ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Batman & Robin’ (1997), Part One
Chris: Welcome back to Remedial Batmanology! This week, we begin our discussion of the fourth and final film of the Burton/Schumacher era, the much-maligned Batman & Robin. And as a special bonus, as we write this very article, David is watching the movie for the very first time.
David: Because you demanded it, I’m walking into this one completely cold. (ba-dum CHING)Chris: For a lot of people, this film represents the low point of the Batman franchise. It’s often regarded as one of the worst super-hero movies of all time, which, thanks to the dodgy reputation of super-hero movies as a whole, puts it in the running for worst movie ever. But those people are wrong.
Chris: Prepare to have your minds blown, ComicsAlliance readers: This movie isn’t just the best of the four we’ve watched, it’s a legitimate hoot. It’s the apotheosis of what these four films have been trying to do, ramping up all the campy stupidity — building on on the poison parade floats and rocket penguins of Burton’s messes — while dropping any pretense of having some sort of ham-handed, poorly scripted deeper meaning. It’s a full-on modernization of Batman ’66 in every way.
David: I’m excited! I mean, I guess I know the broad strokes behind the stuff in here, like Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Ahnuld as Mr. Freeze. But I have no idea who else is in it, if it has a love interest, what the evil plot is, anything.
Chris: It has all those things, and so much more. But I’m curious, as someone who hasn’t seen this movie, you’ve no doubt heard other people’s opinions, and mine tends to be in the extreme minority. So what have you heard?
David: Just that it’s utter crap and it doesn’t “respect” the character of Batman, or whatever, and also that Alicia Silverstone is terrible in it. I’ve heard that it overplays the gimmicks.
Chris: The latter two are legitimate complaints, I think. There’s some insane gimmicky stuff in the last act that makes no sense, and Alicia Silverstone is not very good. But there was also something of a controversy at the time where Silverstone was criticized for being fat, which is hands-down the dumbest thing I have ever heard. The first part of the complaint, though, is the most ridiculous. The stigma this movie got at the time, and continues to get today, centers on the idea that it’s silly and cartoonish, and of course it is. Have you seen Batman? He dresses up like a bat and fights clowns. This is what he does, and there’s an inherent silliness and fun to it that no amount of poor lighting is going to remove. I know I’m harping on this, but it blows my mind that this is the movie that gets scorn heaped onto it, while Batman ’89, in which the first thing Batman does is get shot and fall down, is considered a modern classic.
David: I really can’t imagine that this could get any more ridiculous than what we’ve seen so far.
Chris: Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But before we get started, a little background: After Batman Returns underperformed at the box office, Batman Forever was a hit, prompting Warner Bros. to fast-track a sequel, which might explain why, as reader Loren Collins pointed out in an email, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin have basically the exact same story structure, right down to one over-the-top villain who wears green and has shocking red hair.
David: Huh, I didn’t know Batman Forever was more of a hit than Batman Returns. I guess that’s the power of Bono.
Chris: $236 million in profit as compared to $186 million. Because in movies, one hundred and eighty six million dollars in profit is considered “underperforming.” For B&R, Val Kilmer dropped out as Batman, which was fine because he sucked out loud in Forever, and was replaced with George Clooney, who at the time was an up-and-coming star, shooting the movie and ER at the same time. Chris O’Donnell stayed on as Robin, bringing the age gap between Batman and his sidekick down to nine yeas, and Michael Gough and Pat Hingle remained the only two guys to make it through all four of these movies.
David: Did they have careers after these roles? I forget.
Chris: Hingle would go on to play the judge that Samuel L. Jackson throws his badge at like a ninja star in John Singleton’s reboot of Shaft, also starring — wait for it — Christian Bale.
David: Hollywood is so incestuous. Hollywood and crappy fan-films, apparently.
Chris: For the villains, Arnold Schwarzenegger was brought in as Mr. Freeze — beating out Patrick Stewart and getting top billing in a Batman movie over the guy who plays Batman — and Uma Thurman was brought in as Poison Ivy. This was only a few years after her breakout role in Pulp Fiction, and continued the downward arc from The Truth About Cats & Dogs to co-starring in The Avengers as Emma Peel, before her career was finally reborn like a phoenix in Kill Bill. A sexy, sexy phoenix. That was dressed like Bruce Lee.
David: It’s almost as if resurrecting actors’ careers is Quentin Tarantino’s mutant power.
