So bad it is good: ‘Batman & Robin’


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Original North American poster of “Batman & Robin” produced in 1997.

Layla Vega, Editor

“Batman & Robin,” directed by Joel Schumacher, is the final movie in Warner’s Bros.’ original Batman film series. Fans and critics alike deem the notorious superhero movie from 1997 to be one of the worst films ever. It is blamed for destroying the Batman franchise for a time before filmmaker Christopher Nolan came along and redeemed the series years later. 

“Batman & Robin” features George Clooney as Batman and Chris O’Donnell as Robin as they save Gotham from Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. 

From start to finish, this film is overly tacky, with unbearable dialogue and excessive costumes. It fails to capture any of the charm and wit of the previous movies and is a confusing mess that is utterly hilarious. The story is flat and overpacked, cramming as many storylines and characters as the film can fit in. 

“Batman & Robin” is the definition of a “so bad, it is good” film, in which viewers are able to enjoy it for how horrible it is. It is a blast to laugh at since it is so absurd and unserious. The costumes and general tone are so over-the-top and campy that it is hard not to adore this movie even at its worst moments. It is a film that is so committed to its silliness and is reminiscent of the Adam West Batman television series with its puns and goofy gadgets. It is far from a good movie, but it is so wildly entertaining at times that it is almost endearing.

There have been so many dark and realistic interpretations of Batman that “Batman & Robin” feels unique, even if it is not particularly good. It serves as a reminder of how far the superhero genre has come and how filmmakers have learned what makes a good superhero movie. 

Hidden among all the neon and bad performances, there are some great moments. For instance, there is a touching and genuinely sad moment between Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth. This gave the relationship between the two more of a familial and tender bond than we have seen in the film series before. Alfred has a lot of screen time, and is played flawlessly by Michael Gough, who is a consistently heartwarming presence throughout the film. Gough and Clooney have a lighthearted and relaxed chemistry that make their scenes together the most engaging. 

Everyone in this movie is horribly miscasted except for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze. He is easily the most entertaining part of the film. His performance is cold and has a lot of humor, with every line being a cringy ice pun. He is a standout because you can tell he is having so much fun in the role since he does not take himself too seriously, but even Schwarznegger could not redeem this movie. 

Joining Mr. Freeze on the villain side is Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy. I like Thurman as Poison Ivy, but she is a terribly written and boring villain. Schumacher was aiming for a femme fatale, but she did not really work and fell short of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Thurman’s performance was strong and I could tell she was putting in the effort, but it never connected with me. She has some fun moments, but they are ruined by cheap-looking costumes and poor chemistry with the lead actors.

Batgirl’s introduction is rushed. She just appears and knows how to fight just as well as Batman. She feels like an afterthought and she was also a little bland. Her storyline is so badly written that it is actually demeaning to her character. Her scenes could be removed and nothing would change. She offers nothing, and I am not sure why she is included. 

Clooney’s portrayal of Batman does not feel like the Dark Knight. He looks decent in the costume, but he is so dull and forgettable. He has little chemistry with the other actors and lacks spirit and heart of the character that Michael Keaton brought when he stepped into the role. This version is also missing the dark aspect of Batman that is beloved by comic book fans. The grief of his parents’ death is gone, which is instead replaced by a smug attitude and weird rivalry with Robin. Clooney looks uncomfortable as Batman and is not a good fit for the part. He is an outstanding actor but he comes off as rigid and completely out of place in his own movie. 

This film is also downright ugly. The set designs are odd and look like plastic. It feels like there was little to no effort put into this film. The cinematography and visual effects are an absolute disaster compared to the prior installments. Everything looks so incredibly ridiculous and cheap that I can not take it seriously. The lighting is also excessively neon and the editing is atrocious. There are cuts every few seconds, and the fight sequences are very hard to follow due to the cuts. 

“Batman & Robin” is essentially one big toy commercial. It feels like the only reason why this film exists was so that Warner Bros. could sell toys. This film is a perfect illustration of what occurs when Hollywood allows corporations with no artistic merit to take one of the most popular superheroes of all time and try to make a quick buck. Toy sales, it appears, were more crucial than creative contribution, resulting in a bloated, shallow film devoid of character, charm and substance. 

It is hardly the worst superhero movie despite the criticism. I would rather watch this than “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but when compared to the Tim Burton movies, viewers can not help but feel disappointed by the potential. If viewers can accept the ridiculousness and lower their expectations, “Batman & Robin” is a lot of fun.