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Batman & Robin

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: D

Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Akiva Goldsman
Based on characters by: Bob Kane
Produced by: Peter Macgregor-Scott
Starring: George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures

Never have the complexities of a slowly developing icon vanished as quickly as in Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin. The Caped Crusader created by Bob Kane and whose popularity was resurrected by Tim Burton and later by Christopher Nolan, has had one major and notable setback and this film is that. Batman & Robin is nothing more than an advertisement for toys, even so far as to having one character actually explaining what her action figure will have in the box. This gigantic mess of a production is also responsible in an accomplishment that makes one question whether the word "Batman" should even be in the title: it's boring. If a piece of popcorn entertainment actually manages to make your eyes drowsy, despite the massive amount of colourful imagery on screen, then it is not doing its job. As an action film, Batman & Robin is a massive failure and as a comic book film, it's even worse, insulting the intelligence of the audience in the process.

Already off the bat, Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzeneggar) is introduced as the main villain in this piece with his plan to steal enough diamonds so as to save his beloved wife, who is suffering from a fatal disease. Down in South America, scientist Pamela Isley (Uma Thurman) discovers that her boss has been using her plant-related research to create massive machine men for ruthless world leaders. In response to Isley threatening to report him to the authorities, he kills her with chemicals. However, instead she turns into the evil Poison Ivy, a plant-obsessed woman bent on a plan of world domination that's not made one-hundred percent. Not that the audience cares at this point, anyway. Meanwhile, it is up to Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) to save Gotham from being both frozen over and turn into a garden of poisonous flowers. Trusted butler Alfred (Michael Dough) is also dying and his niece (Alicia Silverstone) comes to visit and sure enough becomes Batgirl.

As evidenced by the plot summary above, one of the main problems with Batman & Robin storywise is that screenwriter Akiva Goldsman is not able to balance all of those major characters enough to probably develop them. The poorly written script is particularly helped by the horribly cheesy lines that litter the production, especially with Mr Freeze whom every line seems to be a bad pun related to coldness. Goldsman also attempts to have us sympathyse with Freeze in how much he cares for his wife. Unfortunately, what could have been touching actually feels like a weak attempt at making the audience care for such an irritating character. If anybody in Batman & Robin is more annoying than Freeze, than it's the titular sidekick. All of his dialogue mostly consists of moaning about how Bruce Wayne is hogging the spotlight and stopping Robin from trying to get hold of the villains. The fact that the usually sensible Alfred takes Robin's sense makes this script even more illogical, considering Wayne's reasons for pulling Robin back are perfectly understandable.

Of course, the script isn't helped much by Schumacher's poorly done direction. The fact that the opening shots of the film feature close-ups on Batman and Robin's rear-end and glued-on nipples is not a good sign of things to come. He gives so much attention to the over-stylised sets and poorly rendered special effects, that the actors are left to wollow and stand around in the background, while the stuntmen do the more "difficult" work. George Clooney's usual Cary Grant-like charm is lost here and the few times in the film that Wayne thinks about his parent's death, he just looks like he is thinking about what to eat for breakfast. Chris O'Donnell was passable in Batman Forever, but in this film, he is just flat and he does nothing to make us care about his character. Schwarzneggar is also un-helped by his material and everything that made him a frightening Terminator seems to have disappeared in his portrayal of Freeze. Watching his performance here, it is not surprising as to why he decided to enter politics. Michael Gough, who was rather solid in the previous films is given an elevated part here, but his performance is so hammy that we unfortunately watch as Bruce Wayne's best friend wilters away, which should not be the effect.

The only actor in the whole film who actually comes out well is Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. Unlike Clooney or Schwarzneggar, she understands the cartoonish feel out of the whole production and is appropriately hammy. Despite the embarrassing script she's given, she manages to make Poison Ivy a compelling and interesting villain. Every time Thurman appears on screen, the film gets considerably less painful to watch as she proves to be very entertaining. In fact, if Ivy was made the main villain and Freeze was taken out, the final result would have been much more watchable, though as proven by what was released, the film would still have been a lost cause. Nonetheless, Thurman gives an incredibly well done performance that is quite possibly the only memorable aspect of Batman & Robin. Unfortunately, despite Thurman's best efforts, even she is not enough to recommend this completely poorly done two-hour cheese-fest drivel and the bane of both Joel Schumacher's career and the entire Batman legacy.

Uma Thurman (the only really good aspect of this film) with George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell in Batman & Robin.
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