Tag Archives: Joel Schumacher

Batman & Robin is terrible, and here’s why you should watch it immediately

By Kwame Opam of The Verge

Does It Hold Up is a chance to re-experience childhood favorites of books, movies, TV shows, video games, and other cultural phenomenon decades later. Have they gotten better like a fine wine, or are we drinking cork?

BnRDid you know that Batman & Robin is one of the worst movies ever made? That it killed Batman until Christopher Nolan resurrected it? Well, I have a confession to make: I love it. Sincerely. I recognize that I’m rare here — it took Netflix just one month to realize it made a grave error in adding the film to its streaming movies stable. But almost 20 years after it very nearly killed all love for superhero movies at the box office, I enjoy (almost) every minute of it. Not because it’s a good movie. It isn’t. I’m not a crazy person. It’s because it’s fun in a way that some of the best, most memorable comic book movies are, and it’s a reminder of how truly silly this entire genre can be.

Let me be clear, lest you decide to cast me into the pit of fire made for woefully misplaced fandom. Batman & Robin is terrible. It’s the Titanic of superhero films (the actual ship, guys, not the James Cameron movie); the movie was born of pure Hollywood hubris for the sake of selling toys, and watching it is watching a major franchise sunk by bad design and even worse puns. The casting, writing, costuming, and even set design were all so bad as to be utterly incoherent. It demonstrates a piss poor understanding of what makes Batman, well, Batman, and it wrecks what little of the source material it actually gets right. Not to mention, yes, the bat nipples. Sure, most of the film’s stars managed to escape what might have been a career-ending vacuum created by the film, but poor Alicia Silverstone’s star fell the furthest from her Clueless heyday. (Meanwhile, the world may never know what happened to Coolio after his decision to marshall Gotham City’s neon motorcycle races.) It takes a singular piece of dogshit cinema for a director to publicly apologize for it — Sam Raimi recently did so for another classic mess of a modern superhero film, Spider-Man 3 — and director Joel Schumacher is still apologizing to this day. It’s that bad.

Tragic Trio

All this being said, there’s a kind of sick thrill in watching a movie this bad. For me, Batman & Robin rests comfortably in the space where legendary bad films can be adored for how irretrievably awful they are, alongside the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Room. This is a special class of bad movie — the kind that, with time, lets you laugh at its mistakes like a drunk old friend. It lets you look back and appreciate how far you’ve come, and even wish you could go back and see it all for the first time again. And after a while, even the egregious has its charms.

There’s some actual, honest-to-god good to this movie, trapped under all Ivy versus the Duothat flash and bad acting. For one, Uma Thurman is perfect as Poison Ivy. Not because she does justice to the comics character, because that’s a mixed bag. Rather, in a movie that’s so committed to Schumacher’s over-the-top campy style, she vamps it up flawlessly. She commits, and she even looks like she’s having some real fun in the role, which is a far cry from George Clooney’s bored-and-boring take on Batman. For another — and you have to dig a bit here, so bear with Pamela and Bruceme — there are kernels of a good, well-paced story here. There are heartfelt and genuinely affecting meditations on the nature of family, partnership, and life and death in this film, hinting that, had things not been so mucked up by Warner Bros’ need to make this a family picture, Batman & Robin might have been something else entirely. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (who wrote A Beautiful Mind, by the way, so he’s not a total hack despite this god-awful script) even had the good sense to lift Mr. Freeze’s back story from Batman: the Animated Series, which comes close to Greek tragedy in its pathos.

But most importantly, it took this movie for studios to start thinking about what could make a superhero movie actually work. Batman & Robin is a watershed moment because, while it did decently at the box office, it was a failure of legendary proportions among critics and fans. All the industry at large had to do after this cautionary outing was do better — and it did. The evidence is obvious enough in how Marvel and DC now hold the box office in the palm of their hands, but today’s directors, who probably wouldn’t touch his style with a 10-foot pole, are actually just much better at what Schumacher already did.

Promo artworkI’m not talking about what makes a superhero story work regardless of medium. I’m talking about how the movies themselves are presented on the screen. Little by little, comic book movie directors were forced into becoming better filmmakers, and we’ve seen the fruits of that over the past decade, all tinged with lessons learned from Joel Schumacher’s colossal failure. The Dark Knight trilogy is the most obvious because it ran from the previous franchise as fast as it could for the sake of gritty realism, but the Spider-Man franchise reveled in its own camp sensibilities and it worked. Man of Steel didn’t shy away from overwrought action cheesiness and anatomically-correct costumes, and it mostly worked. And while DC and Warner Bros. have allegedly enacted a “No Jokes” policy for their movies going forward (which means no puns in Batman v. Superman), Marvel has been having fun for years, most evident in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy, which was every bit a comedy as it was an action movie.