Chris: And the uncanny ability to make great movies while still indulging his foot fetish.
David: Maybe one day we’ll get to see Tarantino’s Batman. He’d probably screw up the character, but at least it’d make for a great movie.
Chris: Is there a part in “Hush” where Batman talks about ’70s movies for 20 minutes?
David: No, but in Ultimate X, Nick Fury talks about Pulp Fiction for 20 minutes. Because he’s Samuel L. Jackson! Get it?
Chris: Wow. Anyway, execs were so impressed with the dailies that they immediately greenlit a fifth Batman movie by Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman, Batman Triumphant, but reconsidered when the bad press from B&R tanked it at the box office. Assuming, again, that one considers $125,000,000 in profit to be tanking. Either way, since Batman Triumphant was rumored to involve Harley Quinn as the Joker’s daughter played by Madonna and the Joker coming back in an extended hallucination sequence, it’s probably for the best that it never happened.
David: That does seem like a terrible idea, largely because Harley Quinn is a terrible character, or at least that’s my longstanding opinion.
Chris: Address those emails to DavidUzumeri@ComicsAlliance.com, Harley Quinn fans!
David: Was the plan to have Nicholson reprise his role?
Chris: I’m not sure if they were planning on getting Nicholson back or not. I imagine they probably were, though. I mean, it’s not like there could ever be another actor who could do such a great, defnitive take with that role, right?
David: Knowing this franchise at this point, they’d have gotten, like, Adam Sandler.
Chris: Not out of the realm of possibility. But now, if you’re ready… it’s time for Batman & Robin.
David: Let’s do this. (Presses Play)
David: Wow, you’re not kidding, Schwarzenegger DOES get top billing.
Chris: After the opening credits, Batman & Robin begins with yet another one of Schumacher’s trademarks, the zoomed-in-ass-and-crotch suiting up sequence. Only this time, it’s twice as long because there are two of them, and the codpieces are EVEN BIGGER. This will not be the last of these sequences in this movie.
David: They’re like Darren Aronofsky’s quick-cuts in Pi or Requiem, except completely gimmicky. Oh Lord, the opening dialogue exchange is horrendous. “This is why Superman works alone.” So Robin is basically just wearing a Nightwing outfit now?
Chris: Yeah, rather than his old Robin Suit. I had the novelization of this one, too, and I remember there being a thing in there about how he wore a different style of costume every night. My memory’s hazy, but I believe there was a reference to his Titans-era high collar.
David: It’s funny, because Robin wore the actual Robin outfit for, what, ten minutes in the last movie? Oh no, we get a shot of Alfred looking really pained! He must be dying! Of old age!
Chris: You have tumbled to a plot point, my friend. Once they’re suited up and robin’s motorcycle emerges from a giant egg that has two neon Robin symbols inside of it…
Chris: …the movie begins in earnest with an opening sequence that, I’m not giong to lie, is fifteen minutes of complete, awesome insanity. And it starts when Commissioner Gordon shows up on a little TV on Batman’s steering wheel and tells him that “a new villain has commandeered the museum!” I love that this is how Commissioner Gordon phrases it. Not “We have multiple murders from a massive armored bodybuilder,” but “there’s a new villain.” I’m just surprised he didn’t call him an arch-criminal.
David: Arch-criminal is, I think, actually more sensical than villain. The word “villain” basically completely exposes the narrative nature of this. Life doesn’t have villains, stories do. He might as well have just gone “Yo, Bats, the movie’s starting.” An arch-criminal is at least something that could exist in real life. It’s not like they call Obama after terrorist attacks and go “yo, the United States has a new villain!”
Chris: Wait ’til Freeze tells his goons to “kill the heroes.”
David: When we get to the museum, we’re introduced to Schwarzenegger’s Mister Freeze, whose first line of dialogue is actually “THE ICEMAN COMETH!” “I’m afraid that my condition has left me COLD to your pleas of mercy.” Man, Akiva Goldsman knows exactly the kind of movie he’s making here.
Chris: Freeze also says “in this universe, there is only one absolute: Everything freezes!” And… I’m not sure that that is even remotely correct, even on a metaphorical level.
David: I thought he was going to finish that one with “ZERO!”, to be honest.
Chris: I can’t believe you’re actually requesting more puns in this movie.
