Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…
“I think since Batman that I’ve been disinvited from Comic-Con for 20 years. I see the comment sections on all you guys. I just met Adam West there [referring to behind the NYCC main stage] and I apologized to him. Sorry about the nipples on the suit. Freeze, freeze, I apologize for that.” – George Clooney
“I never did a sequel to any of my movies, and sequels are only made for one reason: to make more money and sell more toys. I did my job. But I never got my ass in the seat right.” – Joel Schumacher
Prior to the release of The Dark Knight Rises, I took the plunge and re-watched the 4 film-run begun by Tim Burton in 1989 and finished by Joel Schumacher in 1997. While watching Batman and Batman Returns, Burton put his ghoulish and gothic skills to the test on the brooding Dark Knight. Batman Forever and Batman & Robin are different beasts entirely. But they are not without their moronic charm.
Released in 1997, Batman & Robin arrived the same summer as the flawed Jurassic Park follow-up The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Both films share the obsession with merchandising that Star Wars did, with scenes and sequences that serve only to sell toys. Surfing Batman and Robin and ice-shooting Mr Freeze? Baby dinosaurs and chunky dino-trapping cars? Not exactly thoughtful story-telling. A ‘sorry’ was necessary of course, but money-fixated, toy-driven, sequel-filmmaking is still very much Hollywood of 2014, as it was in 1997.
But apologising seems to be the ‘human’ approach to awful cinema after the fact. Michael Bay and Shia LaBeouf ‘apologised’ for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen while making Transformers: Dark of the Moon (have they apologised for that yet?). The fourth instalment, as toy-obsessed as its predecessors and garnering the same negative criticisms, continues to rake in the money. A new trilogy is in the works I believe? Nothing has changed. Why should Schumacher apologise for creating a film that is blockbuster cinema through and through? It earned nearly $240 million worldwide – and that doesn’t even include the merchandise.
What I don’t understand is why Batman & Robin hasn’t crossed into the so-awful-it’s-laugh-out-loud-funny category.
It looks ludicrous and contains an absolutely ridiculous plot. The fact that Arnie is in the villain role is fascinating unto itself. Like playing a robot (The Terminator) and a badly-acted hero (Last Action Hero), here he is playing a frozen villain. Maybe he could be cast as a wooden human? Or a monotone-speaking alien? This was a role made for him! Batman & Robin also vainly attempts to set up a franchise as Batgirl is introduced. Prior to credits rolling, the three jog off into the light. I, for one, dream of that fifth film when the series loses its mind entirely and becomes dreamlike in every possible manner. Can you believe nutty Nicholas Cage was considered for Scarecrow, and – as rumour had it – Jack Nicholson could return as The Joker – perhaps wearing flashing light-bulbs and a gimp mask.
Surely a set of T-shirts would go down a storm? “Nice stems”/”buds too” or “I kicked Ivy’s botanical butt!” and “my vines have a crush on you” are some of the tantalising treats of the script that could be worn in every comic-con. Then the unforgettable puns from Mr Freeze: “Chill out” and the cops shouting “Freeze!” only to be met with ice – literally. Ha ha ha! I laugh so much, I’m out of breath.
This is not the greatest film ever made and could arguably be considered the worst. But surely, failing on such a majestic scale should be met with a little respect. Neon-bikers, the niece “from Oxbridge” – and never forgetting the bum, boobs and chest close-ups as they suit up. The nipples are merely the icing on the cake. This is the type of film that should be championed as so off-the-scale, that it’s celebrated. Batman & Robin sing-a-long with The Smashing Pumpkins? S&M dress-up as it’s played at The Prince Charles Cinema? Let this be the beginning of a revolution to ensure that no-one forgets how much fun can be had even in the most atrocious form of filmmaking.