Woo boy. We’re really gonna have to talk about this one. Every other season, I’ve tried to be positive but one movie got under my skin. Now this one comes along…
Even after the silliness of Batman Forever, that film never went completely off the rails. However, Schumacher decided to double down on EVERYTHING this time and took what could have been a magnificently poignant film and turned it into a two-hour cartoon. Never had I ever walked out of a theater feeling utter disappointment. Me and a friend I went with walked out in silence. Drove for quite awhile afterwards in silence as well. The second time that happened to me was November of the same damn year after watching Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. The aforementioned film that got under my skin. I’m starting to think 1997 was sending me red flags I wasn’t picking up on.
Since there is SO much to complain about, let’s just get on with. Why are their Looney Tunes sound effects in this film? I know it’s a goddamn Warner Bros. property but come on! Why is Bane a lumbering beast as opposed to the cold calculated killer he is in the comics? I guess that’s too sophisticated for 90s audiences.
Why does Poison Ivy use her pheromone in every other scene? I guess if you have the ability, use it right? Why is Batgirl in this movie? It works the same with or without her. For that matter, why is Elle McPherson in this movie? Her character serves zero purpose. Why does the ice look plastic and wobble like plastic? Budget I guess. And why, for the love of god WHY, does Mr. Freeze have to use ice puns. By the end of the movie, I was like, “get fucked you big bald blue knob!” I have never hated Arnold so much in a role.
Outside of his performance, the rest of the cast is serviceable. Chris O’Donnell does well enough but comes off whiny most of the movie. Alicia Silverstone is really there for no reason than to say, “Hey look! Batgirl!” And even though I’m not fond of this presentation of Poison Ivy, at least Uma Thurman knew what kind of movie she was in and hams it up, with far less puns than her ice cold partner. Michael Gough is always a delight. George Clooney is a great actor and I love him in anything I see him in. But he’s no Batman. He’s a great Bruce Wayne, but like Kilmer before him, didn’t quite nail the duality of the role.
The scenes between Bruce and Alfred are so perfect that they feel like they belong in an entirely different film. Those were the biggest highlights for me and they were the quietest moments of the film. I’ve watched this film more than once because I can see remnants of a good movie in there. Just look at two of the main plot points. Batman and Robin are struggling as partners, and Alfred is on his deathbed. Those two things alone are already compelling narratives to work with, and if there are any highlights to this movie, those are it.
Batman is typically a loner and treating Robin like a kid, especially when he’s not, would strain a partnership. Dick wants to be treated as an equal, but he can be reckless which is why Bruce treats him as such.
You could then compound that plot with the equally intriguing one that Alfred is dying and the toll that’s taking on Bruce. Being helpless to save the man that is practically his father would easily cause someone to act irrationally. His actions against Dick reflect how he feels about Alfred. Furthermore, you work in the extremely heartbreaking narrative of Mr. Freeze and why he’s doing what he’s doing. Hell, you could have kept the plot thread that Alfred was dying from the same disease as Nora, but put him in the heartbreaking decision of choosing who lives or dies: Nora or Alfred… and he chooses Nora.
This could have been an amazing film. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who’s filmography is spotty at best, actually lifted the story of Victor Fries from Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s episode Heart of Ice from Batman: The Animated Series. That episode won a frickin’ Emmy and these two jackholes come in and piss all over it. Hell, Batman: Sub-Zero is a much better film than this piece of shit and people don’t seem to care for it either, which I don’t understand.
In my review of Batman Forever, I stated that Joel Schumacher’s take on Batman is not my preferred choice, and everyone is entitled to enjoy whatever they want. If you are someone who loves Batman & Robin, then god bless. You enjoy this film until you die. Unfortunately for me, I cannot sanction this buffoonery.