David: I think it’s theoretically true. I mean, a frozen substance just has zero molecular movement — some substances probably just require absolute zero to get there. So it’s actually even the same pun, two different ways.
Chris: But really, he’s just saying nonsense. Which is actually one of the things I like about this movie: No one seems to be under any illusions of grandeur, or even of deeper meaning. According to one of the actors (whose name I won’t mention because I want him to be a surprise to you, Uzi), Schumacher would preface every take by yelling “Okay everyone, remember, this is a cartoon!”
David: Did Batman just skate down a dinosaur’s spine?!
Chris: Yes. Yes he did. Now try telling me that’s not awesome.
David: This really is a cartoon. I wish they’d had the balls to cut in the BIFF! BAM! POW! special effects.
Chris: Oh man. People would’ve hated it. I would’ve loved it even more. So then, Robin crashes through the door on his motorcycle, which somehow makes a hole in the shape of A PERFECT ROBIN LOGO. And it’s about this time that i start laughing hysterically and don’t stop for the next two hours.
David: I mean, this is an action sequence where Robin is moving a diamond around with his hockey stick on ice, dudes just falling behind Mister Freeze with nobody commenting on it, and completely shameless Saturday-Morning Cartoon music. Aahahahahahaha “Do you know what killed the dinosaurs?! THE ICE AGE!!!!!!”
Chris: Freeze also commands his goons to “destroy everything,” because he is way into Hatebreed. Then, Batman and Robin click their heels together to give their shoes ice skate blades. Because as we all know, Batman believes the victory is in the preparation.
David: I love how the Batsuits in this movie are basically engineered to have whatever they need to get out of the situations in this movie.
Chris: And sometimes you have to prepare for ice skating in a frozen natural history museum while fighting hockey goons.
David: It’s straight-up Shark-Repellent Bat-Spray stuff.
Chris: Exactly! I’m telling you, this movie is ’66 all over, but without all the dumb melodrama and, well, Val Kilmer that mades Forever such a chore.
David: Robin straight-up pole vaults over a bunch of hockey players while Freeze commands his Goons “HIT ME!”, at which point someone slapshots him the diamond in his … ice … tank … thing.
Chris: Then, once he has the diamond, Mr. Freeze straight up escapes on a space rocket.
Chris: We are less than 10 minutes into this movie and Joel Schumacher has told you that this is how the world works now and dropped the mic.
David: Oh man, I had it in pause, I didn’t even see that it was a rocket. Robin straight-up tries to climb onto the thing and hold on, and i keep expecting Batman to jump after him and then for Robin to lose his arm while Batman gets encased in ice. Except, of course, Batman’s still IN the rocket, taking Mister Freeze on hand-to-hand.
Chris: “Watch the numbers, Batman, for they are the harbingers of your doom!” Because Mr. Freeze is such a badass that he was able to come up with a deathtrap on the fly. And that deathtrap is “shoot Batman into space.” Again: First ten minutes of the movie, folks.
David: Then Freeze escapes using retractable wings, plummeting safely towards Gotham City, when Robin comes in, frees Batman from being iced to the wall, and then they blow up the rocket and SURF DOWN AFTER MISTER FREEZE ON HOVERBOARDS.
Chris: Not hoverboards: The doors to the other two escape hatches that Mr. Freeze had in his one-man space rocket for some reason. Oh and also Robin has a laser pistol.
David: And is able to catch the dropped diamond in midair.
Chris: While air-surfing. And somehow not dying when he hits the roof of a building.
David: And he surfs down that, joining up with Batman, and then following Freeze into one of his lairs, where he summarily gets frozen.
Chris: Freeze stops his own plummet with the old comic book ice power trick of aiming his freeze-ray at the ground, and then makes his escape by freezing Robin and forcing Batman to choose between apprehending the bad guy and rescuing his sidekick.
David: You’ll notice Batman saves Robin by sticking him in a pool of water and then using his sonic screwdriver on it.
Chris: Then he escapes in his car. The same car, I believe, that shot the rocket out back at the museum.
David: Chicks dig the car!
Chris: So I’ve heard! Now let’s talk about what we’ve seen thus far.
David: In the first fifteen minutes – including credits – we had the introduction of Mister Freeze, bat-ice-skates, a gang of hockey hoodlums, a ROCKET, a deathtrap IN a rocket, airsurfing from space, a villainous escape, and an ice tank.
Chris: This has been our opening set piece, with all that plus a dinosaur, and it has also set up the tension between Batman and Robin that will be the theme of the rest of the movie. Explain to me, plese, a) how this is not insanely fun, and b) how it is somehow a more convoluted and less interesting plot than Batman Returns.
David: This is definitely the best opening any of the movies has had so far.
Chris: Seriously. It’s actually exciting and visually interesting, and there’s a lot of goofy humor in stuff like having George Clooney crash through a skylight and say “Hi, Freeze. I’m Batman.”
David: Yes! The non-stop puns, the over-the-top cartoon music, this movie doesn’t have any identity crisis. It knows exactly what it is.
Chris: And I think it’s genuinely entertaining because of it. It hits the ground running. And rocketing. And space-surfing. And honestly, while there were a lot of people whose reaction was along the lines of “but Batman wouldn’t do that!” or “Batman wouldn’t say that!”, there’s very little that separates what we’ve seen so far from being a Bob Haney Brave and the Bold story from 1975.
David: The thing is, in the popular conception of geeks post-Frank Miller, there never was a Bob Haney. This came out in that spot before all of that goofy but excellent stuff started being reclaimed in the ’00s.
Chris: It’s part of that weird teenager mindset that comics seem to engender in their fans, where they want their stories about flying space aliens and magic wishing rings and guys dressed as Dracula to be serious and mature, because that stuff’s not for kids, man. And look: There is no one — no one — who likes Year One and Nolan’s The Dark Knight more than me, I assure you. But that’s not all there is.
David: I’m sure we’re gonna get guff for saying all this with the argument that Batman ’89 was another “version” of Batman, but that movie had a lot of flaws outside of its treatment of Batman as a character. Nowhere near as much as Returns, but it wasn’t perfect, and it certainly had a muddled message and view of itself.
Chris: Exactly! It’s flawed internally, maybe because it was too ambitious and tried to be all things to all people by including the cheesiness and the melodrama and the “real-world” aspects. For all its faults — and make no mistake, there are many — Batman & Robin has a consistent internal logic. It constructs a world in which it’s okay for all this stuff to exist. Which is exactly what Nolan does in his films, albeit with a completely different idea of what “making it okay for this stuff to exist” actually means.
David: Agreed completely.
Chris: You are in for a treat in our second set piece, my friend. First of all, I have to say, the sets and backgrounds in this movie are beautiful. I love how over-the-top cartoonish they are. It’s like live-action Scooby Doo.
David: This entire Poison Ivy monologue is insane. I mean, actually not sane. If I give the plants enough venom, they can fight back like animals! I mean, Poison Ivy is still human and her motivation is already to create a new race of carnivorous plant overlords?
Chris: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this movie represents the frist and only appearance of Jason Woodrue, who played a major role in Alan Moore’s legendary Swamp Thing run, outside of the comics.
David: Woodrue is apparently working on a “Project Gilgamesh,” and is — holy sh** is that John Glover?!
Chris: Yes. Yes it is.
David: He’s playing a fantastic mad scientist. The streaks of grey in his hair totally make it.
Chris: John Glover is Clayton Forrester as Jason Woodrue.
David: He’s going for full Rocky Horror-level camp.
Chris: Now Uzi, you and I have empirically proven that John Glover can make literally anything better.
David: Even a retelling of Captain America’s origin paid for by the Black Glove starring a really crappy version of Bane. I mean, Woodrue even calls it a “super-soldier serum.”
Chris: I remember Bane’s appearance in the movie being a huge complaint back in ’97, too, since he’s absolutely nothing like his comic book counterpart. Like, not even close, save for the name, the venom and the luchador mask. And really, that’s a legitimate complaint; the Bane of the comics is actually a surprisingly complex character with some interesting hooks. But what you lose in faithfulness, depth, and interest you make up for in the fact that John Glover presses a glowing button on his chest and yells “TURBO!” to make him flip out and start smashing everything.
David: Pamela Isley starts freaking out at all of this, since she decided to walk in and watch — by the way, ist here any reasonable excuse for why the project is called Project Gilgamesh? — and then Isley threatens Woodrue, calling him a “psycho.”
Chris: What’s really amazing about this scene, though, is that Thurman — still in her “trying not to look ilke Uma Thurman” portion of the movie, which involves glasses and a ‘do-rag — is actualy managing to keep up with Glover’s fantastic scenery-chewing. She actually says he’s got “a maniacal plan for world domination.” And Glover’s heartbreak after she calls him a psycho is priceless. Just priceless.
David: He pushes her into a vat of chemicals, where she starts to transform as she gets sucked into the Earth. This movie just DOES NOT CARE.
Chris: Hey, it makes at least as much sense as being licked back to life by cats and becoming a schizophrenic dominatrix vigilante.
David: Yeah, but there you at least got some kind of feeling that Burton was trying to make it symbolic somehow. This just straight-up happens.
Chris: And it happens in a scene that is entirely lit by green lightning. Green. Lightning. Then, we cut back to the Batcave for the first of many scenes where Bruce Wayne is just cold kickin’ it in a bathrobe.
David: We get the hilarious sight of Arnold trying to act like a respected scientist, and also “two-time Olympic decathlete,” just to explain the fact that he’s built like a brick s—house.
Chris: We find out that his wife has contracted “MacGregor Syndrome,” which, considering the rest of the movie, really should’ve been called “McGuffin Syndrome.”
David: It’s entirely possible that was the original joke, for all I know of this movie so far and Goldsman’s overly-cute self-aware writing in shows like Fringe.
Chris: Robin throws a fit about Batman telling him he needs to train more because he screwed up and allowed Freeze to get away, which is, in fact, 100% true. But Robin bitches that Batman doesn’t trust him not to screw up, which he shouldn’t, and Alfred totally takes Robin’s side.
David: Which is at least fairly consistent characterization, since Movie Alfred has basically taken every possible opportunity over the course of four films to tell Batman that he has terrible ideas and needs to stop being a dick. You wonder why he works for him at all.
Chris: My theory is that in his dotage, Alfred has gotten weary of Dick’s laundry-karate, and is trying to get him killed in the field.
David: Alfred gives Bruce crap about needing to trust more, because people trust in families, and when Bruce tells Alfred that he trusts him, Alfred points out that he won’t be around forever, echoing the cough from the very beginning of the movie.
Chris: Not exactly subtle, this movie, but I do think the interaction between Bruce and Alfred is a really nice touch. Clooney has said in interviews that he played Batman as gay, and I think the assumption is that it was Batman and Robin, but the real tenderness comes out between Bruce and Alfred.
David: As we see in a quick flashback clip to young Bruce falling down while running down the hallway and getting fixed up by Alfred.
Chris: It comes back later, too, in one of the movie’s few scenes that are actually genuinely well-done and not just insanely, enjoyably camp. And speaking of, let’s cut back to John Glover.
David: In this scene, we basically get Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, if Venus were a drunk co-ed dressed up for Flower Power Night.
Chris: There is no better description than that. Dr. Isley re-emerges from the earth in full-on Sexy Uma Thurman mode, complete with the truly amazing Mae West voice that she’ll be affecting for the rest of the movie.
David: Complete with super-sexy saxophone soundtrack!
Chris: The sax makes me think they just went ahead and filmed this down the street at the Vivid Video lot.
David: What’s amazing is that you can basically see Uma Thurman trying her damnedest not to crack up throughout this entire scene.
Chris: You try making out with John Glover and not laughing. That beard’s gotta tickle.
David: She declares she’s poison, holds Woodrue, thrills him, kisses him, and then kills him. I think they got the soundtracks mixed up.
Chris: Really. Shouldn’t this be the movie with “Kiss From a Rose?” The one where the woman with the PLANT NAME kills people by KISSING THEM?
David: No, instead this one gets R. Kelly’s “Gotham City.”
Chris: I was going to save commentary on that ’til the end, but it is unquestionably the worst possible song a person could write about Gotham City.
David: It’s a city of justice, love and peace for people who like to pee on teenagers. While Jason Woodrue is unfortunately gone from this world, she picks up her henchman Bane who she apparently has a connection to and decides to go after Wayne Enterprises because that’s who made Woodrue’s lab equipment.
Chris: And then we cut to the Snowy Cones Ice Cream factoroy, which was later seen in a particularly annoying level of LEGO Batman, in which Mr. Freeze is in a smoking jacket, teaching his henchmen to sing along to the Snow Miser’s theme from The Year Without a Santa Claus. And… yeah, okay, that bit might be a little too far.
