I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Batman & Robin (20th Anniversary Ice-travaganza)

BATMAN & ROBIN is 20 years cold, and CHILLED TO PERFECTION!

“There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris did. Uma is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.” –Joel Schumacher to Variety, 2014

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

It was June 20, 1997, and I thought BATMAN & ROBIN was the stupidest, most tasteless, worst big budget movie ever made. After the wholesale awfulness of BATMAN FOREVER went over well with audiences willing to sanction its buffoonery, Warner Brothers allowed director Joel Schumacher to go full Schumacher for the next one. It’s the same admirable, director-friendly approach that led to Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS, and the bean counters would come to regret it once again. Schumacher’s purest artistic vision is like the aftermath of a rainbow sherbet fight in the costume storage warehouse for an ice skating troupe. He keeps the moody Elliot Goldenthal score and themes of mourning and vengeance, but buries them in a day-glo fantasia of overacting, bad puns, fetishistic rubber costumes and theme park stunt show style super hero battles. For me it became Exhibit A in any argument against the “It’s Not Supposed To Be Shakespeare/Check Your Brain At the Door” school of summer blockbuster permissiveness.

I wasn’t wrong. But twenty years later to the day, after many truly great summer movies, some of them even starring Batman, it’s easier for me to appreciate the uniqueness of BATMAN & ROBIN – the outrageously tacky designs, the subversively in-your-face homoeroticism, the laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of the plot and dialogue and settings and action, and especially the spectacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bulky metal costume and glittery blue makeup as Mr. Freeze, playing like a simultaneous parody of over-the-top Batman villains, blockbuster excess and his own penchant for groan-worthy one-liners. He makes more than two dozen ice or cold related cracks without losing his boyish, gap-toothed Arnold charm.

Today I am prepared to admit that I own BATMAN & ROBIN on Blu-Ray. And have watched it twice in that format. And on purpose.

Ah shit, you guys. I like this stupid movie now.

LET’S KICK SOME ICE!

Schumacher wastes no time establishing his mission statement. The WB logo morphs into a frozen bat symbol, which explodes. Three dimensional metal credits fly into a field of red clouds to the sound of whooshing and an engine growl or two. Then a Robin symbol flies in and, uh… hooks up with the bat symbol, pushes up against it. And the bat symbol sort of thrusts forward so it’s on top. Mounting the Robin symbol. No big deal. Don’t worry about it.

(The Robin symbol, by the way, wasn’t previously a thing. Now Robin shamelessly talks about wanting it to be projected into the sky instead of the bat signal. There’s also a part I don’t remember noticing before where he crashes his motorcycle through the wall of a museum and if you pay attention in other shots the hole he made is perfectly shaped like the symbol.)

Next, Schumacher does one of his super hero suiting up montages, dramatic closeups and push-ins as Batman (George Clooney, SYRIANA) and Robin (Chris O’Donnell, MAX PAYNE) pull on their gloves and turn to display the symbols on their chests (flanked by sculpted nipples). They each get one rubber ass and one rubber crotch closeup before pulling on their masks and grabbing their bladed throwing weapons.

As they rocket out of the Batcave in their bat and bird vehicles, Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle, HANG ‘EM HIGH, ELVIS) pops onto Batman’s dashboard screen to tell him “Batman – a new villain has commandeered the Gotham Museum! He’s frozen the antiquities wing. He’s turned the security guards into ice. He’s calling himself Mr. Freeze.”

In the ensuing battle Freeze also refers to himself as “the villain,” and this sort of meta-ness becomes sort of a motif. Freeze yells for his hockey-equipped gang to “KILL THEE HEROES!” Alfred (Michael Gough, KONGA) refers to his job as “looking after heroes.”

I like when movies open in the thick of the action and take us through a long series of thrilling events and when the protagonist(s) finally get a chance to take a breath we realize “holy shit, this is just the opening.” RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is kinda like that and a more controversial one I have in mind is REVENGE OF THE SITH, when Anakin and Obi Wan fight a space battle, enter a spaceship, fight robots, rescue their secretly evil chancellor and crash land the broken off front part of the ship. Schumacher gives us the brain damaged version of that, with the latex crusaders fighting a gang of ice skaters in the museum, being shot into the upper atmosphere on a rocket, airboarding all the way back to earth and down a giant skyscraper, landing safely and still having another scuffle with Freeze in an alley before Robin gets frozen and has to be thawed.

By the way, it cracks me up that Batman and Robin click their heels together and ice skates pop out of their boots. You might think they planned ahead, but remember, Batman hadn’t even heard of Mr. Freeze until he was already in transit. I’ve always wondered if they were ever chasing a villain down an alley and accidentally set those things off. It could be disastrous.

Later we meet Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman, PULP FICTION), a nerdy botanist until a shelf of chemicals gets pushed onto her and she’s reborn as a mammal-hating, poison-lipped seductress who talks like Mae West and claims to have aloe for blood and chlorophyll for skin (however that would work). Her attacker is mad scientist Dr. Jason Woodrue (John Glover, MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS), who has just turned a skinny serial killer (Michael Reid MacKay, the sloth victim from SE7EN) into Bane (400 pound WCW wrestler Jeep Swenson) to sell as a super soldier to an international league of bad guys he refers to as “my fellow maniacs” and “The Un-United Nations.” I prefer to believe that that last one was the actual name of the organization and not just a quip.

This version of Bane is just a mindless, grunting henchman, in one scene even wearing a (pink) ape costume. His only great moment is when we see a photo of him arriving at the airport and he’s wearing a fedora over his mask.

Freeze’s plan is to steal giant diamonds that he uses to power his freeze gun so he can freeze Gotham and force the city to pay him to defrost it and use that money to continue his research to try to cure his sick, cryogenically frozen wife (model Vendela Kirsebom). Poison Ivy later busts him out of prison because she wants him to freeze the world so humans will die and plants will take over.

Meanwhile, at normal-colored Wayne Manor, Alfred is secretly dying and his prep schooler niece Barbara (Alicia Silverstone, CLUELESS) has shown up by surprise. By day she questions Alfred’s life of subjugation to rich people, by night she steals Bruce’s rare Indian motorcycles to take part in street races to raise money to free him.

The street race is an underrated scene of Schumacheriness. Coolio is to BATMAN & ROBIN as Ludacris is to 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, overseeing the race with onlookers from five different themed gangs (one cosplays as droogs from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, another is all women in bright red fright wigs). And he’s wearing a coat made out of shoes. During the race there are colorful balloons on the ground, and one crash causes an explosion of glitter.

The movie’s relationship with reality is well represented by the finale of the sequence, when Robin barely catches Barbara falling off of an unfinished bridge, and as she’s still dangling he lets go with one of his hands to remove his helmet and say “It’s me!”

