2009-02-23

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #9


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#9: Batman and Robin

There have been many that have wanted and tried to kill Batman. The Penguin, Joker, Two-Face, Bane, Ra's al Ghul, various parents groups… but the honor of killing the Caped Crusader has always been reserved for the gods. No, not just demigods like Darkseid. We’re talking writers like Grant Morrison and John Byrne, editors like Dan DiDio, and a certain movie director name Joel Schumacher. And of those that managed to kill off Batman, it is Schumacher that earns the most notoriety, because he did it from the inside-out.

“Batman and Robin” is the fourth and final film in the Tim Burton-inspired movie series. It was released by Warner Brothers in 1997 and starred George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, and Jeep Swenson. Guest appearances include John Glover, Elle Macpherson, Elizabeth Sanders, Jesse Ventura, Coolio, Pat Hingle, Vivica A. Fox, and Vendela Kirsebom.

At this point, of all of the people involved with the Burton series, only Gough and Hingle remain in their roles as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. There is nothing else left of the original 1989 Batman movie. The cowl has once again been passed to a new leading male, George Clooney.

As we start this movie, we see Batman (Clooney) and Robin (O’Donnell) gearing up for action, including showing unnatural displays of their groins, butts, and (again) the fake nipples on their outfits. As yet another Batmobile appears rises to over-dramatic music, Robin complains that he wants his own car. Batman responds by saying that this is why Superman works alone. After Batman leaves, Robin’s bird-bike rises up, and he quickly follows.

The two show up at the Gotham Museum, which has been turned into a giant ice-rink by Mister Freeze (Schwarzenegger) just so he could steal the prized diamond on display. As Batman and Robin arrive, Freeze orders his goons to attack. Batman and Robin pop out ice skates from their bat-boots and we have an overhyped Ice Capedes show for about five minutes, until Freeze tries to escape in a rocket. Batman follows, but Freeze escapes from that, leaving Batman trapped inside. Robin manages to follow on the outside of the rocket and frees Batman so Batman can blow up the rocket with (yes) a Bat-bomb, and then the two of them sky-board down to Freeze. They all manage to fall into a factory smokestack, where Freeze turns Robin into a bird-cicle and gets away.

Back at the Bat-cave, a now thawed Robin is briefed on how Mister Freeze was once Doctor Victor Fries and his feverish attempt to save his wife (Kirsebom) from a disease called MacGregor's Syndrome turned him into a frozen man. Freeze needs diamonds to power his suit which keeps his body temperature cold enough to keep him alive. Batman asks Alfred to get the Wayne Family Diamonds, although we know at this point that Alfred is clearly in pain.

Meanwhile in South America, a liberal scientist name Pamela Isley (Thurman) is complaining about the lack of funding and supplies for her environmentalist research. She peeks into the neighboring lab of Dr. Jason Woodrue (Glover) and discovers he is holding a huge auction with a huge collection of known (and admitted) criminal masterminds. Up for bidding is the means to transform a small-time local hood into a super-powered bulked-up evil luchador named Bane (Swenson) by the use of the super-soldier serum known as Venom. Isley threatens to report Woodrue to the authorities, but he knocks her down and dumps a rack of chemicals over her. Minutes later, she returns as eco-nut Poison Ivy, whose kiss is lethal. She frees Bane and destroys the lab, vowing to go after the company that supplied them, which of course is Wayne Enterprises.

Back in Gotham, Alfred’s niece Barbara (Silverstone) arrives at Wayne Mannor for a visit. Bruce wants her to stay, much to the pleasure of Dick Grayson. Barbara pretends to be cute and innocent, but when the sun sets and she thinks everyone has gone to bed, she runs into the garage and borrows one of the motorcycles that she claims to dread.

Ivy arrives (with Bane in tow) and disguises herself as Isley to propose a new environmentalist project at the same time that Bruce Wayne is donating a telescope to the Gotham Observatory. This is a huge facility set on top of an equally huge statue of Atlas. (Yes, just like the Atlas statue in Paragon City, only without the globe.) Wayne rejects Ivy’s proposal, which leads her to ramble on about enslaved women and Mother Nature before walking away in embarrassment.