David: This guy makes Geoff Johns villains look uncommitted to their gimmicks.
Chris: It’s also worth noting that in yet another direct parallel to Batman ’66, Vivica Fox appears as a sexy, scantily clad henchwench named — get ready to groan — “Ms. B. Haven.”
David: A henchwench that Freeze won’t even get close to. Then why even hire a henchwench?
Chris: Because the Riddler had Jill St. John and Catwoman had Leslie Gore and Lord Ffogg had his Mod Schoolgirl Pickpockets. Besides, can you think of a good reason to not have Vivica Fox in a swimsuit, garter belt and stockings hanging around your set for a few days?
David: Considering he’s going so far as to have an actual gigantic freezer with nothing but frozen dinners and ice cream… no.
Chris: It is weird that Mr. Freeze is smoking a cigar in this scene, though. Like, Arnold, do you like cigars so much that you had to have your guy whose body temperature is 50 degrees below zero using lighter? Really? Couldn’t have stuck a nicotine patch on for the duration of the movie?
David: I didn’t know Arnold loved cigars, I assumed the writers just wanted to make him look more mob-boss-y. Or set designers, or costumers, or director, or whatever.
Chris: Some Batman expert you are. Didn’t even buy the special Batman Forever four-cover set of the June ’97 Cigar Aficionado.
David: You’re kidding, right?
Chris: Barely. Freeze reveals that he’s using the giant diamond from the museum heist to build a giant freeze ray that he’ll use to extort money from the city — unless his demands are met, “IT’S WINTER FOREVER HERE IN GA-THAM!” — because he wants to use that money to cure McGregor’s Syndrome. So here’s my question, and probably the dumbest thing about this movie: Why did Mr. Freeze turn to crime?
David: This the kind of thing I could see the novelization or something answering, I guess. But yeah, you’d think he’d accomplish this just as effectively by writing a really sad letter to Bruce Wayne and getting a grant.
Chris: Seriously. He’s a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who suffered a tragic accident and appears to only want to cure a disease in order to help his wife. If Bruce Wayne wouldn’t help him, Oprah would.
David: I also can’t even imagine how much his hideout, hoodlums, equipment, etc. must cost him.
Chris: Especially since his suit seems to actually use up diamonds somehow. But yeah, even though the movie makes it perfectly clear what he wants and why, it all falls apart the second you think about it for any amount of time.
David: And yet, it still makes more sense than the Penguin.
Chris: Maybe his suit would be more efficient if he didn’t dump the diamonds he was going to use to focus his lasers into just a little compartment like he was loading a BB gun. We also see that he’s been keeping his wife’s cryogenically frozen body in a secret room of an abandoned ice cream factory — and that she’s Vendela — because that’s how super-villains roll.
David: Meanwhile, we cut over to Wayne Manor, where we meet Barbara Wilson, Alfred’s niece visiting from “Oxbridge Academy.” Which is pretty great, since Oxbridge is just a portmanteau used to refer to Cambridge and Oxford together.
Chris: I will gladly admit that everything surrounding Batgirl in this movie, right down to her being Alfred’s niece as a convenient way to bring her into the plot without having to explain who she is or why she’s hanging out with these guys, is super-dumb.
David: She rings the doorbell and, when Alfred doesn’t answer because he’s sleepy/dying, she starts planning to break in when Dick sees her and is all like “oh yeah.”
Chris: Again, it blows my mind that there were people criticizing Silverstone for being fat in this movie, because she had difficulty getting into the skintight rubber Batgirl suit. You know who else has difficulty getting into a skintight rubber suit? EVERYONE WHO IS ALIVE. Seriously, look at her.
Chris: If there are any members of the entertainment media from fourteen years ago who are reading this, and you took a shot at her for being “fat,” you should be ashamed of yourself. That said, her mouth is weird as hell.
David: Alfred tries to get her not to stay over, but Bruce hoists him by his own petard, telling him, “Well, Alfred, she’s family!” So he better trust her.
Chris: Bruce is pretty casual about letting random-ass teenagers move in. Well, “teenagers” in Dick’s case.
David: Barbara goes to tuck Uncle Alfred in, finding that he’s looking for the whereabouts of his brother, who’s butlering at a floating court in India. Like, actually. Now, this is unquestionably so that he can find a replacement for himself. … Oh man. Alfred totally has MacGregor’s, doesn’t he?
