Batman and Robin

Now, since this is the kind of film with a new Batcave and a new Batmobile, why not also have a new Batman; after all, it's been done before. Holy Sawbucks, it's a good think Bruce Wayne has great mountains of cash available to maintain his ravenous taste for the new and hi-tech. (It even looks as if Bruce has had his house redone since the last installment.)

Batman & Robin:
© Warner Bros. (Holland) BV
photo: Christine Loss
© TMS & DC Comicsá (all rights reserved)

Don't foolishly imagine that the title of this movie has anything to do with the main character. Before even viewing the film, the title credits make it clear to the viewer that Mr. Schwarzenegger (as Mr. Freeze/Dr. Fries) is the real star of the picture. To maintain his superstar status the costume department rigs him out in a silver-blue-metallic, light-infused, starry-eyed outfit that would make any superhero's nipples pop in envy. Director Joel Schumacher appears to be very accommodating.

Those raised on Videogames instead of a Breakfast of Champions may enjoy this journey through Dr. Fries' dungeons, but will be forced to surrender their interactive roles. The story doesn't really seem to matter much, but this is how it goes: Dr. Victor Fries (Schwarzenegger) was cryogenically preserving his sick wife Nora (anthroposophist Vandela K. Thommessen who constantly has her aura on show) when he accidentally fell into the liquid nitrogen tank and now, as Mr. Freeze, must wear a sub-zero suit, fed by diamonds, to remain alive. He intends to extort sufficient funds from Gotham City to continue his research and discover the cure for his frigid wife. Meanwhile, at another location, botanist and ecologist Dr. Pamela Isley (Uma Thurman) undergoes a personal change of heart as well as a physical change and becomes the evil Poison Ivy, vixen of delicious deadly lips. Batman and Robin (George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell) do their usual thing, with an additional burden of worrying about the unexpected illness of their beloved butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough). Alfred's niece, Barbara (Alicia Silverstone), appears on the scene and quickly metamorphosizes into Batgirl. (Any questions about what the next film will be called?)

Director Schumacher was previously a costume designer himself (and it shows). Each and every character is a constant victim of makeover during the film; the array ranges from the bulging pecs of Batman to the stretching redbird Nightwing of Robin to the satiny sheaths of Batgirl to the diamond chewing orifices of Mr. Freeze to the exploding sinewy veins of Bane to the protruding day-glo hair cones of Ivy. (One of several 20-odd piece aluminum Mr. Freeze suits, to give you an example of contemporary star wardrobe grandeur, weighed 45 pounds, was powered from a backpack and boasted 2,500 LEDs.) Although these changes might have been imposing as back-to- back effects darting down the catwalk, buried as they are in the overabundent and confusing visuals, they remain barely perceptible enough to become baffling. (Have the Batguys decided to buy new masks or do they just change them to match their latest togs? Pret-a-pity.) The outfits themselves, of course, are amazingly striking as images, but the subtlety (if you'll excuse the word, Ivy) of variations is lost. Nevertheless, superb points for costume designers Ingrid Ferrin and Robert Turturice.

Much of the film appears as if it were haphazardly edited in various angles (upside down, etc.) from various angles (45 degrees, etc.) randomly shot during production, based upon a script (I assume) thought-up to a great extent while sitting around a table "brainstorming" about the next possible plot situation. Near the beginning of the film, one can almost imagine the scriptwriter, director, producers, and lots of friends getting together and playing a word association game with "freeze" until they come up with all sorts of assinine connections; most of which were eventually turned into various pathetic attempts at one-line jokes in a loosely running dialogue. Is this any way to make movies? On the other hand, Mr. Schumacher did bring in lots of cash at the box office with Batman Forever (allegedly 1995's highest grossing film), so I suppose Hollywood isn't complaining. (Groan.)

Uma Thurman and John Glover seem to be most atuned to the kind of humor appropriate in this kind of venture, but, unfortunately, someone had the paltry idea of turning Miss Ivy into a semi-Mae West creature (with a Dietrich entrance) while the mad Dr. Jason Woodrue is killed off quickly in the first reel. Still, all in all, Uma does have her moments. Other than that, the film may leave you cold.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett