Batman & Robin from 1997 is the campiest entry in the franchise.
Who hasn’t seen at least one Batman film? Whether it was the old 1960’s Adam West, or Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, pretty much everyone has seen one. I have always been a big fan of Batman films, mainly the ones from the 1990s from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. I grew up watching them and I still watch them every once in a while.
Those Batman films have a big divide. There is Burton’s very dark version, and Schumacher’s light and campy one. We have two films of each type in the series. The one that is undoubtedly the campiest is 1997’s Batman & Robin. Now campy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I really like a fun campy tone in a film if it’s done correctly. So how does this fourth installment in the initial Batman series handle its campiness?
This is a rather complicated and somewhat confused Batman film. It features a new actor portraying Batman (George Clooney instead of Val Kilmer from 1995’s Batman Forever) but still has Chris O’Donnell playing Robin. We have well known actors, Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the villains Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. And lastly, there’s Alicia Silverstone playing Batgirl…yeahhh we’ll get to her later.
So first of all I’ll say that the film sets the tone from the very beginning and wastes no time showing us through both visuals and dialogue what kind of film we’re in for. I personally don’t really mind the Batbutts or the Batnipples (the closeups shown as the heroes are gearing up to fight), but I can certainly see how they seem kinda strange. Then right after that, we have two exchanges of dialogue that are honestly cringe worthy.
Robin: Chicks love the car.
Batman: This is why Superman works alone.
Batman: Don’t wait up Al.
Alfred: I’ll cancel the pizzas.
Those are the lines that open this film, and that’s not a good thing. Those two exchanges are just so hopelessly cringey and cheesy and unfortunately there are lots like them throughout the film. I guess the thought process behind having lines like this is that they will be light and funny which goes along with the campy tone; the problem is they are not funny but awkward. There are other things in the film that are meant to be funny (I think) that just don’t land and come across as out of place and dumb. I mean there’s a small scene where Freeze is leading a choir of his henchmen singing a song from a holiday special. I really think if little scenes like this would’ve been cut out and if they reworked some of the dialogue, this would’ve turned out to be a much better film. Regrettably, that’s not quite all when it comes to the negatives.
The other big downside to Batman & Robin is Alicia Silverstone. She is just godawful in this film! There’s no sugar coating or way to get around it. With every look, every line she delivers is so wooden and almost laughable. Having Batgirl in this film is a good idea that I like, but this portrayal is pathetic in every way.
The good news is that not everyone is bad in this film, I actually really like Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and think she’s the best part of the whole thing. She really nails the look and the sensual nature of the villain, and I really enjoyed her performance as a whole. At least Thurman makes her portrayal interesting and fun unlike Silverstone. The other villain is portrayed by Schwarzenegger, and to be honest he’s just alright, I never thought of him as a good actor and I probably would’ve liked his performance better without all those dumb ass ice puns.I really liked Chris O’Donnell in Batman Forever and thought he was a great fit for Robin. Here, I still think he’s a good fit, but the nature of his character is different and can get irritating sometimes. And as far as Clooney goes, I don’t think he did a bad job. He’s no Michael Keaton, but I actually like him a little better than Kilmer’s portrayal.
The action and fight scenes range from pretty good and entertaining to lazy and tired. And the effects are fine for the most part, but then there are one or two shots in particular where the effects look very lazy. So it’s pretty half and half in that department. There is one more positive thing I wanna mention before we sum things up. That is Alfred and Bruce’s connection and the scenes between them. The chemistry between them was touching and actually worked, also these scenes were probably the only times where the writing was good.
It’s disappointing that this film made so many wrong turns, because I truthfully enjoy parts of it. I watch it occasionally because there are many scenes that are fun and entertaining. The trouble is that the good and entertaining parts are bogged down by lazy, dumb writing and cringey attempts at humor. And the performances are spotty, I’ll be loving Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, but then I’m forced to watch Alicia fall flat as can be as Batgirl. It’s a double edged sword. But all in all, I’d say this movie could’ve and should’ve been a whole lot better. There are things I like and then things I hate. If you have young children and wanna watch a family friendly Batman film then this one would be good. I just wish it was more consistent, because there really are things in it to enjoy, but the positives aren’t able to overshadow the other blatantly lazy material.