Tag Archives: Tim Burton

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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Michael Keaton Says He’d Play Batman Again — Under One Condition

In his new film Birdman, Michael Keaton plays an aging actor living in the shadow of a past superhero role.  It would be easy to see this as Keaton’s swan song to Batman, a character he re-invented for the big screen in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. But Keaton says that’s not the case. In fact, he’d be willing to play Batman again – under one condition.

“If it was Tim Burton directing? In a heartbeat,” Keaton tells Entertainment Weekly in a new cover story.

Tim and his Batman

That idea of Keaton and Burton making another trip to Gotham should be enough to give Batman fans heart palpitations, however unlikely it may be. For now, Warner Bros. won’t give the cowl to anyone except Ben Affleck, who plays the Caped Crusader in the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And Keaton famously bowed out of the third Batman movie when producers started asking for bigger (and broader) approach. “I hadn’t been stupid about it,” the actor told EW. “I always knew it was a big machine with a big studio and a corporation behind it. But the simple answer was, [that approach] wasn’t any good…I tried to make them understand. But when somebody says to you, ‘Does it have to be so dark?’… I thought, ‘Are we talking about the same character?’”

Bruce WayneFor Keaton, the character’s appeal lies in his dual personalities: Vigilante superhero Batman and wealthy dilettante Bruce Wayne. “Now I can say this, because for many reasons, I never allowed myself to say it at the time: It was never about Batman for me. It was always about Bruce Wayne,” Keaton tells EW.  “He’s funny! He’s screwed-up! The guy is the coolest motherf—-er in the world, and he’s messed-up!”

Despite (or perhaps because of) his personal investment in the character, Dark Dark KnightKeaton hasn’t seen Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and has no notes or advice for Ben Affleck. But he does feel strongly that Tim Burton still “gets” the genre better than anyone else. “Tim, in movies, really invented the whole dark-superhero thing,” Keaton says. “He started everything, and some of the guys who have done these movies since then don’t say that, and they’re wrong.” 

A very special Christmas episode… Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Returns TeaserBatman at X-Mas… OK, I’m interested. Originally to cast Annette Benning, the Catwoman role seemed to be in safe hands with Ms. Michelle. And Danny DeVito being allowed his freedom of range in playing the Penguin was a great touch. Add some Walken, and we have a film.

Not as big a blockbuster as the original, it still carried well. Unfolding a bit slowly and seemingly a bit mixed, it didn’t quite follow the comic lore, but neither did any of the other films in the original quadrilogy. Often looked upon as an improvement upon the first film in terms of story, Keaton played his role a bit better this time around, but was also given more script and screen in and out of the mask. He also had the advantage of being the original.
MeowPlan on the popcorn, but no breaks allowed.

4 Stars

The Movie of The Decade… Batman (1989)

Batman 1989 Promo PosterThat was a mainstream review that hit the nail right on the head. Originally planned in the late ’70’s to follow-up Superman, producers kept the idea rolling throughout the early and mid-’80’s. Ironically, Jack was signed to play the Joker in both the conceived films.

After an ‘exhaustive’ search, Tim Burton was signed to direct, Jack to star and Michael Keaton the surprise pick as the man in the mask. With Kim Basinger picking up for Sean Young, the film simply rolled. With months of teasers, cereal and toys… the film released on June 23rd and dominated the box office… and didn’t do Prince any harm either.
Batman 1989The film set a new standard in summer blockbusters and completely redesigned the idea of ‘comic book’ films, and makes my list of ‘Best’ for that reason. Not nearly as true to the comic lore as ‘Batman Begins’, still a great tribute to the Dark Knight and his greatest nemesis, the Joker.

This film reaches comic epic and no bathroom breaks allowed.

5 Stars

Man… Bat Man

From: Yahoo!

Can you imagine a world in which Pierce Brosnan is better known for saying “I’m Batman” rather than “Bond…James Bond”? According to the retired 007, that reality almost came to pass.

Brosnan Steele

Promoting his latest movie, The November Man, Brosnan revealed that he met with Tim Burton back in the late ’80s about the possibility of donning the Dark Knight’s cape, cowl and utility belt. But the conversation more or less ended before it began.  “I just couldn’t really take it seriously,” the Ireland-born actor wrote. “Any man who wears his underpants outside his pants just cannot be taken seriously.  That was my foolish take on it. It was a joke, I thought. But how wrong was I? Don’t get me wrong, because I love Batman, and I grew up on Batman.  As a kid in Ireland, we used to get our raincoats and tie them round our neck and swing through the bicycle shed.”

Brosnan wasn’t the only actor who was considered for the role before Burton’s Beetlejuice buddy, Michael Keaton, claimed it. Mel Gibson was one of the leading candidates, but Warner Bros. needed to keep his schedule clear for Lethal Weapon 2, which hit theaters two weeks after Batman in the summer of ‘89. Newly minted superstars like Kevin Costner and Alec Baldwin were also in play, along with such left-field candidates as Charlie Sheen and Bill Murray. (In a Late Show with David Letterman appearance earlier this year, the Ghostbusters star — who was randomly suited up as an early 20th century superhero, Peter Pan, at the time, saying “God, I would have been an awesome Batman.”

Dynamic Duo Batman 1989

In the end, Burton wound up selling the studio on Keaton, though his casting headaches continued beyond the movie’s hero. Sean Young came and went as Vicki Vale, while Robin Williams missed out on a chance to play the Joker, not to mention earning Jack Nicholson’s record-setting payout. For his part, Brosnan only had a mere six years to wait until his date with Bond was finally confirmed, by which time both Keaton and Burton had flown the Batcave anyway.