The dangerousness of falling seems to vary. Later the two of them plummet off a building and he tells her all they can do is pray – this after having effortlessly survived a fall from fucking space. When Freeze and Ivy have to jump out of Arkham Asylum, Freeze says “I hope Mr. Bane can swim,” but we never see how the fuck he can swim wearing a metal suit.

Obviously Barbara becomes Batgirl for the climax (because we saw that she knew a self defense move, and Alfred made her a costume). I’ve always thought it was funny that they chose the title BATMAN & ROBIN for the one that’s about Batman, Robin and Batgirl. They couldn’t even name this thing competently.

Freeze doesn’t have what it takes to stay ahead of Batman and Robin (and Batgirl) forever, but Ivy comes close because she has the power to make those boys think with their dicks. Much like The Riddler made green stuff float out of people’s heads and nobody noticed, Ivy blows pink pheromones into dudes’ faces. For example she does it to get past the guards at Arkham Asylum, played by Schwarzenegger buddies Jesse “The Body” Ventura (PREDATOR) and Ralf Moeller (BEST OF THE BEST 2).

The caped crusaders should know better, but those two turn simple and get competitive. Batman hallucinates about Ivy seducing him while his girlfriend (Elle Macpherson, THE EDGE) is trying to discuss marriage with him. Robin almost quits the team because he thinks Ivy loves him and Batman is jealous. I mean, he in particular is acting like a complete ass for much of this movie. Commissioner Gordon has nothing to be proud of, either, having given Ivy the keys to the bat signal. The whole thing is a huge embarrassment for everybody involved and I’m just glad Superman or Steel don’t know about it.

Ivy jokes about Batman and Robin’s infamous nipples and crotch bulges: “There’s something about an anatomically correct rubber suit that puts fire in a girl’s lips.” That made me wonder, though, why they don’t have belly buttons.

Like Keaton in 1989, Clooney was second billed playing Batman. And honestly, in these Schumacher movies I don’t see any reason to give a shit who is playing the character. Before Clooney, Schumacher had considered William Baldwin. Would it have really been that different?

There are varying stories about why BATMAN FOREVER’s star, Val Kilmer, “chose to journey on to other projects,” as author Michael Singer puts it in the book Batman & Robin: The Making of the Movie. A July 1997 People Magazine profile of Schumacher mentions a shoving match with Kilmer after the latter “verbally attacked two crew members.” The March 1996 Entertainment Weekly article announcing the casting of “ER hunk George Clooney” mentions “Kilmer’s outspoken nature” and his famous difficulties on THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. But it also speculates that Kilmer was wary of being upstaged by too many villains and sidekicks and was getting paid three times as much to star in THE SAINT anyway.

The article also quotes “an industry source” as saying that Schumacher “always wants the newest, hottest person.” That sounds dumb but it could be argued to be one of Schumacher’s talents, having given breakthrough roles to Demi Moore (ST. ELMO’S FIRE), Jason Patric (THE LOST BOYS), Julia Roberts (FLATLINERS), Matthew McConaughey (A TIME TO KILL) and Colin Farrell (TIGERLAND).

And that’s what Clooney was right then, having broken through as a movie star with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. I couldn’t find a citation for this, but I remember reading about Schumacher drawing a bat cowl over a DUSK ad, and Rodriguez cutting together a trailer of dailies to help him get the part.

Well, he got the part, and he did what he could. I don’t think many people blame him. There is no scenario where the quality of his acting makes this not be BATMAN & ROBIN.

Coolio is in both BATMAN & ROBIN and DAREDEVIL.

TONIGHT, HELL FREEZES OVER!

Defenders of the movie have always said the tone pays homage to the campy 1966 TV show with Adam West. I’ve long rejected that comparison, partly because the movie’s shimmery look is so much more disco than the bold pop art style of the show, but also because West played it so straight. As a kid I thought it was a serious show. I guess the same could be said about this, and there’s one joke – Batman pulling out a bat credit card to pay for a date with Ivy – could only have worked on that show (it even feels out of place in this movie). But it’s not that same straight-faced camp feel. These characters keep cracking terrible so-called jokes, and when the dramatic scenes are funny it doesn’t seem like it’s on purpose.

The making-of book describes a movie filled with genuine emotion. “Schumacher and Goldsman challenged themselves to develop a terrifically entertaining new adventure for Batman and Robin, while again including enough human drama to engage mature adults as much as their more viscerally oriented children,” Singer writes. “The resulting story is, beneath the exciting and humorous surface, about the degree to which some will go to eliminate loss and grief from their lives.”

So, according to this guy they really mean this shit. They think it’s serious when it’s funny and funny when it’s not funny. But I think my position is changing on this too. Intent isn’t all that important, I can still enjoy it on a level I wasn’t meant to. A favorite exchange:

ROBIN: So how long you been racin’?

BATGIRL: Since my parents died. I guess all the speed and danger helped take me out of myself, made the pain go away. You wouldn’t understand.

(Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman later won an Academy Award for A BEAUTIFUL MIND.)

BATMAN & ROBIN does take inspiration from some of the same old school comic book traditions as the show, so you’ve got gimmicky thematic locations and giant props. Batman slides down a dinosaur skeleton. Mr. Freeze makes his base in an abandoned ice cream factory, where Robin gets tossed into a vat of melted pistachio. Poison Ivy makes hers in a Turkish bath that she steals from a black light juggalo gang and turns into a greenhouse. Later she falls into her own giant venus flytrap and yells “Curses!”

I have always thought Thurman (bless her soul) was horrible in this, doing a shtick that probly seemed funny at the time but you had to be there. On this viewing I actually found myself laughing at some of her stuff, doing a dumb accent and calling Robin “pretty birdy” and weird shit like that. I’m sorry, Uma. You knew what you were doing.

And so did Schwarzenegger, as the “two-time Olympic decathlete and Nobel prize winner for molecular biology” who now enjoys committing crimes and taunting innocent people with terrible puns (“The Iceman cometh!,” “All right everyone, chill!,” “You’re not sending me to the cooler!,” etc.). My favorite has always been, “Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well, for it’s the chilling sound of your doom!” But I actually think people don’t give enough credit to his less punny, more flowery megolamania. I believe this is the only movie where Schwarzenegger uses the word “harbinger.”

Freeze’s gleeful evil makes it hard to accept the story about trying to save his wife, a sympathetic motive taken from an influential Batman: The Animated Series episode called “Heart of Ice.” Batman seems to be buying it, though, because after defeating Freeze he explains that he’s saved the doctor’s wife’s life and generously arranged access to equipment and funding to continue his research behind bars. Freeze hands over a serum to cure stage 1 of Alfred’s sickness, and you know me, I’m a sucker for enemies respecting each other and deciding to work together. It’s actually kinda sweet.

Then in the next scene Freeze is suited up and making an evil speech again, seemingly about to murder Ivy in her cell.

