Director: Joel Schumacher (1997)
Starring: George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman
Find it: IMDB
Batman (Clooney) and Robin (O' Donnell) fight the combined forces of Mr. Freeze (Shwarzenegger), Poison Ivy (Thurman) and Bane (Jeep Swenson) whilst bickering amongst themselves, agonizing over Alfred's imminent death and trying to keep Batgirl (Alica Silverstone) from crashing the party. Too many cooks, and all that. And if even one of those cooks is Joel Schumacher, it's a cook too many (although I did enjoy his 8mm).
Dispersing with most of the Gothicism the series had hitherto become known for (even Batman Forever), Batman & Robin is a brightly coloured neon-lit headache of a movie. It kicks off with Mr. Freeze relieving a museum of its valuable diamonds. Which is a lovely old fashioned plot, actually. Not enough Bat-villains these days are into the whole stealing things these days. They just want to watch the world burn. Well, Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze is very old fashioned, all stupid puns ("ice to see you" and "stay cool") and rocketships which shoot off into the atmosphere. But Batman and Robin can't stop arguing for long enough to stop him. "This," says Batman, "is why Superman works alone." If this is what a functional DC Universe would have looked like, I am in no doubt that the Superman of which Batman speaks is the Nicolas Cage version:
Elsewhere, we see the birth of Poison Ivy. Much like Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, her creation is at the hands of a crummy boss. In this case, John Glover as Dr. Jason Woodrue. See, it really is a living and breathing DC Universe. This very much could have been set in the same universe as Wes Craven's Swamp Thing. Batman & Robin is full of ideas that predates the current slew of Marvel films by over ten years. Woodrue attempts to kill mild-mannered scientist Pamela Isley after she witnesses him selling their 'venom' to some very shady characters. Isley comes back, murders Woodrue and runs off with their experiment; Bane.
Definitely not the same Bane as the comics, cartoons, video games or forthcoming Dark Knight Rises. Bane in Batman & Robin is no criminal mastermind. He has green veins and growls a lot. Ivy and Bane forge a partnership with Mr. Freeze and set about destroying Gotham City. I suppose his making Gotham really, really cold would explain why Batman and Robin's nipples are so hard all of the time.
Batman & Robin is so bad that it's borderline unwatchable, destroying beloved characters and conventions with every passing moment. Clooney is a good Wayne (or at least, a good playboy - his Bruce Wayne is no more a 'mask' than Adam West's. In Schumacher's films, everything is taken at face value) but not much of a Batman. He's better than Val Kilmer in that he has screen presence, but no grit or substance. Robin is even worse. He's the worst character in the film, whingeing and crying and sulking the whole way through. Which is not attractive in a guy who looks about 25. Presumably because it looks cooler, he now dresses as Nightwing. Freeze is all glitter and stupid jokes. Poison Ivy is actually okay, but when surrounded by such ineptitude, even Uma Thurman can't help but suck a little bit.
Pat Hingle's portrayal of Commissioner Gordon, I still find offensive. Barbara Wilson's Batgirl is needless. Michael Gough as Alfred remains the series' anchor, managing to bring dignity to every scene in which he appears.
Batman & Robin is a ridiculous, ugly, stupid movie. I've come to regard it with some amusement since Christopher Nolan repaired the damage done, but it's still a very acquired taste. In some ways, it's more bearable than Batman Forever - it can be amusing if enjoyed ironically - but not by much. Batman & Robin is one of the worst movies ever made.
And yet, if you are fourteen years old, you will love it, unequivocally. I watched Batman & Robin in 1997, at the cinema, with an Uncle and my little brother. Fourteen-year-old me, in all of his childhood thought that this was the greatest Batman movie ever made. I had a green Bane action figure and everything. As the only person to witness my saying "wow! That was a great movie!" in relation to Batman & Robin, I now can't look that uncle in the eye. Thanks a lot, Batman & Robin.