s niece. I didn’t note a specific time, or really have anything to say about it, but thought I should mention it anyway.]

00:34:26 – Having Bane as a chauffeur isn’t conspicuous at all.

00:35:04 – So is that reporter directly from the 1950s?

00:35:44 – There’s a base level of irony in that Clooney’s delivery of awkward stuttering is in itself incredibly awkward.

00:39:13 – “I hate when people talk during the movie.” This is as metatextual as this movie gets, folks.

00:40:14 – I was hoping there’d be a tacky jungle dance party in this film, and I wasn’t disappointed.

00:40:34 – Oh, the Leather Daddies are on stage to perform! Oh, wait, it’s Batman and Robin.

00:40:54 – At least Pat Hingle is displaying the proper amount of shame.

00:42:00 – The only thing on my TV right now is someone in a purple gorilla costume slowly dancing. I think I’m going insane.

00:42:39 – Wow, Ivy’s pollen sure moves fast!

00:42:50 – Oh, man, the party’s become a really slow rave.

00:43:27 – Being on Ivy’s magical pollen has improved everyone’s choreography.

00:44:25 – No, Uma, please make more unsubtle glances down at Robin’s Boy Wonder.

00:45:25 – I actually had to replay this scene to make sure I really did hear a “ka-ching” cash register sound when Batman whipped out his Bat-credit card. Oh, movie.

00:45:28 – Oh, Uma, don’t do that. The sexy talkin’ and walkin’ ain’t workin’.

00:45:36 – Oh thank God it’s Mr. Freeze.

00:46:02 – Batman totally didn’t contact that thug’s head with his foot, and the thug went down anyway. FIX!

00:46:26 – I’m sorry, was that a cartoon “slip” sound?

00:46:42 – So grabbing a vine can make Mr. Freeze fly. Why’d they even bother erasing the wires in post-production?

00:47:45 – “Cool party.” Man, Mr. Freeze is a dick.

00:49:26 – Gotham sure is full of entirely impractical architecture.

00:50:47 – Did we miss a fight scene? Batman flings himself at Mr. Freeze’s car, and then Mr. Freeze is defeated?

00:52:52 – Ah, Alfred brings some calm to the proceeding. Let us focus on Alfred and forget the previous unpleasantness. OMMMMMM

00:55:03 – “Drag him into the cold beam!” How many times have I heard that?

00:56:30 – Putting a hat and overcoat on Bane feels like a somewhat inadequate disguise.

00:56:55 – Ivy and Bane are gonna fight a gang of Dayglo Skeleton people. Sure, at this point, why not?

00:57:44 – So, more cartoon fight noises.

00:59:30 – I see Bruce Wayne has since bought a much smaller dinner table than the one he had in the first film.

01:01:57 – Man, there are some weird ass gangs in Gotham. Did I see some Droogs?

01:03:56 – I’m having a really hard time caring about this motorcycle race in the middle of my Batman movie.

01:07:17 – Alfred, much like this film franchise, is dying.

01:07:46 – Whoops, careful Bruce, you almost exhibited an emotion.

01:08:42 – So Ivy goes to Arkham Asylum to visit a super-villain while dressed like that, and they just let her in? She didn’t make anyone suspicious?

01:09:25 – Here’s a set right out of the ’60s TV show, with a big ol’ out-of-place sign informing you that you are indeed in the Criminal Property Locker. Nice callback to the previous film with the Riddler and Two-Face costumes just, you know, sittin’ out there.

01:09:50 – “My most unabominable snowman.” Sorry, I refuse to accept that line of dialogue.

01:10:37 – Even Arnie wasn’t sold on that “laundry service that delivers” joke.

01:10:50 – Okay, the “always go a size smaller – makes me look slimmer” joke was pretty good.

01:10:58 – Ivy: “I’ll help you grab your rocks.” Not at all a double-entendre.

01:12:00 – And they jump to their deaths. Well, that’s one way to kill off your film’s bad guys…oh, what, they’re NOT dead?

01:13:57 – I can’t stop looking at Batman and Robin’s costume nipples. They’re hypnotic.

01:14:10 – Batman and Robin talking about Ivy’s “stems and buds.” Please stop.

01:15:33 – So an unobstructed switch by the exit controls the release of dangerous fumes? Seems like bad planning.

