I realize that this film is known as being one of the worst ever made, but here is the deal: I actually think it is good. Maybe even pretty good. Sure, there are better Batman films made, and this was the problem with it.
The reason why Batman and Robin was so bad might have something to do with the expectations of the audience. The 1989 Batman film was a huge success, and it was a superhero movie that began to take superheroes seriously. It wasn’t campy, and Tim Burton’s dark yet whimsical style really gave a film that audiences of all ages could appreciate.
Now, when it came to the sequel, Batman Returns, it was somewhat weird. Audiences kind of liked it, but it was perhaps a little too dark. Warner Brothers decided to go a different direction with the third in the series, Batman Forever, with director Joel Schumacher. Schumacher’s first foray into Batman was dark, but it also had a lot of colorful lighting and setpieces in it. Since that was a big hit, Warner Brothers rushed a fourth one into production, and perhaps this was the biggest mistake.
The reason why this film failed so much with audiences in 1997 is people wanted a serious Batman film. At the time, Batman: The Animated Series was really presenting a serious version of the Dark Knight, and this film was giving a campy version of Batman that would make the 1960’s series look serious.
If you go into Batman and Robin believing that you are going to watch a campy cartoon that greatly resembles a silver age comic book story, then watch it and have a good time. This is what I did when I watched it with my son. My son is eleven years old, and he was pointing out the many frivolous things that is the world of Batman and Robin.
I’m only going to cover a fraction of the frivolous. One of the things that Batman: The Animated Series had established was making Mr. Freeze, a very silly villain from the 50’s and 60’s, into a serious and sympathetic figure. Then Arnold Schwarzenegger was given the role, and he had a sympathetic origin. Unfortunately, he also had dialogue that was nothing more than a serious of puns about cold, ice, and anything of that nature.
To that I say: so what? Remember how Robin used to say “holy (insert something relevant here)”. It is obvious that the Batman series invented that campy quality that was deliberately so bad it was good.
Mr. Freeze also has a suit powered by diamonds, so he has to steal diamonds to power his suit in order to live. He is trying to take over Gotham City to hold it for ransom until he can get money for research so he can save his wife, who is suffering of a deadly disease. Freeze keeps her in cryogenic storage until the day where he can find the cure, but if money is a problem, can’t he just rob banks while he is obtaining diamonds.
Yes, I’m going to steal a line from Linkara, a comic book reviewer when I say: “Of course, don’t you know anything about science?” I think we can safely say that gaudy style was chosen over substantive science here.
In the opening scene of the film, Batman and Robin suit up in a dressing scene that should be dramatic, but comes off as silly. If you want it to be silly, and you’re prepared for it to be silly, it’s a laugh every second.
Batman and Robin are called to fight Mr. Freeze in a museum, where he’s stealing a diamond that is at least one hundred times bigger than the largest diamond, for sure. Batman jumps through a skylight because this is what Batman did back then, and Robin crashes through a museum door leaving a perfect Robin symbol opening, because this is what he does. Even my eleven-year-old could not wrap his head around why this could have happened.
Then, Mr. Freeze escapes from the museum in a rocket ship. Someone was paid to write this, and it was Akiva Goldsman, one of my favorite screenwriters. He wrote A Beautiful Mind, and sadly, Winter’s Tale. If this were a Silver Age Batman story, this would just be another Tuesday in Gotham city.
However, this is a film that was given a big budget and was supposed to be a blockbuster. It is easily one of the silliest films ever made, and that is why it is so enjoyable. I haven’t even discussed how dumb it got with Batgirl and Poison Ivy, two serious characters that got the campy treatment.
Yeah, it is so bad, but it’s just fun to watch.