‘Batman & Robin’ is Still the Worst Batman Movie 25 Years Later – Mars’ Retro Roast
The lowest-rated Batman movie turns 25 this week. Let’s revisit and see if Batman & Robin has any redeeming features.
Akiva Goldsman and Joel Schumacher’s second Batman movie features Batman, Batgirl, and Robin taking on new enemies. Mr. Freeze wants to turn Gotham into an arctic paradise and Ivy wants to save the earth by killing off the city’s residents with her plant powers. It is super campy and at the same time has some of the flattest acting in the franchise.
This movie is so bad that it killed the character on the big screen for nearly a decade. George Clooney won’t let his wife watch it and it has the lowest RT scores of all of the Batman movies. Batman & Robin isn’t just a terrible Batman movie, it’s a flat-out horrible movie.
Batman & Robin takes the camp aesthetic of the 1960s TV show to new, terrible heights and it has none of the actual fun. The movie pumps up the color and lights, the cheese ball one-liners, the cartoony and toyetic production design. The Batmobile is all flash with no turn radius. It has bad guy overload and an overly-stuffed story to match. It also has the worst costumes in the franchise.
Knowing all of this, I watched it again to see if there were redeemable things my memory missed. There’s a bit, but none of it has to do with its story. If you want to rewatch (or discover it for the first time) Batman & Robin is available as part of the DC collection on HBOMax.
Batman & Robin 25 Years Later
The opening suiting up scene has gratuitous silicone butt/crotch shots that are neither funny or attractive. It also introduces the longest and most gaudy Batmobile in the franchise. After the boys are ready, we get a fast introduction to Mr. Freeze – who only talks in Dad Jokes about cold. The ensuing fight with Freeze’s henchman would fit nicely into an Ice Capades show. Its followed up by surfing out of a rocket.
Freeze’s costume and makeup design are some of the good things about this movie. It was notoriously uncomfortable for Arnold Schwarzenegger to wear and one of the movie’s major expenses. The LEDs used in his mouth for certain shots leaked battery acid into his mouth, so they had to be wrapped in balloons. Hazards aside, it looks pretty damn awesome on screen.
Meanwhile in South America, Dr. Woodrue creates Bane (played by Jeep Swenson) as a super solider for pay. Bane is really dumb, really really dumb. The morph scene where Bane goes from skinny criminal to toxic chemical-filled monster still holds up. Then he creates Poison Ivy by shoving her onto the ground and pushing a chemical rack on her.
This may be the worst acting Uma Thurman has ever done. She sounds like a bad Eartha Kit impersonator that can’t hold an accent. I get that it’s supposed to be camp – it’s not, it’s bad. Beyond the wigs, her costume looks like something out of a high school theater production.
The characters and the actors that played them deserve better.
Oh, No… There’s More
If the three cartoon baddies weren’t enough, we get Bruce and Dick infighting thanks to Ivy’s poison and Bruce’s inability to trust. Alfred is slowly dying of a mysterious syndrome and there’s the introduction of his niece Barbara Wilson. Her character development consists of a school girl uniform, a motorcycle race run by Coolio, and a session of educated password guessing. Her suit up is just as bad as Batman and Robin’s.
The ending actually treats Mr. Freeze with some care (which Batman says is because he’s just – but he really wants a cure for Alfred), even though he spent the entire movie trying to kill everyone. Poison Ivy gets bad hair in Arkham. A teenager drops out of school, a new super team is formed, and Bruce says he trusts people. Hooray!
And it all ends with this half-assed song about Gotham City that really has nothing to do with it.
This movie isn’t redeemable. It remains one of the worst comic book adaptations to come out of Hollywood. I blame Schumacher’s direction and Akiva Goldsman’s script. As much as they look like they are, the actors aren’t talentless hacks. What they were given to work with was horrible. The story is too busy and the dialog is abysmal.
Comic book movies don’t have to be gritty or serious and camp is great when done right. This isn’t that. It tries too hard and comes off like it’s just hitting check boxes. It comes off flat and forced. Batman & Robin is inspired by the ’60s TV series. It doesn’t succeed in recreating what makes it great. It takes itself too seriously.
Typically with movies like this, the action can save it. Not the case here. The fights are just as corny as the one liners. There are lots of things on skates, rockets and explosions that don’t do anything, and a lot of really bad pulled punches. And it’s all shot without a lot of care or dynamics. While the action scenes weren’t great, the special effects team did some good work with fx makeup and miniatures.
The production design is a bit all over the place. Gotham looks like a mash of Burton’s goth, a 1980s nightclub, and the neon graveyard in Vegas. It works, though. Gotham’s criminal gangs are like a cartoon versions of the ones in The Warriors, which fits that city.
There are some great things in this movie that stand out, but they’re not enough to save it.
There was another sequel planned after this – Warner Bros. ordered it while Batman & Robin was filming. Batman Unchained would have featured Scarecrow (Schumacher wanted Nic Cage), Harley Quinn, and a hallucination of the Joker. Scarecrow and Harley’s plan to drive Batman crazy enough to be committed to Arkham Asylum fails. Bruce escapes to Bali. Warner Bros. cancelled it… Thankfully.
Joel Schumacher’s next project was 8mm. He got to work with Nic Cage after all.