Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone
If you’ve ever played the PS4 Batman game, Arkham Knight, you would know it opens with commissioner Gordon prefacing that this story shows how the Batman dies. That could aptly fit everything about Batman & Robin and how its basic incompetence in being able to tell a coherent story almost annihilated a beloved comic book character.
Now, on the pursuit of the chilly Dr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Batman (George Clooney) and his sidekick, Robin (Chris O’Donnell) must learn how to trust each other when out in the field. It gets complicated when the alluring and intoxicating Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) uses her toxins against them.
Growing up, Batman & Robin represented how I saw the character of Batman. With its release in 1997, it became the most recent one around when young Josh first laid eyes on the caped crusader. Naturally, as the film aimed towards kids, I enjoyed it for the pretty colors and the wicked puns by Arnold. For years, I have thus learned the infamous reputation the film has built, which made me wary to ever go back and rewatch it. However, it needed to be rewatched for this review, and it’s truly a terrible piece of junk.
For as much as the film gets ridiculed for the nipples on the bat suit and Batman having a credit card that he happens to always carry with him, structurally this film has barely any redeeming qualities. Batman Forever at least had a campy feature to it and overly horny characters, but this installment leaves no one looking pretty. As much as I still prescribe to the idea that dad jokes and puns are the pinnacle of comedy, Arnold’s Dr. Freeze is a terrible villain. Whenever he’s not dropping his bone-chillingly awesome puns, I just want to take his freeze gun and blast his lips to make him stop talking.
George Clooney obviously was miscast in this role even if he may feel like a real-life Bruce Wayne at times. This version felt way too glossy for the character he was portraying. Now, don’t confuse me for the people that believe that if the performance does not perfectly resemble the comics, then it’s bad. I prefer deviations but just make them interesting, and this script failed in making George Clooney riveting, which is a feat of its own. I did not care for Chris O’Donnell’s Robin in Batman Forever and he only manages to get even worse in this film, because Batman & Robin has to make everything a downgrade. I’m still not sure what the point was of having Alicia Silverstone wasted in a role so limited that her third act reveal felt boring.
That may be the best way to describe this horrid feature. Even with Batman sliding down a dinosaur skeleton like he’s Tarzan, our heroes air surfing on emergency exit doors, and Dr. Freeze’s puns, Batman & Robin is extremely bloated and boring. It has nothing on its mind nor tries to do anything with the characters. It becomes a string of large set pieces that serve as an advertisement for toys. For a character with such rich villains, who have deeply troubled pasts, it almost makes a mockery out of them. I can see why there needed to be a break from live-action Batman films. No one could take them seriously after this shameless debacle. The individuals behind making the feature had such little disregard for the great work that could be done by putting it into the hands of a real creative voice, they kept on Joel Schmucher because he made them money. With what feels like a Batman movie coming out every 2-3 years, Batman & Robin was so bad that the world needed an almost decade-long break from this famous character.
Nostalgia could not protect this film’s horrific quality and I just sat there thinking that it must have all been a terrible prank played on all of us. Whether it be Batman and Robin having ice skates that come out of their shoes to specifically play hockey with Dr. Freeze’s henchmen or the laughable dialogue, nothing works in this film. It would have been better if Arnold’s Dr. Freeze did ice puns at an open mic for two hours. Watching the decline from the 1989 Batman to now shows a complete loss of creative identity, which turned the character into a mechanism to make money instead of telling any semblance of a story. A complete shame and it deserves all of the ridicule it rightfully received all these years.