Schwarzenegger was nominated for a Razzie for worst supporting actor, but lost to Dennis Rodman in DOUBLE TEAM. I can’t really disagree with either of these nominations, but I hope in the ensuing decades some of those people learned to celebrate uniquely ridiculous movies like these instead of feeling superior to them.

COOL PARTY!

That making-of book I mentioned came out in conjunction with the movie, so it’s written under the assumption that the movie is amazing and everyone is gonna have their fuckin socks knocked off. “Shimmering, stunning and atmospheric, the push-the-envelope cinematography of BATMAN & ROBIN is the domain of Stephen Goldblatt, whose work on BATMAN FOREVER brought him an Oscar nomination,” it says. “A carefully modulated symphony of color and light, the design of BATMAN & ROBIN’s look was achieved through much experimentation and painstaking toil.”

Reading about such toil makes the movie even funnier. It’s cheesy, but not chintzy. This is a $125 million movie – almost twice the cost of JURASSIC PARK – and it shows. Much of Schumacher’s Gotham is built on top of gigantic statues of the human form, like a society a little too worshipful of itself, and the buildings are supposed to be two to three times as tall as those in New York. STAR WARS veteran John Dykstra and the effects crew built 30-foot-tall miniatures and extended them digitally. The actors were filmed on enormous sets inside soundstages, including some in The Seaport Dome in Long Beach, California, a 140,000 square-foot geodesic dome originally built to house another expensive flop, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose.

I especially liked reading what an undertaking the Mr. Freeze costume was. There were four hero suits hand-pounded out of aluminum, made in “20-odd pieces” and weighing about 45 pounds. They used those to mold 15 more suits out of fiberglass for stunts. Each suit has 2,500 LED lights inside, with batteries in the backpack that can power them for between 10 and 60 minutes, depending on the suit.

Of course the book also goes into the making of Freeze’s velvet bathrobe, which I never noticed has a polar bear pattern on it. It was burned in with chemicals and underlaid with refractive sequin fabric. Each bear has tiny rhinestone eyes. Incredibly, the bathrobe weighs close to 40 pounds – not that much less than the metal suit. The novelty polar bear slippers are not as elaborate, but the book quotes designer Robert Turturice (Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse, THE FLINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS) as saying “if you look closely you’ll note that they’re not predatory polar bears, but polar bears with an attitude, which is just right for Mr. Freeze, who has an attitude of his own.”

FOLLOW THE NUMBERS, BATMAN, FOR THEY ARE THE HARBINGERS OF YOUR DOOM!

BATMAN & ROBIN is more of a product-selling juggernaut than anything else in this Summer Flings series, starting with the soundtrack album. Just like in BATMAN FOREVER, Schumacher was happy to taint his Gotham City with a random sampling of popular music by Jewel, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, R.E.M., Goo Goo Dolls, etc. The album actually went platinum, and a Smashing Pumpkins song called “The End Is the Beginning Is the End” won a Grammy for “Best Hard Rock Performance.” Singer Billy Corgan told MTV News, “It’s really not about the film, it’s more about how Batman would think about the things that would go on.”

So, “For I am crystal chrome, I am shatter dome, I am Kremlin king of angels avenged to destroy the end” is how he would think about the things that would go on. That clears that up.

The video was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, later known for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, and had the band playing inside a giant Batman head with clips from the movie projected behind them.

The song that makes me laugh is R. Kelly’s “Gotham City,” played over the end credits. He and a choir sing passionately about “City of justice / City of love.” The one I didn’t realize existed until now is a song called “Poison Ivy” by the great bass player/singer Me’Shell Ndegéocello. Not one of her better works, though. (I recommend her first and third albums, Peace Beyond Passion and Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape.)

A small sampling of BATMAN & ROBIN crap.

Of course this being a Batman movie there was an endless supply of merchandise and product tie-ins, so I’m not gonna try to catalog all of them, but here are some favorites:

Batman & Robin: An Audio Action-Adventure: Audio Adaptation of the Latest Batman Blockbuster with Underscore and Special 3-D Sound Effects!

Batman & Robin Mr. Freeze Freezer Bars (“Team up with the coolest treat in Gotham City!”)

Night Hunter Robin vs. Evil Entrapment Poison Ivy action figure set

Limited Edition Batman & Robin Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts (“Straight form Gotham City to your toaster.”)

And this horrendous t-shirt that I bought on ebay for some reason but I’m usually too vain to wear it:

I also would be very interested to see how the hell author Michael Jan Friedman approached the novelization.

As tacky as the movie is, I have to say, the merchandise and its packaging did not do it justice. This shit is ugly. In interviews Schumacher will always mention learning the word “toyetic” and admitting that the movie was largely designed for selling toys. But I wonder if it was even a success on that level?

Maybe. At the box office it went head to head with FACE/OFF and lost, but it definitely could’ve been a bigger disaster. Despite a rapid drop off, it made $238.2 million worldwide, and must’ve at least broken even. But the response from audiences was toxic. Schumacher became a punchline, and BATMAN FOREVER became retroactively less popular. It seemed like Schumacher might’ve killed Batman movies forever. Maybe even super hero movies.

IF I MUST SUFFER, HUMANITY WILL SUFFER WITH ME!

Schumacher initially blamed Harry’s spy reports on The Ain’t It Cool News for the poor reception, but these days he doesn’t seem interested in appealing the world’s verdict on his movie. He’s quick to claim that he wanted to do a “darker” movie based on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. “I do think Val was the best Batman of all the Batmans,” he says on his commentary track, before going on to explain that Clooney’s Batman is “less tortured.” But during filming he expressed the exact opposite view to Variety: “Michael was terrific, and Val was terrific, but I think George is the best Batman of all. He has brought a humanity to the piece that is fresh, and we’ve stepped away from a more brooding, self-centered Batman to a more mature, accessible Batman.” It will be interesting to see if his view switches back now that the mob demands lighter Batman again.

A few months before the release, Schumacher was still expected to direct a followup for release in summer of ’99, going up against THE PHANTOM MENACE. Goldsman turned down the job, so it was given to Mark Protosevich, a then unproduced writer who eventually was credited on THE CELL, POSEIDON, I AM LEGEND, THOR and the OLD BOY remake. Variety reported that Egghead, Mad Hatter, King Tut and Scarecrow were being considered as villains, but Protosevich chose The Scarecrow and Harley Quinn, who would’ve been the Joker’s daughter, out to avenge her father’s death. The Joker would’ve appeared in a hallucination, and it was speculated that they were trying to get Jack Nicholson to do it. Schumacher wanted his 8MM star Nicolas Cage to play the Scarecrow.

Schumacher felt he owed it to “the fans” to do a darker followup. But the dubba-dubba-powers-that-be, after seeing how humans reacted when exposed to BATMAN & ROBIN, decided to go full quarantine on him. Not sure how the fuck to make people respect Batman again, they spent years developing potential reboots, finally settling on Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN BEGINS (2005). During that fearful eight year gap only two other DC comics films were released, both disastrous: STEEL (produced simultaneous to B&R and released two months after) and CATWOMAN (in the works since BATMAN RETURNS). In DC’s absence, Marvel Comics finally broke through into movies with BLADE, X-MEN, BLADE II, SPIDER-MAN, DAREDEVIL, HULK, X2: X-MEN UNITED, BLADE: TRINITY, THE PUNISHER, SPIDER-MAN 2 and ELEKTRA.

Though obviously not Schumacher’s intent, the self destruction of the series served as sort of a cleansing that set the stage for Christopher Nolan’s stripped down version to exist. It freed him to go in the opposite direction of Burton’s fantastical, stylized approach, discovering the Batman movie we never knew we had wanted all along. And I think Schumacher would say it gave him the freedom to make smaller and less commercial movies (his next three were 8MM, FLAWLESS and TIGERLAND).

Goldsman wrote a less spectacular tentpole debacle, LOST IN SPACE, before the aforementioned Oscar win. He became a prominent producer-rewriter, including as the guy who customizes scripts for Will Smith. I was surprised when his I, ROBOT wasn’t terrible, and he also ended up rewriting I AM LEGEND after poor Protosevitch developed it forever. He has bored the shit out of millions with the DA VINCI CODE movies, but as a writer-director his fantasy romance A WINTER’S TALE has gained a reputation as an astounding “so bad it’s good” movie.

I don’t think anybody blamed Thurman for BATMAN & ROBIN, and it didn’t seem to hurt her career at all. She even got to do another would-be blockbuster, THE AVENGERS, and within six years she’d be iconic for playing Beatrix Kiddo.

The iceman cometh out of this with a little more damage. His subsequent run of action movies – END OF DAYS, THE 6TH DAY, COLLATERAL DAMAGE – are on the weaker side of his filmography. Honestly TERMINATOR 3 bests all of them, and it’s a pale shadow of the James Cameron movies it follows. One sad part of the making-of book is when they jinx poor Arnold by praising his skill at choosing roles, then crediting “the monumentally thriving Planet Hollywood” and his marriage to Maria Shriver for giving him “one truly meaningful life.” He withdrew from the restaurant in 2000 and separated from Shriver in 2011.

But of course, we know his life has meaning! Even if he hadn’t become governor of California, found a new passion for fighting to stop gerrymandering, and returned to the screen with some underrated and challenging performances (ESCAPE PLAN, SABOTAGE, MAGGIE) we’d still love him.

You’d think the one who stood to lose the most was the guy playing Batman. It’s hard to picture now, but in a normal movie for humans Clooney would’ve been really good casting for Batman. He had much experience in Bruce Wayne style bachelorhood, was handsome and intelligent, could brood or speak authoritatively, had a square jaw and was exciting to see on screen. Too bad he ended up in the one where it most inconsequential who was under the foam rubber muscles. But I’m glad it was him, because the shame (and paycheck) led Clooney to the interesting career he’s had since. Promoting MICHAEL CLAYTON at the Toronto Film Festival, he told the Denver Post about his embarrassment on the BATMAN & ROBIN publicity tour. “It was really hard, because I knew it wasn’t a very good film, and it makes you a liar, sort of, but you have to, because it’s your job to promote the film. I was like, ‘I don’t want to tour again for a film that doesn’t work on any level,'” so he decided to do only movies he would watch.

If you look at his filmography now, he never works with nobody directors, it’s Steven Soderbergh, Terence Malick, David O. Russell, The Coen Brothers, Wolfgang Peterson, Wes Anderson, Anton Corbijn, Alexander Payne, Jason Reitman, Alfonso Cuaron, Brad Bird, Jodie Foster, himself.

I guess it’s possible that Silverstone’s career was hurt, but she still had the major studio comedy BLAST FROM THE PAST two years later, and I doubt she had hoped for a career in actiony blockbusters. I imagine she’s more haunted by how good she was in CLUELESS than by how dumb this portrayal of Batgirl was.

Life gave the rawest deal to Bane-portrayer Swenson. He died of heart failure a few months after BATMAN & ROBIN came out, only 40 years old. Wikipedia claims without citation that “Hulk Hogan, Davey Boy Smith and James Caan gave eulogies at his funeral, which was followed by a final measure of his biceps and cremation.” At least his character’s reputation was somewhat redeemed when Tom Hardy played an intelligent version in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

At the time, BATMAN & ROBIN seemed shameful to me, inexcusable, the lowest of the low. But now, I swear to you, I think of it as a symbol of optimism. Because Batman lived on. Super hero movies thrived. Summer movies got better. A cool actor became a pretty great artist. This movie that brought me such disgust then now brings me genuine joy. No matter how cold it gets in the winter, spring will come.

But ALWAYS WINTERIZE YOUR PIPES!

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 at 11:26 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

60 Responses to “Batman & Robin (20th Anniversary Ice-travaganza)”

  1. That movie…sometimes I hate it, sometimes I don’t. It’s weird. At times the “It’s like Batman 66” excuse works for me, but even then only in a “It’s like Batman 66, but made by people, who only know the show from sitcom parodies” level. When I watched it a few months ago, I changed my opinion on it in nearly every scene!

    Just like with SUPER MARIO BROS I own an obscure-ish single from the Soundtrack. Underworld’s MOANER, to be specific. It wasn’t made for the movie, but the single has a random still photo of Batman and Robin on the cover. It’s weird how this track’s participation seems to be completely forgotten. There even was a music video for it (Just a random compilation of short clips from the movie), but it’s very rare and not even on the home video releases. (Through the years it became one of Underworld’s most popular songs, though. They seem to play it at all of their concerts.)

    Also: You got me there with the AVENGERS link.

    And if I ever make a hipster synthie pop album, I’m gonna call it “Music including enough human drama to engage mature adults as much as their more viscerally oriented children”.

  2. I had that Mr. Freeze toy; which actually looks pretty boss. I also had the children’s book adaptation where if I remember correctly, Mr. Freeze dies at the end rather than being redeemed, but that could be me confusing it for my 8-year old’s predictive analysis. If I’m not mistaken, BATMAN AND ROBIN and BATMAN (1966) are the ONLY Batman live-action features where none of the villains die.

    Also,

    “dubba-dubba-powers-that-be”

    Holy SHIT Vern, that one shook me.

  3. “Alfred, am I pig headed? Is it always my way or the highway?”

    George Clooney has gone on to better things but I will never not picture him saying that line from this movie!

    After the recent death of Adam West I checked out his and Burt Ward’s screentest on YouTube which was also intercut with the other contenders for Batman and Robin, Lyle Waggoner(who would later play Steve Trevor in the 70s WONDER WOMAN) and Peter Dyell. Seeing it makes you appreciate West and Ward’s performances a LOT more. Clooney’s performance in BATMAN AND ROBIN is remarkably similar to Waggoner’s in that screentest. Waggoner played it like being Batman was just a hobby for Bruce Wayne. With West it felt like a life’s calling.

  4. That making of book sounds amazing. I’ll have to find it on eBay.

    I did a deep dive on this myself and I recall reading an interview with Schumacher about drawing the cowl on the Dusk Till Dawn ad. Maybe from Total Film in a 2007 retrospective?

  5. I have 20 years of built up thoughts on B&R, with finally a place to share them:

    -Bane was my favorite villain as a kid. I remember a guy working at a Warner Bros. Store told me that Bane was going to be in the next Batman movie. I was very excited at the time and very disappointed at the eventual portrayal.

    -Schumacher always talks about how everything in the movie was designed to sell toys, but the toys don’t look anything like the movie. The Poison Ivy action figure is just a random redheaded woman in a green jumpsuit. The Mr. Freeze, Bane, and Batgirl action figures more closely resembled their classic designs. I’d love to find interviews with the toy designers to find out the rationale behind this.

    -I saw the movie costumes at the 75 Years of Batman exhibit at Warner Bros. studios. Out of all of the costumes from 1989-2016, the Mr. Freeze one was the most impressive.

    -Hopefully writing this review inspires Vern to write about some of the other Batman movies he hasn’t written about before.

  6. This “Summer Fling” series is so, so great. You could make a book out of them.

  7. I’ll easily buy the argument that Batman & Robin is better than Batman Forever because it’s a more unique, balls to the wall disaster. But I don’t buy the Batman ’66 excuse, mainly because if you compare Batman & Robin to the Adam West movie, the ’66 movie blows it the fuck away. I just rewatched the ’66 movie, and it’s so much more clever, more entertaining, and funnier than Batman & Robin. The “Bat Spray Shark Repellent” gets me every time and the way that Burgess Meredith says, “every one of them’s got a mutha’.” So go ahead and bring up Adam West’s Batman, but the comparison just demonstrates how much Schumaker’s movie falls short.

    That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its moments. I’m all for the bat-nipples. And I think it’s kind of a unique idea to model the Batman suit after Greek sculptures. Like “nuke the fridge,” bat nipples has become a nerd shorthand for what’s wrong with the movie, but those who use it don’t realize that both are great elements of their respective films. The design of Gotham city was a big step up from Batman Forever, and it wasn’t just a knockoff of Burton’s wonderful design. Also, the slowed down version of that Smashing Pumpkins song, titled “The Beginning is the End Is the Beginning,” of course, is pretty great. It single handedly sold me on the Watchmen movie, and I still think that initial trailer is better than the actual Watchmen film.

  8. Like everyone else I hated this thing when it came out. Like everyone else I still hated for years to come. Then I started thinking about some the more unique things it does and started mellowing out on it. Then two years ago I re-watched it and actually enjoyed it.

    Years ago I made the joke here that this movie is a masterpiece every single time Schwarzenegger is on screen. Not sure I’m willing to take that back. Schwarzenegger is giving this thing it’s all and what I think may help it is that he’s taking it seriously. Thurman’s performance grew on me (HA!) like Vern’s opinion but I still think she pales in comparison to Schwarzenegger just due to the fact that she was purposely hamming it up as where Schwarzenegger delivered each and everyone of his groan-inducing lines with complete sincerity. Cloony just seems embarrassed to be there. I can’t think of a single scene where he doesn’t look uncomfortable. O’Donnell (who you left out on your post-release part) has to play Robin as a complete and total unlikable asshole for the movie. I think his career took the biggest hit honestly, went from up-and-comer to nobody almost immediately after this thing was unleashed. Remember when a bunch of people said Silverstone was too fat in this? That was my introduction to the impossible and ridiculous standards women are held to so this movie has that milestone in my life.

    I also have to admit that I kinda like the Gotham City design in this one.

    Vern pretty much mentioned in the review but I do find it funny how after everyone bitched about how Batman NEEDS to be dark and gritty after this thing, the same people are saying that in a post-Marvel era we need a Batman like the one here (which they phrase in a way as if it is a no-brainer).

  9. I had the Mr. Freeze action figure and the Clooney Bruce Wayne/Batman figure. I was 13 and probably should’ve never wasted the money but I was used to that process since before the first Burton movie when I was 5.

    Then I saw the movie and gave away the toys. I will say one thing this movie did right and I even said it back then was it had the most earnest Bruce/Alfred scenes out of all 4 movies.

    I have owned the DVD (yeah) for years but haven’t rewatched it in ages. Only have it for cause of that 4 pack set with the documentary on this entire era of the Batman film franchise. Don’t know if I could really watch it again. Hell I don’t even rewatch 2/3rds of the Nolan joints and those are supposed to be some of the good ones.

    Uma and Chris O’Donnell are just so cringeworthy. Arnold was great though. Saved everything that didn’t take place in Wayne Manor. Much better than Carrey or Lee Jones IMO.

  10. RBatty04 – The Pumpkins contributed 2 songs to the soundtrack as bookends. It’s not a slowed down version of one song. It was the sequel song. That soundtrack also had one of the most hilarious R. Kelly songs ever and a pretty funky Bone Thugs cut.

    Honestly I think it’s time for Batman to going back to having soundtracks filled with groovy tunes.

  11. I gave this another chance a few years ago, but the lifelessness of everything that is not Arnold still rubbed me the wrong way, even as the soundtrack CD had been growing on me. Now, it is apparently time for another opportunity for reappraisal after this epic review.

    *Ahem* Batman Returns turned 25 this week. What a coincidence!

  12. Even as an unrepentant buffoonery sanctioner I’ve been afraid to watch B&R due to its deadly reputation. But I thought of it when I saw THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE and couldn’t help but notice that that film’s openly silly and mocking take on the title character was accepted in a way that fans would never have tolerated in the 1990s.

    As much as we all vent about uptight fandom on this site, I think there’s one thing we shouldn’t overlook – the fact that the nerds have finally won has allowed at least some of them to take themselves and their favorite properties less seriously.

    I once read Harry Knowles’ biography AIN’T IT COOL? which was written back in the era of “Hollywood needs to start taking the fans seriously.” And his book does cover the period of Schumacher taking unwanted flak for this movie. But even in that book Knowles gave the caveat / devil’s advocate argument that at least B&R was the work of a director who had a vision and didn’t compromise it.

    I think Knowles also wrote that Schumacher “seems happier now” after moving on to the kinds of films Vern mentions. So even then there was some sympathy (or pity?) for Schumacher.

    Great write-up on this one, Vern. I laughed out loud several times.

  13. I remember when Schumacher wanted to cast Nic Cage as The Scarecrow when he was still trying to get a 5th movie done. So he’s ok in my book.