Chris: Took you long enough.
David: After “putting Alfred to sleep,” Barbara puts on a leather jacket and motorcycle helmet and bails the mansion.
Chris: Where is Gossip Gertie — my favorite Movie-Only character — during all this? “Bruce Wayne Turns Mansion Into Teenage Biker Haven! Hard-Bodied Hot-Rodders Tear Down The Highway as Elderly Butler Wastes Away In Bed!”
Chris: Don’t even. I seriously love Gossip Gertie. If I had my way, she and Summer Gleeson would have an ongoing series.
David: Well, apparently she still shows up in this movie, so we have that to look forward to.
Chris: She does! Because Bruce Wayne is unveiling his new plot device — er, philanthropic project at the Gotham Observatory, which is a building literally held up by a statue. I mentioned I love the sets in this movie, right? The statues everywhere that are incorporated with all the buildings and the neon. It’s like New York made a baby with Narnia.
David: We do get to see Poison Ivy with her chauffeur, Bane. I’m not kidding, Bane is her chauffeur, he even wears a hat over his luchador mask.
Chris: The project in question is a new telescope that, in conjunction with a series of mirror satellites, can see all around the world, and… you know what? Have you seen Goldeneye? It’s like that, but without the lasers.
David: This appears to be a planet-sized version of the mini-spotlights he used to refract the Bat-Signal into his room in Batman Returns. We’re also introduced to Julie Madison, played by Elle MacPherson and proof that Goldsman was just searching for any old girlfriend name, any, to use.
Chris: Julie Madison was, of course, Batman’s first girlfriend in the comics, way back in the late ’30s. She had an unfortunate proclivity for being kidnapped by draculas, but that’s how it was back then.
David: Poison Ivy shows up to yell at Bruce Wayne about how he doesn’t support her insane plan to kill off a bunch of people in the name of stopping using resources. She yells at everyone for being stupid mammals, and how the plants will have their revenge, presumably shortly before hooking up with M. Night Shyamalan. “Batman and Robin! Militant arm of the warm-blooded oppressors.”
Chris: I genuinely love how she says that no one’s going to be able to protect them from the plants, and everybody just busts out laughing at her, and Gossip Gertie is all in Gotham, we’ve got Batman, so f*** you.
David: She gets totally condescended to, which is understandable, since it’s not like she comes across as naive, just completely and totally insane.
Chris: Gossip Gertie don’t shiv. Fortunately for the man-eating plants of the world, Ivy’s insane rambling doesn’t stop her from getting an invitation to Bruce Wayne’s party/charity auction/diamond exhibition.
David: With special guests BATMAN AND ROBIN! Urban vigilantes no more, that’s for sure, they’re straight-up doing charity events now.
Chris: Back at the ice cream factory, we find out that Mr. Freeze is the only husband on Earth who actually watches his wedding video. (Attention CBS, sitcom department: I can write that kind of joke all day long. Email for a resume.)
David: He straight-up ices a bro for daring to give him information that will help him with his master plan.
Chris: Oh man. How great would the DC reboot be if the new Mr. Freeze showed up and started forcing people to take a knee and drink Smirnoff Ice?
David: “If only I could figure it out! Robin gets kidnapped by Mister Freeze every second night! It’s almost like he’s trying to fall into his traps…”
Chris: This next scene is probably my favorite bit from this entire movie. It rivals the opening for sheer bonkers insanity.
David: Basically, it’s a cornucopia of racial stereotype jungle boogie types, and then they show off the diamond and … we get … a … bellydancing … gorilla.
Chris: Yes. But not only that, they’re auctioning off dates with models who are all named after flowers — setting up the reveal of “Poison Ivy” — and there’s a Ted Turner analogue in the audience bidding on “THE LOVELY MAGNOLIAH!”
David: Everything about this scene, including the music, seems like it’s right out of the Prehistoric era in Chrono Trigger.
Chris: Then, as you said, they’re interrupted by a gang of pink gorillas. And this has allowed me to write the best sentence I, or anyone, has ever written:
Chris: And then she walks across a bridge of oiled men in loincloths.
David: After she brainwashes everyone with her … I assume, her pheromone powers. This scene. Is. Insane.
Chris: I want to know how this was written in the script. “GORILLA disrobes, revealing POISON IVY, shot from rear.”
