The fourth instalment in the Burton/Schumacher series, Batman & Robin was the dying breath of a desperate creature. It became a legend amongst bad movies, and its failure echoed for so long that no one dare go near Gotham’s protector again for eight years.
For a film that has been hailed as the “worst superhero movie of all time”, it has been quite a feat to consolidate all my disappointments into one manageable rant. ‘Batman and Robin’ appears to induce ADHRD, known commonly as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Rage Disorder; no sooner do you find one issue to focus on, you stumble across a dozen others.
Costumes, puns, sight-gags, props, nipples, bum cracks and boobs, it's the proverbial landmine of intolerable absurdity. And it fails simply because it doesn’t try to achieve anything. A comedy fails at being a comedy if it isn’t funny, a biopic fails from historical inaccuracies, and a Michael Bay film fails if the acting is credible, etc etc. But what Batman and Robin tries to be is left unclear. Where the 60s original was brazen spoof and Nolan’s trilogy is gritty realism, Schumacher’s final landmine flounders in limbo.
Peppered with visual gags and puns moments which can only be there for folly, ‘Batman and Robin harboured the potential for the camp absurdity not seen since Burt Ward grabbed the Shark Repellent. This gravel-voiced Bruce features his own personalised credit card, with BATMAN written in big shiny letters. Secret identity? What secret identity?
Let’s start by talking about the man himself. Batman & Robin finally provides an answer to the question which has plagued generations of hot-blooded females; what does it take to make George Clooney unattractive?
Bat-nipples would be it, coupled with homoerotic angst with a teenager and the worst opening line of all opening lines. This line actually broke the first rule of writing I was ever taught at the grand old age of six; ‘never open a story with a chatty introduction'. So how does Clooney make his grand entrance as a legendary masked vigilante when encountering the vicious Freeze?
“Hi Freeze, I’m Batman”
The first impression we are given of the caped crusader, and he sounds like he’s greeting fans. But what else can we expect from a man who wrote the screenplay of I Am Legend without understanding the title of the book itself?
Speaking of Freeze, Danny DeVito recently claimed that becoming governor of California was a “stupid” thing for Arnie to do. I humbly disagree. No number of poor political decisions can possibly overshadow the image of Schwarzenegger dressed in a long silver dressing gown, orchestrating a frostbitten choir in polar-bear slippers.
Batman and Robin features no less than four villains in total, but it’s Arnie’s glorified snowman which steals the show. After a freak accident involving cryogenic freezing, a scientist named Victor Fries was transformed into an ice-shooting member of the blue-man group, dependant on a diamond-powered suit. Move over, Tobias Funke!
He must’ve fallen into ice made of Evil Water, because he acquired a taste for the criminal life, and the lesser-known superpower of unbeatably poor punning skills. We are treated to such poetic classics as “The Iceman cometh”, and my personal favourite, “What killed the dinosaurs? THE ICE-AGE!”. Which is not only hilariously inaccurate, but also serves as a precursor to a pointless visual gag. Joining Freeze in his fight against Batman and Anticlimactic Entrances are Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy (apparently in-heat), and a near-mute Bane.
It’s Uma that’s the real treat. Maybe not topping Arnie on the scale of 'Why on earth did you agree to this?', she provides a potent sexual awakening to any prepubescent viewers, and is the instigator of the film’s biggest crime; angst.
Angst has no place in a 20th Century Batman, and yet it bubbles on the surface like a headless wart. This same infliction doomed Spider-Man 3. Worse still, it’s the exact sort of angst nobody can enjoy. You can either give is a good love story or a troubled bromance, but what we’re given is the bastard child of both. A middle-aged Bruce Wayne is getting antsy because his teenage boy-toy has a wondering eye! As if Chris O’Donnell hasn’t struggled enough in this franchise, being passed from Bat to Bat like an old piece of fruit.
Adding to the basket of sad is Alfred. Four villains and a wayward boyfriend just doesn’t offer a stiff enough challenge for our winged hero, so his beloved butler and smartass has gone and gotten himself a terminal illness to top it all off! Not only is this subplot resolved with a deux ex machina seen a mile away, but gives the story an opening for yet another outlandish character. Well, sometimes there just aren’t enough montages of people “suiting up.
Enter Alfred’s prodigal niece, played by Alicia Silverstone. She comes equipped with all the residual hair-flicking scenes she didn’t get to fit into Clueless. Of course, it would have been too easy for her to be Alfred’s granddaughter or Bruce’s niece, because that might have made proper sense. Instead, she’s got an uncle at least three-times her age, whom helps her get dressed into a Batsuit with METAL BREASTS. There’s nothing borderline incestuous about that, is there Joel?
“Never mind about your terminal illness, Uncle. Just focus on making sure the whole world is made unavoidably aware of my young mammary glands!”
“I’ll make those nipples extra pert for you, sweetheart!”
This is fundamentally, a dreadful film. But all dreadful films have that one glimmer of hope known as “cult status”. The loving home of such classics as Spiceworld: The Movie or Return to Oz, cult films rely on childhood ignorance and overused VHS players to ensure that your loyalty will overcome trivial hardships such as bad acting or gaping plot holes. It’s a testament then, to how bad this film is that it even fails at doing that. Nobody could possibly have residual fondness for Batman & Robin, but instead the only legacy it leaves is in knowing you’ll never be able to look at an orchid again, without hearing Uma Thurman whisper “Slippery when wet”.