Batman and Robin is one of the most despised superhero movies ever made. Being ranked 11th on Rotten Tomatoes’ Worst Superhero Films list, holding a 3.8 IMDb rating, and some claim it nearly destroyed Batman movies altogether. Does it deserve such hatred though? Let’s break through the ice puns to see if Batman and Robin really was that bad.
“Tonight’s Forecast, A Freeze Is Coming”
Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O’Donnell) face two new challenging villains. They are Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is building a weapon to ransom Gotham for money to find a cure for his terminally ill wife, and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) who seeks to punish humanity for its environmental destruction. Meanwhile, Robin feels like Batman doesn’t trust him. Their faithful butler Alfred (Michael Gough) is slowly dying. And Alfred’s niece Barbara (Alicia Silverstone) is poking around Wayne Manor. Will the Bat-family survive?
“If I Must Suffer, Humanity Will Suffer With Me”
One of Batman and Robin’s biggest problems is that the film has numerous plotlines competing for screentime and many of their tones clash greatly. One minute we are indulging in silly slapstick action and ice puns, then we are suddenly dealing with a long-time Bat-family member gradually losing their life. Furthermore, because of the bloated story, several plotlines feel underdeveloped (Batgirl’s subplot) or pointless (Bane’s inclusion).
As well as this some of the film’s components feel very slapdash and can take you out of the experience. This includes the writing plot holes. For example, Mr. Freeze using a machine powered by huge diamonds to ransom Gotham rather than selling the diamonds on the black market. Which would probably be just as profitable. Along with this some of the CGI has aged incredibly poorly. The human figures move very unnaturally and a few sequences look barely finished.
And of course, there is the grating cheesy dialogue and the performances from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, and Alicia Silverstone which range from bland to irritating to hilariously misjudged.
Unfortunately, a lot of good-faith criticism of Batman and Robin is lost among complaints about its deviation from the darkness of Tim Burton’s Batman films and Batman and Robin’s suits having nipples and rubber bums. You can prefer the Tim Burton films over Batman and Robin. But, a lighter tone doesn’t necessarily make a film bad. And complaining about something as harmless as Bat-bums/nipples feels petty and slightly homophobic through its ridicule of something potentially appealing to a gay audience. It’s therefore regrettable that these complaints are what largely stuck with the film.
“That Is The Nature Of Family”
However, Batman and Robin does have genuinely praiseworthy elements. Firstly, there is Elliot Goldenthal’s music. Full of bombastic epic sweeps and sultry seduction. It makes the film feel exciting throughout and is a fine listen.
Then there are the undervalued performances by George Clooney, Uma Thurman, and Michael Gough. Clooney perfectly fits the role of playboy Bruce Wayne. He also adds a sly self-awareness to his Batman which makes him an enjoyable presence. Additionally, this allows him to get away with his cheeky humour more than other cast members. Uma Thurman is an absolute blast as Poison Ivy. She really embodies Ivy’s seductive and bold nature and every time she appears her energy makes it impossible to look away. That said Michael Gough is the film’s true star. Effortlessly humorous and heartfelt, his interactions with the Bat-family, particularly Clooney, add real dramatic weight to proceedings. Truthfully his storyline is worth the watch alone.
Finally, the cheesy dialogue, flimsy plot, varying acting quality, tonally mismatched story elements, loud colours, wild theatrical costumes, and other elements combine well to create a fun, campy atmosphere that helps excuse some of the film’s worst excesses. Making the film genuinely entertaining to watch despite itself.
Was It Really That Bad? No
Regrettably, most audiences only view Batman and Robin as a punching bag. Yes, the film has a story, CG, and minor acting problems but it also has many aspects to appreciate and enjoy. Including its infectious atmosphere, its music, and some underappreciated performances. After years of dour, joyless Batman films, we need something as unapologetically bright and fun as Batman and Robin.
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