Rogues gallery artworkWhy does Batman & Robin hold up? Because at this point you could (and should) watch the movie as an unwitting parody of the good superhero movies that came after it. It’s much easier to laugh at what’s wrong when you think about what’s right buried beneath the surface. As comics continue to dominate pop culture, so much of what we love owes this movie for helping studios think of superhero movies as films instead of just toy commercials. And you know what? Sometimes bad jokes are still funny. With all this in mind, it’s a shame that its run on Netflix was so brief. Oh well. We can only hope it’s not gone forever.

I was going to suggest renting it online, but… I’m not a monster. Wait for it to play on TNT or something.


Hmmm.  This is a tough one.

On one hand, this film was terrible in the scheme of the Bat-Universe and the nail in the coffin for the original Bat-series created by Tim Burton while also bringing about the spiral of Joel Schumacher’s career, which before taking the helm of the two Bat-sequels for Warner Bros., was doing quite well. To his credit while he burns in Bat-Hell, the regime at Warner’s demanded a light family fare in response to Burton’s previous efforts… in effect a living comic book.  It probably would have been easier for them to reboot under an Adam West like guise or seriously consider more cinematic animated tales than continue with the original Keaton/Burton story-line in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

Batman and RobinOn the other hand,  this film also opened the door for Marvel to slowly take over the comic book cinematic universe.  Blade brought us some grit for a Marvel Knights tale, X-Men took us closer to mainstream and finally the aforementioned Spider-Man blew the doors off.

This film also forced Warner Bros. to look for a non tent-pole director to helm a reboot for the Bat-Universe and gave us Christopher Nolan, who demanded non-interference from the Warner’s regime and gave us an actual/factual comic book Batman in return.

If only Bryan Singer thought of that for Superman Returns.

Is Batman & Robin watchable in the grand scheme of things?  Sure, just don’t go in with any expectations.  It is what is, an Adam West-esque Bat-tale that will kill some time.

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The Animated Adventures… Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993)

Mask of the PhantasmWith the critical acclaim of the syndicated cartoon, receiving awards and praise for groundbreaking animation and stories, it was only a matter of time. With a story that rivaled Val Kilmer’s turn in ‘Batman Forever’, this shorter and crisper version actually out does the Schumacher film.

With flashbacks and a well paced script, our animated hero faces old flames, new foes and of course, saves Gotham from the Joker, a Joker very much based in the comic books but surprisingly more realistic than Jack’s. Combine that with the retro style of the series and it transitions very well.
A Dark Knight RisesIf your either a fan of animated films or just a Batman fan, this film will appeal to most.

4 Stars

Thank You Joel Shumacher… Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman & Robin TeaserThanks to you, a very promising film series was brought to a very loud screeching halt. Sure, with the film’s predecessor, ‘Forever’, there was some potential. Val Kilmer was the new Batman, the story wasn’t too bad, but the Adam West-esque fun and glow in the dark vehicles just didn’t fit.

Oh boy! Now comes George Clooney to provide a quick fix. Now, I’m not going to say that George didn’t play a good caped crusader, he just had a very poor film to do it in (honestly, I’d prefer to see him in Zack Snyder’s re-image for the Man of Steel sequel… sorry Ben Affleck). Being the third actor to play the role in three films didn’t help either. It certainly didn’t help Roger Moore taking over for Bond, but he at least had a chance to make up for it.

FreezeGlow in the dark cars, boats and planes just don’t work for a guy who travels at night by stealth. Uma and Arnold… yes comic villain genius, in an Adam West world. Yes, in the minds of comic book film fans and especially Batman fans, Schumacher will rot in hell for all time. Which was unfortunate for a rather good director who ended up being sidetracked for his two poor choices in films with great potential (even if the brass at Warner Bros. was directly involved with its demise).

Bat Family

Bring popcorn, but plan a bathroom break.

3 Stars

A new Batman for a new director… Batman Forever (1995)

Forever TeaserMicheal Keaton is ‘too old’. Okay, I’ll buy that for a dollar. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the director was attempting to introduce an aspect of ‘sex appeal’ to the film.

Glow in the dark vehicles… of course.  Batman travels at night… by stealth, and should use a car that can be seen a mile away.  Robin. Uh-huh.  Well, at least Alfred didn’t change too much.  Carrey looked as if he had a great time filming and overshadowed a Tommy Lee Jones who just didn’t seem all too comfortable at times. Val Kilmer didn’t play too bad a Batman, but didn’t last long enough to do better.

Kilmer Kidman

Schumacher was, at the time, a rather good director, but did little to advance the franchise except for bringing his own personal vision to light (and delivered a dumbed down family fun version as Warner’s had ordered)… and not at all what anyone else who paid to see the movie had wanted. The writing was on the wall.

Batman Meridian

Bring popcorn, and plan a bathroom break.

3 Stars