Inspired by this film, Judge David Johnson installed rubber nipples on all of his collared shirts.
Our review of Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology (Blu-Ray), published March 10th, 2009, is also available.
Strength. Courage. Honor. Loyalty. Rubber lips.
How many words have been written to date about the Godforsaken awfulness that is Batman and Robin? How many cries of derision? How much vitriol from fanboys and critics alike, reaching into their quivers and firing nerd-arrow after nerd-arrow into this plump, neon-colored, eardrum-splitting, eyeball-razing turkey? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Easily, I'm sure. Joel Schumacher's Batman swan song is now the stuff of legend, a bomb of such mammoth proportions it likely occupies one of the top three spots on just about everyone's Worst Films Ever lists. Recognizing the utter infamy this film carries with it, I am proud to have been charged with the mission of reviewing this two-disc special edition, presumably, the final word Warner Brothers has on its pastel monstrosity.
Facts of the Case
(Judge's Note: To do this movie's spectacular overproduction justice, this section of the review will be similarly overproduced.)
Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator) is going crazy!!! He and his goons have been raiding Gotham City, looking for beautiful diamonds (Wow! So shiny! And so diamond-like!) so Mr. Freeze can fuel his SUPER-TERRIFIC and AWESOMELY FUTURISTIC freeze-suit!!!
As the diabolical villain lays siege to the Gotham Museum with his ice blasts—SHOOOSSSHHHHHH!!!!!!!!—down from the ceiling drops:
BATMAN and ROBIN!!!
With incredibly agility that's INCREDIBLY AGILE, Batman (George Clooney, From Dusk Till Dawn) slides down a dinosaur and TOTALLY BEATS THE CRAP out of the goons!
KA-POW!!! BOFFO!!! SOCKO!!! WHAMMY-KABLAMMY!!!
Robin (Chris O'Donnell, Vertical Limit) clicks his Robin-boots and ice skates pop out—TOTALLY WICKED! As the dynamic duo obliterates Mr. Freeze's goons, he gets away, blasting off in his crazy Mr. Freeze Rocket! Batman and Robin pursue, but because Mr. Freeze is a total bastard, he escapes again leaving a ticking bomb behind—NO!!!! Luckily, Batman and Robin survive—YES!!!!!!-and skydive out of there, strapped to makeshift snowboards. NO WAY!!!
Robin even yells "COWABUNGA!" Totally AWESOME!!!
Meanwhile, in some zany research facility, a new villain is born—the beautiful and dangerous Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. 1). She is wicked HOT!!! Eventually, Poison Ivy joins FORCES with Mr. Freeze, facing Batman with one OF the biggest challenges of his life! BOO-YAH!!!
But that's not all confounding the Caped Crusader. No sir! His trusty sidekick Robin has become a whiny little PUNK and begins resenting Batman's leadership. Plus, Bruce Wayne (by the way that's Batman's secret identity—BOO YAH!!!) is grappling with the realization that his long-time butler Alfred (Michael Gough) is dying! NO WAY! HEINOUS!!! Finally, everyone has to deal with the arrival of Barbara Wilson (Alicia Silverstone, Clueless), Alfred's niece, who would later become Batgirl! Gnarly!!!
With Gotham thrown into icy havoc by the lunacy of Mr. Freeze, it now falls to OUR HEROES, Batman, Robin, and Batgirl, to thaw out the villain's plans and put him on…wait for it…ICE!!!
I can not turn my eyes away from Batman and Robin. It is profoundly bad, so overblown, so deliriously gaudy, I can not avert my gaze; it's like I'm watching an army of monkeys with chain guns strapped to their heads assaulting a fireworks factory—unsettling, surreal, and transfixing.
Batman and Robin is horrible on a Biblical disaster scale. "And lo did I see the pale horsemen descend from the clouds, and they did unleash fire and destruction and synthetic nipples, and the women and children did gnash their teeth."—Revelation 2:42-43.
It is as if the collective subconscious of a hundred thousand eight year-olds on crystal meth spilled forth and materialized on screen. Batman and Robin is an unending onslaught of sensory overload, where every corner of every synapse of your feeble mind is continually laid siege upon for two hours.
I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir (from the Church of Shattered Comic Book Film Expectations). Who among us watchers of movies, from the casual renter to the hardcore collector, is not familiar with the nuclear aneurism that is this film?
Joel Schumacher, the director, has been tagged as the Destroyer of The Dark Knight, and only since the franchise reboot that was Batman Begins has the ire quelled a bit. Still, let's not kid ourselves: Schumacher is the Bill Buckner of Batman.
It would take several months of constant writing to list everything that's so phenomenally awry with this film. Bat nipples, stupid new vehicles, ice-skating villains, Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon the bumbling fool, Mr. Freeze's ice ray, grappling hook physics, lack of hypothermia, ridiculous Gotham architecture, the Bat credit card, Batgirl, sexy gyrations in a huge ape costume, superfluous strobe lights, neon everywhere, and on and on and on.
In 1997, as I sat in the theater watching this, I distinctly recall the feeling of having my gray matter obliterated by the mayhem, shocked and awed and nauseated at the same time, unable to decide if I feared or grimly anticipated the next detonation of set design to befall me onscreen.
Tracking the Batman arc from Burton's imperfect but vastly more entertaining 1989 feature to Batman and Robin offers a fascinating look into tonal shifts: dark (Batman)—darker (Batman Returns)—lighter (Batman Forever)—fetishist (Batman and Robin).
As we'll learn from the special features, this evolution was a deliberate move by the suits to generate more toy capital and gear the mythology towards kids. There is no question that Batman and Robin takes the source material—and itself—as seriously as Jehovah took the Philistines. While I'm sure a Batmobile-load of cheap-ass plastic action figures flowed from Taiwan in record numbers, the damage this film did to Warner's franchise, as well as to the tortured psyche of avid Bat-fans, was cataclysmic.
That brings us to the most noteworthy part of this special edition: the extras. Finally, now we have some accessibility to the creators of this spectacle-debacle, and will hear directly from them what the $@ they were thinking.
There is much to view for bonuses, as the second disc is entirely devoted to featurettes. But the two most useful and interesting segments are the feature commentary by Joel Schumacher and part six of the "Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight." It is within these two extras where we get the dirt on this infamous production.
Schumacher is candid about the film, and his role in injecting the franchise with a double-shot of methamphetamines. He's a likeable guy, and he does accept responsibility for going the hyper kids-oriented route, though he couches this culpability by saying he did what the executive told him to. They wanted toys and to reach out to the young demographic, and though he wanted to do more of a darker route, Schumacher eventually relented. The rest is history.
Likewise, the "Shadow of the Bat" feature, a lengthy, robust documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew, doesn't shy away from the film's dismal reputation. Chris O'Donnell in particular unloads a bit, and Schumacher offers the similar "the corporate weenies told me so" defense. Val Kilmer makes a guest spot, too, offering, with quite a bit of candor, his take on the film and his exclusion from the affair.
My take: reading between the lines and through the euphemisms it's obvious what these people are saying—"Our movie sucked squirrel genitals."
The remainder of the second disc is packed with profile galleries of the heroes and villains in the film, a disposable deleted scene titled "Alfred's Lost Love," and four music videos.
Finally, there is the exhaustive collection of documentaries from the "Beyond Batman" gallery:
• "Bigger, Bolder, Brighter: The Production Design of
Batman and Robin"
Trust me…there is more info on this movie that you can possibly want.
Everything is solid on the technical front. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is as bright and ridiculously colorful as you'd expect and the both digital mixes—Dolby and DTS—will dish out equal punishment to your eardrums.
It's Batman and Robin, with all the over-the-top effects and mind-numbingly cheesy dialogue and all-out unrestrained gratuity you know and loathe. But this special edition is certainly the definitive set, featuring extensive extras and honest revelations by the showrunners. Apologies are in short supply, though.
As a set, it's solid; as a film, the accused is sentenced to violent death with extreme prejudice.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Director's Commentary
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