01:16:54 – Ivy refers to their “anatomically correct rubber suit[s],” so even people in the actual story are wondering what’s up with the Bat-nipples.

01:22:17 – And Ivy brings out Audrey III.

01:27:29 – Oh, Pat Hingle, no.

01:27:58 – So what where these henchmen doing why Mr. Freeze was in Arkham? Just hanging around the Freeze Fort?

01:30:40 – Michael Gough being able to pull off a good performance with this material…that’s like a superpower in and of itself.

01:31:46 – Least practical computer blueprints ever, with things just kinda floating across them on the computer screen…that’s not distracting at all.

01:32:50 – Hey, Bruce, why not emphasize the name “Dick” a little more?

01:34:20 – Bane just kinda happily saying “BOMB” as he puts each bomb down made me laugh.

01:35:42 – It’s a computer-generated Alfred Headroom, even down to the stutter.

01:36:15 – Alfred made a tight-fitting rubber fetish costume for his niece? That’s a little peculiar.

01:39:55 – Batman’s gotta put a little Bat-emblem on everything…even that little vine-cutter thingie.

01:40:38 – Ivy shouting in movie-serial style “CURSES!” The film almost approaches self-awareness!

01:41:10 – Upon realizing that Alfred’s niece/Batgirl knows their secrets:

Robin: “Guess we’ll have to kill her.”

Batman: “Yup…we’ll kill her later.”

I must be grasping for entertainment, as that exchange amused me.

01:47:15 – I suppose I should be writing down something about Batman fighting Mr. Freeze. It’s two guys in silly costumes punching each other. There you go.

01:48:44 – “The heat is on!” – Nice counter to Mr. Freeze’s constant icy one-liners.

01:52:30 – So using the heat beams to defrost Gotham City is causing a sound that resembles sizzling bacon. “All the inhabitants of Gotham City fried to death today….”

01:53:28 – Just noticed Batman and Robin have color-coordinated costumes to match the ice and snow. Those are some snappily-dressed superheroes.

01:55:05 – This is like the most effective Clooney-as-Batman performance in the film…just calmly and firmly talking to Freeze and convincing him to give up the experimental medicine that will, coincidentally, help Alfred.

..But then Arnie blows it with the “take two of these and call me in the morning” line read. AAARGH.

01:56:38 – Hey, I thought Ivy was eaten by her own giant plant. What a gyp.

01:56:56 – So Arnie’s back in Arkham for, like, five minutes, and already he’s back in his supersuit and threatening a female inmate. Someone really needs to step in and shut Arkham down.

01:59:15 – “We’re going to need a bigger cave!” Yeah, don’t get ahead of yourself there, Alfred.

01:59:25 – And there our three heroes run off triumphantly into no future sequels.

01:59:33 – Ah, the roster of shame…er, I mean, “the credits.”

02:04:36 – And one last look at the film’s logo, so you can remember the title and warn your friends.

And that’s that. So, ultimately, what’d I think of it?

Well, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.

Don’t get me wrong…it’s not a good movie. It’s trying to be an upscale version of the ’60s Batman TV show, but without the wit and charm. It’s just big, loud and stupid, with embarrassing performances and unconvincing action that push you right out of the story. In discussing the film with Pal Dorian, he mentioned that the movie was essentially a live-action cartoon, and he’s right…but where this year’s Speed Racer movie succeeded in creating a cartoon world you could accept for a full-length film, the basic ineptness of Batman and Robin kept you from simply accepting the world it presented. It had its moments…a couple of quiet emotional scenes, some beautiful sets and effects…but all in support of, essentially, nothing.

In a way, it seems like this film has what I’d want from a superhero movie…colorful characters, over-the-top action, crazy stunts, and goofy fun. And taken on a very basic level, this film does provide some slight measure of entertainment. But it just didn’t seem very smart about how it went about it. I can sort of see where they were going with this, with what they were attempting…enough so that I don’t want to simply dismiss this movie with “it sucks and I hate it.” (I prefer to reserve that sort of judgment for soulless abominations like Eragon.)

Anyway, if you read all that, you deserve a cookie. Or at least a say in my comments section, so let me know what you think of this poor, unloved film.

If you didn’t read all that, here’s the short version:

One Response to “Batman and Robin (1997).”