That night, Batman and Robin make an appearance at a charity event in the observatory. At that point Poison Ivy makes her official debut and seduces every man in the room, including Batman and Robin, who then engage in a millionaire bidding war, with Robin bidding money that he would borrow from Batman and Batman pulling out his Batman Express card. This stupidity is thankfully interrupted by Freeze, who is immune to Ivy’s pheromone spray. Batman and Robin give chase in their vehicles, but an over-protective Batman shuts down Robin’s cycle, and Batman takes the credit for defeating Freeze with seemingly a wave of his cape.

Normally at this point I would stop and leave you hanging to watch the movie. However this movie is so abysmally bat-bad, I’m going to save you the trouble.

After being sent to Arkham Asylum so Freeze can give out some more rhetorical repertoire to the guards (one of them played by Schwarzenegger’s friend Jesse Ventura), Ivy and Bane break him out and offers up a partnership. It is a partnership that apparently doesn’t include Freeze’s wife, and Ivy lets Freeze believe that Batman had killed her.

Bruce tries to patch things up with Dick, but the young man refuses to accept his apology. They then go into dude-denial about falling for Ivy. Dick finds out that Barbara has been doing illegal bike racing in the streets of Gotham to raise money to get Alfred out of the mansion. She knows that Alfred is dying from MacGregor's Syndrome, and so does Bruce.

Ivy talks Robin into meeting with her alone. Batman tries to talk Robin out of it, but he still goes. Meanwhile, Freeze and Bane take over the observatory. Barbara, searching for a way to help, hacks into her uncle’s computer and discovers the “Bat-Secret”. She makes her way to the cave, where a simulated Alfred has something “appropriate” for her. We then see a montage of her gearing up... with a cape covering her bottom and no fake nipples!

Ivy gets Robin close enough to kiss, but the poison in her lips don’t work on him because he had his lips coated in plastic. Enraged, Ivy orders her man-eating vines to drown Robin. Batman arrives and is immediately attacked by the vines and held up. Then Barbara, dressed now as Batgirl, arrives and has a brief acrobatic display with a knife-wielding Ivy, who gloats about killing Freeze’s wife before being kicked into the man-eating trap and is encased as she screams “CURSES!” (No, I’m not exaggerating.)

As the Bat-trio exchange pleasantries, they find out that Freeze has used the observatory telescope as a giant freeze gun to freeze the whole city. They engage in a rather lame winter-themed chase through Gotham in a winterized Bat-mobile, a Bat-bike, and a Bat-sled, defeating Freeze’s henchmen and his prized Freeze-mobile in the process. They reach the observatory and try to use the satellites to beam sunlight to the telescope so they can use it to thaw out the city. Freeze interrupts them, though, and Batgirl and Robin descend to a lower level of the frozen statue, where they encounter Bane.

Batman and Freeze engage in a tug-of-war with the controls of the telescope, until Batman plants a Bat-heater on Freeze and knocks him away. Freeze then detonates his Freeze-bombs that surround the telescope. Robin and Batgirl defeat Bane by kicking out his Venom tubes, which force him to revert back to his skinny self. As they do so, the explosion knocks the telescope and Batman and the thawed-out observatory workers down to their doom. Batman rescues the workers, then drops them off safely before picking up Robin and Batgirl, and they go right back up to the observatory floor. The telescope is gone, but Batgirl programs the satellites to beam sunlight directly to Gotham to thaw out the city before the deadline.

Batman then confronts Freeze and shows him footage of Ivy admitting to killing his wife. (HOW he was able to get that footage is not known, since he was hanging upside-down and covered with vines.) He then gives a speech about how he saved Freeze’s wife and she’s still in suspended animation and how Freeze has a greater power to give life. He then asks for the cure to stage 2 of MacGregor’s Syndrome, which Freeze supposedly discovered. Freeze pulls out two neon-blue vials from his gauntlet and tells Batman to call him in the morning.

