Batman had injected new life in the super hero movie concept. Tim Burton had lit a fuse in the late 80’s as Superman did in the late 70’s. The sequel to Batman – Batman Returns was also good. The decision to choose Joel Schumacher to take on the franchise gave a different perspective on the hero in Batman Forever. Now Schumacher was following that up with Batman and Robin.
The phrase ‘unmitigated disaster’ springs to mind when reviewing this film. Though I’ve never considered myself to be one who enjoys having pain inflicted on me, I have watched the film more than once, which should lead to serious revisions of that belief. What makes it so poor is a combination of factors.
First the script. Schumacher was definitely moving away from the darker mood of the Burton Batman films and this one seemed to be paying tribute to the 60’s television show. Yet where that show was an obvious tongue-in-cheek romp, this film has none of the lightness and just comes across as contrived. This point is made worse by some of the appeals to serious issues in the storyline itself – loved ones dying, showing love for family and that kinda stuff.
Something else a number of franchises are guilty of is trying to fit too many big name characters into the film. Freeze, Ivy, Batman, Robin, Alfred, Batgirl oh and even a comical Bane is just a mess of different storyline strands on too many different characters, diluting the purpose and leaving it to the poor viewer to wade through the morass of loose ends and important characters.
So with a weak script and a storyline undermined by it’s attempt at humour it is not the best platform for those acting. Yet even there, some have to take responsibility for shockingly poor performances. Whatever convinced Arnold Schwarzenegger to follow the villain’s path after Jack Nicholson, Danny Devito, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey was left in the bank account as he really ham-acts his way through Mr. Freeze. There can be little other excuse for him butchering whatever decent part of the script there was for him. The puns coming from him were embarrassing at times.
He is not the only one. Uma Thurman has acted and will continue to act a lot better than she did in this film. I also think that Chris O’Donnell typifies what went wrong here – as he hinted in his performance in the previous Batman. George Clooney as a result comes across as theonly sane one in the asylum with a performance that hopes to inject realism in otherwise outlandish and absurd characterisations (honourable mention of Alfred’s role too on this score). It is a pity that Clooney’s only Batman film was such a dud, although he doesn’t come across particularly heroically.
So from the script to the performances the whole thing is horror show in the way it was never meant to be. Whereas it is preferable to look for positive elements of the film for some sort of consolation or something to salvage some respect, in this one even the very high quality production values highlight what great expense has been wasted on a project that didn’t take itself serious enough to be a good super hero movie or not silly enough to be a laugh out loud jaunt. It ends up rather in a turgid mess. Making it at present the worst super hero movie I have seen – and I’ve seen the Punisher with Dolph Lundgren!