Friday, July 13, 2012

8 DAYS OF BATMAN COUNTDOWN: #7 - Batman & Robin

8 days, 7 films leading up to the final chapter of Christopher Nolan's Batman world next Friday.  From worst to first, let's get through the previous Batman films, their universe, and get ready to roll for The Dark Knight Rises...

#7 - Batman & Robin

All franchises have their lows.  There is always going to be a Superman IV, a Spider-Man 3, a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  But of all the low points in all of the film franchises in history, I would argue that Batman & Robin has to be the lowest of the low.  What a fresh dose of hell this is, a disastrous calamity in every way.  The writing was on the wall once Joel Schumacher got his hands on the franchise, as there were hints of camp and excess in Batman Forever.  But, for the love of God, nobody could have expected this fourth installment in the film series.  Once again, Batman is played by a different person, and the irony here is that arguably the best actor of the three who would play Batman in this franchise was undoubtedly the worst Batman ever.  And, if you go back and check out his interviews prior to the release of Batman & Robin, I think he knew it.

Yes, that is George Clooney, multiple Oscar nominee and Oscar winner destroying the ides of Batman in the late nineties.  But he had plenty of help, starting with the addition of Bat-nipples on the costume.  Batman and his cocky sidekick, Robin (Chris O'Donnell), take on Mr. Freeze this time around.  Played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Freeze is a campy, corny villain who had to have spent most of his days writing down weather-related quips in between trying to figure out how to destroy Gotham.  Oh, and there is the unnecessary addition of Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Bane, two more villains with very little to do.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the last time we saw Bane on the big screen was here, in this carnival.  Surely Tom Hardy will erase this nightmare from our memory.

Joel Schumacher saw this list of cast members and decided we needed one more central character.  So he forces Batgirl into the proceedings.  But it didn't really matter, because by the time Alicia Silverstone becomes Batgirl the film has unraveled so greatly that throwing one more bit of garbage at the screen is inconsequential.  Batman & Robin is one excessive set piece after another, a screenplay loaded up with one liners and no real dialogue.  You can see it in Clooney's face, as he reads lines like "you get the ice, I'll get the Ice-Man."  He knew all along what was happening to the franchise, but he didn't really have a choice.  It isn't so bad it's good, it is simply bad.  Try watching it again, I applaud you (or perhaps I pity you) if you make it through the entire picture.

For all of its horrific dialogue (by Bob Kane!) and excess and ridiculous nature of Batman & Robin, it may have created Christopher Nolan's Batman universe.  Had it been a success, we may have never seen a new, updated Batman franchise.  But, thankfully Schumacher's disaster failed miserably with critics and audiences, and the franchise was scrapped for eight years until Nolan took his shot and reinventing the caped crusader.