If a producer had ever been foolish enough to give Ed Wood
(director of arguably the worst movie ever made, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER
SPACE) a hundred million dollars, the result could well have been this
BATMAN & ROBIN.
In summer Hollywood studios usually figure that big budget action
pictures will sell regardless of quality. But even with diminished
expectations, BATMAN & ROBIN is surprisingly bad. It insults the
viewer's intelligence with lifeless acting and a tired script. In our
packed advanced screening, there was excitement in the air before the
film started. But after the lights went down, the audience stared in
almost silent disbelief at a film that was so DOA.
The third Batman movie, BATMAN FOREVER, which felt like it went on
forever, had the misfortune to have been directed by Joel Schumacher.
Schumacher appears to turn control of his action pictures over to the
special effects department, and he takes an MTV rock video approach to
the filmmaking. The fourth in the Batman series, BATMAN & ROBIN, again
has Schumacher as the director. This time he manages to badly miscast
the roles of Batman and Robin and then coach Arnold Schwarzenegger into
giving the worst performance of his career.
From the film's opening line of "The Iceman Cometh," by
Schwarzenegger as Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze, the dialog itself is frozen.
The show features bad acting masquerading as camp. Mr. Freeze's lines
are spoken staccato style, and all of the cast speaks without
intonation. Less like acting than the reading aloud one would expect
from a second grader.
The sets by Barbara Ling and the costumes by Ingrid Ferrin, Bob
Ringwood, and Robert Turturice are quite colorful. There are the
primary colors of the save-the-rain-forest benefit as well as scenes of
blue gray ice. Savor these elements of the picture for they are all
that is worthwhile. Had I not been there to review the film I would
have walked out after five minutes, literally. It is that bad.
If you think George Clooney is an unlikely and unpromising choice
for Batman, you are right. Whereas Michael Keaton was quirky and Val
Kilmer was outlandish and brooding, Clooney gives such an
inconsequential performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman that he blends into
Chris O'Donnell suffers the same problem. As Dick Grayson/Robin,
it is easy to forget he is even on the set.
The other leads, Uma Thurman as Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy and Alicia
Silverstone as Barbara Wilson/Batgirl, had promise, but again,
Schumacher manages to modulate their work and quickly to get to the
repetitive stunts. Akiva Goldsman's script gives the two women the
same throwaway lines as the rest of the cast. ("Come with me," teases
Poison Ivy to Robin. "My garden needs tending.")
As I sat frozen as if by Mr. Freeze's big gun, I whiled away the
time suffering through BATMAN & ROBIN wondering if there was any movie
I enjoyed less this year. Although I could not recall all 137 movies I
have seen this year, I could not think of any that were worse.
"If I must suffer, humanity will suffer with me," warns Mr.
Freeze. And so will BATMAN & ROBIN's audiences.
BATMAN & ROBIN runs two long hours. It is rated PG-13 for
cartoonish violence and sexual innuendoes. The film would be fine for
kids around 8 or 9 and up, but I recommend seeing anything else. In
comparison to BATMAN & ROBIN the summer's other action pictures look
like masterpieces. If you do go, bring an interesting watch; you are
going to be looking at it frequently. I thought about giving the film
no stars, but decided I would give it one half of a star for the sets.
Even so, I think I am being too generous.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes