Batman & Robin (1997) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

This critical reviled entry is not nearly as bad as you’ve heard and I actually prefer it to the third film Batman Forever. Returning to the director’s chair is Joel Schumacher who shows no restraint in creating another visually stunning film of little substance. It’s the cinematic equivalent of junk food; tasty as hell but empty and lacking in value. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the biggest name in the cast (and received top-billing) as the egg-headed villain Mr. Freeze. Throughout his career Schwarzenegger had been know for his ironic catchphrases and they have become part of pop culture phenomena. However the script here by Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) is laced with so-many lame lines that Schwarzenegger becomes more of a distraction.

Not aided in the least by Uma Thurman vamping it up in her best May West impersonation. Thurman’s Poison Ivy is arguably the weakest villain in the entire series. Included as almost an afterthought is Bane, the superfreak with exceptional strength; witnessing one of the most intriguing character in the DC Comics universe relegated to being Ivy’s chauffeur is one of the film’s many unforgivable flaws. Alicia Silverstone hot off the box-office success of Clueless is cast for mass demographic appeal in the role of Batgirl, a character whose origins have been changed from Barbara Gordon the Police Commissioner’s daughter to Alfred the Butler’s niece is yet another sign of contempt on the part of the filmmakers for the source material.

Lost is a sea of spectacle is George Clooney in the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. At the time of production this was his major step up from Television to the world of films, that the film tanked and effectively ended the franchise is a source of oft mention self deprecation from Clooney himself. In fairness he is not bad although today he is a much better actor; the peppered hair and playboy attitude seems fitting for the role of playboy Bruce Wayne. That is before Christian Bale forever redefined the character in the superb Batman Begins.

Eye-popping visual candy is supplied by the striking production design from Barbara Ling and crisp cinematography courtesy of Stephen Goldblatt a.s.c. . Elliot Goldenthal’s rousing score is once again used and stirs the blood on several occasions. Bathing his film in a cool blue visual palette (as opposed to Forvever’s green overkill) Schumacher has designed a film of immense technical craftsmanship that fails to offer anything other than fleeting pleasures.

Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman

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