  14. Here’s the way that the ’66 Batman comparisons make sense to me: It’s a muddled interpretation. A sort of collective memory of the show by people who watched it all the time but didn’t really take it seriously. Which, in its own way, can lead to some great revelations.

    I can’t help but look at it all through a lens of “here’s what Lorenzo Semple would’ve done if he had the budget and decades of film artistry to deploy”. I mean, as much as the TV series was an amplification of the PERCEPTION of the comics, but with actors to convey the different aspects of characters who might be too much without a charm and chemistry behind them. The film acts as a kind of PERCEPTION of the TV show with all the money in the world to try and legitimize it without “getting” what people liked about it. Kind of like the Beverley Hillbillies movie. The show had an audience that was diverse enough and built on a simple conceit that was fairly novel at the time and allowed plenty of scenarios to display the “Now” (Then) while getting to the “simple folk”. The film was really nothing like the show but certainly a display of what people THOUGHT the show was like, after decades of not paying any attention to it.

    Tim Burton’s Batman does a better job of updating and subverting the ’66 show than Schumacher’s films, by far. BF and BNR are slavish devotions to a hazy memory buried under decades of what we would probably call “memes” now… BUUUTTT, that’s the fun.

    It’s like everyone working on this film was going from their own interpretations and memories of the show completely independently from everyone else.

    Like Clooney thought he WAS doing an updated West, just his version. Uma WAS doing Eartha Kitt, but her MEMORIES of Eartha Kitt. Arnie was doing Frank Gorshin by way of Victor Buono and that’s how HE remembers Batman’s villains being. Honestly, the way he played it is pretty much EXACTLY how the villains in the show were portrayed. He’d fit right in.

    You’d swear everyone hired to work on this (in front and behind the camera) was asked one question, “Have you ever seen the old Batman show?” If the answer was, “Yeah, I loved it!” then you were promised a callback you never got.

    If your answer was, “Well, yeah, but I haven’t seen it since I was a kid…” the response was to expect a call and to under no compulsion actually go back and watch any of the episodes.

    I dunno. But I do know that if The Terminator had been made as a TV film hit in 1954 then I absolutely know that we’d have seen “Guest Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze” at the opening of at least a few episodes of the ’66 series.

  15. Jeroen – “*Ahem* Batman Returns turned 25 this week. What a coincidence!”

    Yesterday as a matter of fact.

    Fun fact: Every Batman film from 1989 to 2005 was released in June between the 15th and 23rd. THE DARK KNIGHT bucked that tradition and June was no longer the unofficial Batman month in the eyes of batfans.

  16. Frank Gorshin put so much into The Riddler he was amazing. Still one of my favorite all time TV performances. Meredith as The Penguin and Romero as The Joker were also ace. All were legitimately into adding gravitas to something absurd and it showed.

    Villains in the Schumacher movies except Arnold played it more like Vincent Price as Egghead and nothing like the major players and that’s why they stunk.

  17. I know “The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning” isn’t just “The End Is the Beginning Is the End” with everything slowed down, but it’s a slower song with many of the same lyrics, and it’s clearly supposed to be a companion piece.

    Batman ’66 works in large part because even though the cast is big and dramatic, they also don’t do much winking at the camera. Everyone perfectly threads the needle on tone. Schwarzenegger has been able to this throughout his career, so it’s no surprise that everyone thinks he’s a highlight of Batman & Robin. It’s been about twenty years since I’ve watched this film all the way through, but I remember thinking that everyone else comes away as awkward or just hamming it up too much.

  18. I get it that we’re all outlaws and everything but man sometimes you guys really test my patience with the shit you guys think is legitimately good. Sometimes it’s ok to say a movie stinks and move on.

    Although, it’s always a pleasure to read Vern even when I think he’s gone off the deep end.

  19. Has anybody read the Batman Triumphant script? I read something claiming to be it, but it was so bad I have to think it was actually fanfic.

  20. CJ – I actually fooled myself with that one. I thought I had reviewed the other AVENGERS a long time ago. I guess not.

    Sternshein – I didn’t say it was good. I just said I like it now. I could go into more detail than this if needed.

  21. People forget that the Schumacher BATMANS were first and foremost kids movies, correct? I know we take superheroes dead seriously in today’s world, but in the 90s mainstream culture viewed them as for kids, I think it helps to keep that context in mind when talking about them.

    As for me personally my dad took me to see BATMAN & ROBIN when I was 7 which was somewhat rare that it was just me and him (more often it was me and my mom or all three of us) so BATMAN & ROBIN is a good memory even if it’s a bad movie, which to be honest being 7 years old I was entertained by the bright colors and action, though even then I could tell the movie was some ridiculous nonsense but I had a reasonable amount of fun.

    I think now would be a good time to return BATMAN movies not to quite so ridiculous heights, but to a more stylized world, I think BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES nails the tone the best, taking place in a stylized world but able to be serious and dark at the same time.

  22. Oh, I forgot, what’s funny is the entire time my dad watched it with me he just sat there with his arms crossed, I could tell he wasn’t feeling it.

  23. Vern, I was really just being tongue in cheek.

  24. Sorry, Sternshein.

  25. Broddie – I was also trying to subtly allude to the fact that the 25th anniversary of Returns would be a good occasion for Vern tot review it, even if it may not quality as a summer fling and we already moved past ’92.

    ‘Batman month’ is a nice historical detail through.
    Going to see a batflick is still happily associated with summer heat to me, especially Christmas-set Batman Returns!

  26. I seem to remember reading years ago that Chris O’Donnell stepped back from acting in the early 00s to spend more time at home, but maybe I confuse him with someone else. From 2003 on he worked almost exclusively for television and mostly in guest roles, until his starring role in NCIS: LA*, so maybe it really was a case of “I only take jobs that aren’t more than 1 hour away from my house”.

    *I don’t think that this show is ver popular among the people here, but let me just comment on the weird, weird cast of it:

    – a 90s teen heartthrob
    – a Hip Hop legend
    – a one-time Oscar winner
    – a Portuguese soap opera star
    – a “Hey, it’s that guy!” actor, mostly known for comedy
    – and until his death early this year: a beloved character actor

  27. This does not hold a candle to Adam Wests campy Batman but it is in retrospect a certainly much more enjoyable Batman-movie than FOREVER. It doesn´t strain your eyeballs with the kind of excessive colours like that one, but it is also more comfortable in its silliness, whereas FOREVER tried to be Burton dark and lighthearted at the same time and failed.

    I always laugh at “This is why Superman works alone”. It sets the tone perfectly. What a stupid fucking movie, but what fun to be had if you just relax a bit.

  28. Yeah, this killed Chris O’Donnell (who was hot at the time). He does spend a lot of the film moaning, and throwing strops like a teenager. It must be a hard living a billionaire playchild life by day and kicking ass in a rubber suit at night. He didn’t even get a write-up at the end of Vern’s article!

