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Batman & Robin

Holy schizophrenia! Dynamic Duo's latest showcases best and worst

(This review originally appeared in the June 19-25, 1997 Long Island Voice.)

See the accompanying story on the Batman film series, The Dark Knight Diluted: Batman Gets Laid Way Too Much

Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels

Batman & Robin walks a tightrope — in some ways it’s the best Batman movie yet. In others, it’s getting annoyingly closer to the camp TV show.

George Clooney is a very good Batman. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he conveys the strength, intelligence and determination the character needs. Plus, he pairs up with Chris O’Donnell’s Robin much better than Val Kilmer did. Kilmer was too baby-faced for a mature Robin. Clooney’s Batman also moves like the acrobat he’s supposed to be. If the original film had this level of stunt work, Michael Keaton’s Batman would have been perfect.

O’Donnell is still excellent as Robin, and Alicia Silverstone is a good Batgirl. The flaws she had were the script’s fault, not hers. I’m not thrilled she became Alfred’s orphaned niece rather than Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, but it was acceptable. That plot should have been tied together by Alfred admitting that he hoped to channel her daredevil instincts into something positive (that will make more sense if you see B&R). It’s hinted at, but rather obscurely.

This installment’s villains present other problems. It’s hard to forget we’re seeing name actors playing over-the-top adversaries of the Dynamic Duo. Arnold Schwarzenegger mostly works as Mr. Freeze. I had imagined Patrick Stewart in the role once it was plain they would use the origin from Batman: The Animated Series. My only quibble was the constant "Arnoldisms." You know, one liners like, "Take two of these and call me in the morning." I usually get a kick out of those, but they’re inappropriate for the character. A few would work, but Mr. Freeze shouldn’t sound like he had a joke writer.

Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy is a bigger problem. She’s never quite hard-edged sexy enough (and she should be enticing even without the Love Dust) for the ultimate femme fatale. The role calls for more of a va-va-voom type, someone like Lolita Davidovich from Blaze. She could have thawed Mr. Freeze hands down. Ivy teaming up with Mr. Freeze doesn’t make any sense either. Yes, the eco-terrorist in her wants humans dead so plants can reclaim the world, but does she really think Freeze will let the world thaw out? And what about all the plant life that will die in the meantime? How Ivy is finally trapped is incredibly stupid and looks like a maneuver straight out of the TV show.

The movie’s time contortions are also straight out of the TV show. A constant refrain is that Freeze’s victims must be thawed in 11 minutes or they’ll die, so pay attention when two scientists are frozen. No matter how you compress time, more than 11 minutes pass until their rescue. Keep in mind that the Caped Crusaders also change into matching black-and-silver cold weather costumes in the meantime.

The worst harbinger for the series was the audience laughing at inappropriate moments. Laughing at Mr. Freeze’s one liners is one thing. Laughing when Batman makes a heartfelt plea to Freeze’s humanity is another. It wasn’t a one-time occurrence.

Gotham City looks incredible. Not as dark as Tim Burton’s vision of it, but very similar in tone. The special effects are great. B&R also contains some firsts: They didn’t kill off the villains and neither the villains nor the love interest (Elle MacPherson as Julie Madison) found out Bruce is Batman. While B&R continues the cram-everything-in trend that began with Batman Returns, it’s not a glaring problem here.

I’d give B&R a heavily qualified thumbs up, but this film is so divided, the next film could either be the definitive Batman or high-tech camp. I hope they use their power for good, not evil.

 

Review 1997 Long Island Voice. Accompanying photographs  1997 Warner Bros.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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