Bruce administers the “cure” to Alfred’s IV. Back at Arkham, a frazzled Ivy discovers that Freeze is her new cellmate, much to her regret. The next morning Alfred appears to be completely cured, which pleases Bruce, Dick, and Barbara. Bruce tells Dick that he has always trusted him to do the right thing, even if he doesn’t say it. Barbara then asks if she is officially part of the “Bat-family”, which Dick and then Bruce agree, with Alfred saying that they’re going to need a bigger cave. And we finish this mess with a scene of Robin, Batman, and Batgirl running in silhouette away from the Bat-Signal.

And thus ends not only the movie, but also the Batman franchise.

Obviously the cheese factor is overwhelming here. “Batman and Robin on Ice” in the first few minutes of this movie is proof of it. A Bat-bomb, sky-boarding without a parachute, gun-shaped Bat-lasers capable of generating super-heat, henchmen forced to sing “He’s Mister Freeze-Master” as Freeze struts around smoking a cigar… oh, and a cabal of international villains actually ADMITTING they’re villains? And we haven’t even gotten to the overacting!

We have the return of NIPPLES ON THE BATSUITS, but now with a twist. There are only nipples on the MALE Batsuits! No gratuitous displays of Batgirl’s outfit. The guys get codpieces, she gets a bustier built into her spandex. So much for “equal rights”, huh?

Gotham City looks like Paragon City now; complete with giant statues at every corner, including one holding up the Observatory in a way that is completely unrealistic even for Paragon City.

The future governor of California was absolutely the WRONG person to cast for the role of Mister Freeze. This is a character that requires a cold and inhuman demeanor, not wise-cracks and cigars and bad Christmas songs and women (specifically Ms. Fox) dressed in ice-bikinis.

Patrick Stewart was originally asked to play Freeze. This came fresh from his role in “Star Trek: First Contact”, and if Schumacher allowed Stewart to play Freeze as the role should have been done, it would have been a completely different (and better) movie. Instead, Schumacher and Warner Brothers were enthralled with having “Mr. Big Box Office Draw” play Freeze, complete with all of the wise-cracks and bad acting.

George Clooney was properly cast as Bruce Wayne, but he was out-of-place as Batman. The great mistake with casting actors for Batman is they cast actors that look good as Bruce Wayne, but not as Batman. They don’t understand that Wayne is the real disguise. This also marks the first time that Bruce doesn’t have a woman pining for him. He has arm-candy, but that’s all that he has.

Chris O’Donnell comes off as somewhat bratty as Robin this time around. Instead of getting the hang of the superhero business, he is eager to get equal billing when he’s using all of Batman’s equipment and money. Robin’s outfit also gets a makeover in this movie. Gone is the green and yellow from the previous movie, and now he looks like a red-tinged version of Nightwing with a cape.

Alicia Silverstone seems to master the role of Batgirl TOO well. Barbara doesn’t seem phased to learn who Batman and Robin really are and she eagerly jumps into the form-fitting spandex that was made by the Virtual Alfred without a second thought about it. She also masters all of the bat-gadgets like they were second-nature. Again, not realistic.

Uma Thurman’s portrayal of ultra-liberal Poison Ivy is a severe contradiction. As Pamela Isley, she’s a flaky feminist, but as Ivy, she’s a sultry eco-tease. She has mastery over plants and yet she caries a knife?

Bane was just plain WRONG. He looked and sounded and acted fake. This is the character that in the comics would break Batman’s spine, and yet they portray him as a Frankenstein luchador.

This movie was just plain WRONG. The casting, the writing, the costumes, the special effects... you kind of wish that they would have buried this like studios buried Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four” movie. But then again, that would have hurt their merchandising, wouldn’t it? And we can’t have that!

All of this, of course, falls on the head of Director Schumacher and the executives at Warner Brothers. They wanted a family-friendly campy box-office blockbuster which would be perfect for their toy sales, and they got it. They also lost any interest in doing another live-action Batman movie for eight years.

Capes: Three out of five, and that’s being generous.
Cheese: Full-blown runny smelly Limburger (5) with fake nipples. This film was so stupid it makes the 1966 Batman movie look good.
Books: None. Zero. There’s no story here. This is a very expensive and overhyped toy commercial.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I think it wanted to be like the Adam West Batman but fails to garner the charm of that one. You might like this review of it: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/nostalgia-critic/234-batman-and-robin