David: Not just that, but the bidding scene that immediately follows.
Chris: Ah yes: Batman and Robin, both hit with Ivy’s pheromones, start trying to outbid each other for a date with Ivy, culminating in Batman pulling out his credit card. Batman’s credit card. A credit cared issued to Batman.
David: GOOD THRU FOREVER.
Chris: Complete with a “ka-ching!” sound effect. This is another thing that people hate and I love. Because in this universe, why WOULDN’T you give Batman a credit card? It ain’t like he’s not good for it. Keep in mind, this is after Ivy all but actually says “I will, no joke, f*** whoever bids the most.” I believe her phrasing is “find the honeypot.”
David: The credit card was probably issued by Wayne Enterprises itself!
Chris: Making it a “Gothcard” was a nice touch.
David: But then, Mister Freeze! attacks! And tells everyone to “Chill out.”
David: He takes the jewels from Poison Ivy and bails, but not before telling her that her pheromones heat up the blood, and won’t work on the cold-hearted. You know, getting horny isn’t actually caused by physically heating blood, but this movie is ridiculous so I don’t really care.
Chris: Batman and Robin beat up Freeze’s thugs using some neon serving trays left over from Eddie Nygma’s party — and I think we might be the only ones outside of the prop department who have paid enough attention to notice that litle detail — and head out to catch Freeze. Presumably they’re going to arrest him for the egregious crime of exiting on a line like “cool party.”
David: How much fun do you think Arnold had in this role? ALL OF THE FUN?
Chris: Considering that I don’t think there was ever a second take shot in this movie for any reason other than someone cracking up during a line, I’d say that’s a possibility. Batman has to physically haul Robin away from creeping on Ivy, who has herself decided that she wants to get freaky all over Mr. Freeze. And by “get freaky all over,” I mean “destroy Gotham City with.”
David: She calls him “a God.” Why she’s so attracted to someone that freezes everything she’s trying to save, I have no idea.
Chris: Sometimes you need an ice age if you want to kill the dinosaurs, Uzi. It’s a metaphor. Deal with it.
David: The Batmobile and Redbird go down a gigantic arm after Mister Freeze’s tank and his two Halo Warthogs, and this scene is actually totally awesome. But then Batman pulls a total dick move on Robin and disables the engine on the Redbird to stop him from trying to make the jump, which seems like it would be MORE dangerous than just letting him make the jump, since now he’s suspended like hundreds of feet above the city and can’t control his vehicle. Batman gets Mister Freeze, though.
Chris: Batman literally ramps off the middle finger in that scene while Robin yells at him, which is a pretty hilarious touch.
David: Robin is so disappointed. Like, not “aw, dammit” disappointed, but “my dad is Darth Vader” disappointed.
Chris: Chris O’Donnell’s acting doesn’t have a lot of nuance, you may have noticed.
David: I’m pretty sure any attempt to be subtle in this movie would be met with Schumacher screaming “no, No, NO!!!!” at the set.
Chris: As well it should have. Back at the Batcave, Robin pitches a fit at Batman again and says “Back in the circus, the Flying Graysons were a team,” and to his credit, Batman does not respond with “Yeah? How’d that work out for ’em?”
David: Robin storms off and Bruce asks Alfred for advice, just as Alfred finishes up his message to Uncle Wilfred, which he’s burned to a CD for no damn reason.
Chris: They missed a big opportunity naming his sister “Margaret” and not “Winifred.”
David: He tells Bruce that being Batman is his attempt to control the chaos that led to his parents’ death, and that at some point Bruce will have to acknowledge that some things are out of his control. Which is, I have to admit, a decent Batman character beat.
Chris: “What is Batman, but an attempt to master the chaos that sweeps our world” is a better understanding of the character than anything in the other three movies, and that’s a stone cold fact. And with that, our first half of the movie comes to a close, after three completely insane set pieces and two scenes of George Clooney walking around in a bathrobe.
David: I didn’t expect to back you on this, but so far, you’re right, this is easily the most cohesive of the four movies so far.
Chris: Well, we’ll see how the second half holds up next week, when we see Arkham Asylum! The birth of the Poison Ivy / Mr. Freeze team! Robin and Batgirl re-enacting a Mario Kart Level!
David: The latter has me excited already.
Chris: As well it should, Uzi. And remember, kids: We’re the professionals.
David: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand cue hate mail.