'Batman & Robin' Review: This is Why Superman Works Alone
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Batman & Robin is a study in contradictions. It's easily one of the worst films ever released by a major studio, but it's also one of the greatest comedies of modern times. In fact, it's my belief that Batman & Robin is one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies ever made, right up there with cult classics like Showgirls and Troll 2. Director Joel Schumacher may have created a neon-colored abomination that makes a mockery of everything Batman stands for, but at least he made a movie worth seeing. So what if it requires a dozen shots of vodka to truly enjoy?
When Schumacher was hired to helm 1995's Batman Forever, the goal was to make a lighter film than the nightmare inducing Gothic freak shows that Tim Burton had previously turned out. Batman Forever was a rousing success, so Warner Brothers decided to throw in even more characters for Batman & Robin. On his DVD commentary, Schumacher freely admits that the studio was more interested in selling toys than making a decent movie, and that mindset shows during every minute of the film's two-hour plus running time.
Batman & Robin finds the titular duo battling the villainous forces of Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Freeze wants to cover Gotham City in ice, and Ivy wants to repopulate the world with plants to enact Mother Nature's revenge. As if two heroes and two villains weren't already enough for one movie, the film also tosses Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone) into the mix. Believe it or not, the overabundance of characters is probably the least of the film's problems.
Schumacher's direction may be ridiculously garish and over the top, but the issues with Batman & Robin start with the script. Every single line of dialogue is so hilariously awful that I find it absolutely appalling that screenwriter Akiva Goldsman made money writing this script. For example, here are a few choice lines that are supposed to pass as humor:
Mr. Freeze: You're not sending ME to the COOLER!
Robin: I want a car, chicks dig the car.
Batman: This is why Superman works alone.
Mr. Freeze: In this universe, there's only one absolute: everything freezes!
Believe me, these lines will make you fall off the couch laughing if you watch the film while intoxicated, but I don't think that's what the screenwriter intended. It goes without saying that most of the actors can do absolutely nothing with the horrid dialogue they're given, but oh, how they try. George Clooney is painfully earnest as Bruce Wayne, and though you'd think he could play a suave bachelor in his sleep, he still gives the worst performance of his career. Alicia Silverstone flounders as Batgirl, Chris O'Donnell is bland as ever as Robin, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is. . .Arnold Schwarzenegger. No more, no less.
The one actor who seems to know exactly what kind of movie she's in is Uma Thurman. She delivers every one of her lines in a sexy Mae West voice, playing up the camp while everyone around her acts like they're starring in Macbeth. It's a brilliant performance that would have fit perfectly in the old Batman TV show from the 1960s. If only they had cast Adam West instead of George Clooney, this movie might have worked.
Unfortunately, Batman & Robin doesn't work at all. It doesn't work as a superhero movie, a summer blockbuster, an action spectacle, or a coherent narrative. It is the antithesis of quality entertainment. It only works as a seemingly endless string of hastily slapped together puns drenched in brightly colored neon lighting. For this, it is wonderfully hilarious and a true joy to behold. Joel Schumacher may not be able to craft a decent comic book adventure, but at least he knows how to make one hell of a classic comedy.
- Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of Warner Brothers)