    This movie was unforgivable for a number of reasons, and I have to respect you Vern for making peace with it after all these years. I know I couldn’t. Specifically, the portrayal as Bane as some blundering idiot, all that fucking neon, the nipples and the open-topped Batmobile. Seriously, open-topped??

    The Alfred dying angle does really work though, and is perhaps the only worthwhile element of the movie. Michael Gough was always a highlight of those first four films.

    Thankfully, B&R’s gross excess did pave the way for Nolan’s darker series. If the film hadn’t have been so terrible, maybe the series would have limped on for even longer, so we should be happy that such a mess did get made. We eventually got the Batman movie(s) we deserved.

    The question now is that as a reaction to Nolan’s work, are we going to see a Batman film closer to this or the Adam West? Probably not. But a boy can dream…

  29. Still hoping for a VERTICAL LIMIT review. It’s not just O’Donnell’s best movie (in my opinion), it’s also the 2nd best mountain-climbing-as-big-unrealistic-action-fest movie ever made!

  30. The Movie Bastard – Never forget that this batmobile was a one seater. A batmobile where Robin can’t even ride shotgun in a movie called BATMAN & ROBIN? WTF

    At least the open top had some precedence by way of the Adam West series.

  31. I remember when I worked at Circuit City and Vertical Limit was the movie they constantly played as the demo movie. I got so annoyed that everything they did in the movie turned into a disaster like nobody was competent at their job. Same reason why I hate Armageddon but at least it’s explained why nothing goes right for them.

  32. I remember K2 being much better than VERTICAL LIMIT. I should probably rewatch both someday. It’s been many years.

  33. Broddie – No wonder Robin has a complex about it. Maybe he has a point; clearly it’s the Batman show.

    While we’re somehow talking about mountain-climbing-action-films, can anyone remember the name of that one that Michael Biehn? Or have I just conjured that up?

  34. FINALLY- my most anticipated Vern review besides Good Burger. And after years of clogging up your website with attempted defenses of this movie, I can’t be happier that you kinda like it now. And yes, I’m guilty of using the “It’s like Adam West Batman!” defense (usually by throwing in a line that Schumacher should pull a Lucas and add Special Edition “POW!”s and “BAM!”s to scenes where people get punched). However I’ve recently jumped ship and changed it to the “It’s like Repo! The Genetic Opera!” defense, where basically you have to judge the acting, sets, script, etc. like you would a big, stylized, tacky musical (albeit with the musical numbers cut out). I’m not saying this movie is anywhere near as good as Streets of Fire, but fans of that movie have to admit they have to watch it through different eyes and/or grade it on a different curve than a more traditional action movie, and viewed through the same lens, this one’s a lot of fun too.

    I know this movie is not for everyone and most people will never be convinced, and I won’t even try the “It’s Supposed to be Bad!” defense (even though Uma’s Mega-acting is clearly supposed to be bad), but yes, there’s tons of good things in this movie that I legitimately love: 1) Lots of laughs, you can argue if they’re intentional or not. Everyone loves “Stick around” and “Let Off Some Steam, Bennett”, but here Arnold goes into overdrive and makes probably 80% of his dialogue nothing but puns and then people complain about it. 2) Big, intricate, gloriously tacky costumes and production value. I’ll take the look of this movie over some Prequel/Robert Rodriguez green-screen bullshit anyday. 3) A light-hearted and feel-good tone – besides the “kinda sweet” ending Vern referred to, I’m pretty sure this is the only movie where Batman doesn’t break his uh, “unbreakable” rule and kill somebody. 4) The strongest Alfred subplot in all the Batman movies. I can’t believe the one Batman movie where they address if his life of servitude is a life wasted is in THIS movie and not one of the Nolans. 5) Clooney is awesome; he’s charming and full of swagger, and I like his weird head-bobbing thing. There’s a “long-suffering straight man in a comedy” vibe to his performance, like the way he keeps dismissively calling Robin “DICK” – it’s almost like a Jason Bateman performance and I mean that as a compliment.

    It’s obviously not a perfect movie – it’s too long (even though it’s probably 20 minutes shorter than any big summer movie today), alot of the Batgirl stuff doesn’t work, Poison Ivy’s downfall in the Venus Fly trap makes zero sense. There’s way too much grappling hook nonsense going on in that last scene but I still think it’s great that Batman and Robin resolve their movie-long feud when Batman chooses not to save Robin and save the scientists, not because he’s an ass but because he now trusts Robin and knows he can save himself. That’s good stuff right there!

    Fun facts: 1) The version of Jewel’s Foolish Games you couldn’t escape on the radio is from this soundtrack (she redid the version off her actual album). 2) There’s a Mr. Freeze ride at Six Flags that was a tie-in to this movie (Clooney and Schwarzenegger were supposed to be the first people to ride it until the opening got delayed). The ride predictably says “The COOLEST coaster on the planet” on it. 3) This movie outgrossed Spectre and Godzilla 2014 with inflation. It also outgrossed Fast Five and made only about $18 million less than Fate of the Furious, that’s crazy to me. 4) The Vivica A. Fox’s character seen above is named Ms. B. Haven. Again, there’s no way to know that and continue to judge this movie like a normal movie.

  35. Movie Bastard – K2 that Broddie mentioned is the mountain climbing one with Michael Biehn. I remember it being pretty good when I was a kid.

    Sidenote – I’m glad Geoffreyjar reminded me how prevalent and publicly ok it was for people to call Silverstone fat in B&R. I guess they figured it was ok because she was pretty and rich and she needed to be knocked down a peg. But I’m glad the whole thing reminds me that sometimes today’s internet outrage culture does have an upside, because that shit would never, ever fly today.

  36. Shockingly, I have no strong opinions on this movie at all. Not having strong opinions about Batman is probably the thing I miss most about the 90s.

  37. Same here, I remember watching it a few times on cable and not thinking it was either great or terrible. One thing that sticks out to me is that I read on IMDB that Schumacher wanted to cast Hulk Hogan as the Arnold character, or some other villain.

  38. neal – Ah yes the BATMAN & ROBIN: THE CHILLER dual coasters ride. The best thing to come from this movie besides the soundtrack album.

  39. Of course, CJ is (correctly) implying that CLIFFHANGER is the 1st best mountain-climbing-as-big-unrealistic-action-fest movie ever made.

  40. 'Batman & Robin' at 20: Joel Schumacher and More Reveal What Really Happened

    Nine people behind the most infamous comic book movie of all time look back at the good (pickup basketball games with George Clooney), the bad (battery acid leaking into Arnold Schwarzenegger's mouth) and the ugly (those reviews).

    How 'Batman & Robin' Changed the Superhero Movie for the Better

    Twenty years ago, the George Clooney-starring comic book sequel flopped with critics and audiences—and set Hollywood heroes on a new path.

  41. I hated this movie when it came out. I’d seen BATMAN: TAS, I knew what it was possible to do with these characters, so to see them piss away the GDP of a small country on something this stupid was very dispiriting. But now I can appreciate it on it’s own merits. In the last couple of decades I’ve had enough gritty Batman interpretations to last me several lifetimes, so this movie’s dumb cartoon version doesn’t seem quite as egregious anymore. But jeez, anybody comparing BATMAN ’66’s deliberate tone and consistent pop-art aesthetic to this lame neon clusterfuck should be ashamed of themselves.

    I bet in 2029 Vern will be posting a gushing retrospective on how much he now loves TRANSFORMERS 2. From his last TRANSFORMERS review I think he’s halfway there already.

  42. The main take away from this week’s dozens of B&R retrospectives on the web, is that I’m completely out of sync with the public’s perception on Joel Schumacher’s output. Apparently this one here is considered as his only (or a very rare) misstep, while I can’t remember one of his film that I would consider “good”. At best his movies are watchable, with lots of unintentional comedy (for example Lost Boys, Flatliner), but most of the time they are either forgettable cookie cutter work (His Grisham movies, Phone Booth, Flawless, Bad Company, Veronica Guerin) or offensively stupid (8MM, Falling Down, Number 23).

  43. There were other B&R retrospectives? I pretty much hate or ignore any movie related websight outside of this one. Online movie “critics” and “analysts” have become a bane since around 2005. I hate how everybody and I mean everybody is now an expert or self important enough to think their often misinformed or off base opinion is worth sharing.

    Especially with writing full if cynicism and snark. As opposed to genuine heart like Vern’s reviews. Call me an old man but I generally miss the era when most movie critics or writers you’d find were actual professionals. Not toxic bloggers.

    RE: Shoemaker though. THE LOST BOYS will always be a personal classic but FLATLINERS was a major missed opportunity. To it’s credit the upcoming remake doesn’t look any better. It looks worse. FALLING DOWN & A TIME TO KILL are alright. Same with TIGERLAND.

    I’ve always found him a decent journeyman. Kinda like a lesser Richard Donner. So part of me always felt bad for him. One of the cruelest things I’ve ever seen towards the guy though was when some Batman cartoon had this effeminate queen of a little boy named Joel prancing around like a little girl with a feather boa under a “shoemaker” sign.

    Like they actually wasted animation cells just to bully the guy for making some lesser Batman movies. I’m glad those days have pretty much ended and he’s not the greatest villain ever in the eyea of the nerds anymore juat because of batnipples or cod pieces.

  44. I haven’t seen a ton of Schumacher’s movies, but that’s also because I haven’t liked many of his movies. He’s not a particularly distinctive director, and I think the most memorable moment in any of the movies I’ve watched by him is that greased up sax player in Lost Boys and Corey Haim’s incredible reaction shot.

  45. I think the “Joel Schumacher is pretty good outside of BATMAN & ROBIN” is more of a pushback against the “Joel Schumacher is the worst director ever, look at BATMAN & ROBIN, nipples etc.” prevailing line of comment. I think the consensus is still that he is a hack who, at best, got lucky once or twice. I was recently surprised to stumble across a contemporary magazine review of THE CLINET (so pre-nipples) which said it represented the melding of “Hollywood’s most consistently awful A-List director with the most consistently awful thriller writer [i.e. John Grisham] working today”.

    I used to be something of a Schumacher apologist, but I realised that while I have a weird attachment to FOREVER and fond memories of FLAWLESS, FALLING DOWN and a couple of others to a lesser extent, and think he has some visual talent, he’s ultimately not interesting enough, and certainly not consistent enough, to defend. (As a filmmaker, as a person he is plenty interesting).

    In that 20th Anniversary article, Schumacher seems to imply he thinks 1997 was a more innocent time because people got so worked up about a Batman/Comic Book movie, as if they thought it was the worst thing going on in the world right then. Er, I hate to break it to you Joel…

  46. Broddie: to make that part of the episode of BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES even worse was it’s one of the most fun episodes and then all of a sudden right smack-dab in the middle, semi-gay-panic joke making fun of him. There’s a commentary track on that episode and Bruce Timm and the others don’t seem to regret it, they even make an obvious sarcastic joke that “BATMAN FOREVER is one of my favorite movies.” Other than that it’s a really great episode, there’s even a segment that acts a kinda-pilot of the later BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD cartoon.

  47. geoffrey I do like the episode overall. Michael Ironside as the Frank Miller Batman was pitch perfect however the more I see it the more such an easy target form of joshing rubs me the wrong way.

    Ultimately it was such an uneccessary cheap shot on the part of Timm and company. It’s always easy to kick someone (in this case Schumacher) when they’re down. It’s far more tougher to stay classy and just live and let live.

    For what it’s worth FOREVER does have it’s merit. Kilmer was basically Keaton’s character without the Asperger’s characteristic. So he got even more to chew on an ran with it giving us the only Bruce in those 4 movies to truly have a transformative arc that seemed even more substantial and made him seem even more 3 dimensional. But people tend to forget that because of bad puns and batnipples.

  48. Hey friends, due to a freelance deadline I don’t think I’ll have any more reviews finished to post this week. Sorry about that, but I should be back on Monday doing some catchup reviews before returning to more Summer Flings.

  49. Kick ass, V.

  50. Sure thing Vern.

  51. Always love reading his freelance stuff.

  52. I say that this epic B&R review counts as a double anyway. And wtf is even on that t-shirt?

  53. I’ll allow it.

  54. Live free or die hard, Vern.

  55. Jareth Cutestory

    June 24th, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Hey Vern, FYI Me’Shell Ndegéocello’s first album is called Plantation Lullabies. It’s not quite as exceptional as Peace Beyond Passion, but it’s really good.

  56. Jareth – you’re right, I was combining those two albums in my mind. I was actually thinking more of Plantation Lullabies, especially “Diggin You Like An Old Soul Record”!

    Trivia: I saw Me’shell live once and she was TINY!

  57. Another anniversary article in the Hollywood Reporter – this one quotes Schumacher as saying that he and Kilmer didn’t get along, and that Kilmer “dropped us at the eleventh hour” to do THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU instead. (Out of the frying pan and into the fire?)

    'Batman & Robin' at 20: Joel Schumacher and More Reveal What Really Happened

    Nine people behind the most infamous comic book movie of all time look back at the good (pickup basketball games with George Clooney), the bad (battery acid leaking into Arnold Schwarzenegger's mouth) and the ugly (those reviews).

  58. Oops, geoffreyjar already posted the article I posted. I guess now it’s my buffoonery that can’t be sanctioned.

  59. I remember walking out of the theatre 20 years and telling myself that wasn’t that bad. It was on HBO last night, and everything is so over the top. Nothing works. Schumacher was the worst director WB could have chosen. He made Batman Forever, and then they let him turn it up to 11.

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