Summer of Schwarzenegger - "Batman & Robin" (1997)

(Yeah, I'm aware that Summer of Schwarzenegger's schedule got royally screwed up, but it'll be done this month. Thanks for reading, guys, I'm glad people seem to be enjoying these again!)

"Hey, I'm a guy on the internet who complains about movies, and here's my hot top 10 list of reasons why Batman & Robin really is that bad! Yes, this write-up is totally different than all the other write-ups out there, but when you're done,  you won't believe that this movie even got made!"

Sorry to disappoint but, uh, this isn't that. I actually don't hate this movie.

Put your pitchforks down for a second and I'll preface this: part of me has a pretty big nostalgic attachment to this movie. It's the first film I actually ever saw in theaters, for one thing. When I wasn't even four years old, my parents took me to see this at a drive-in. Of course, watching it now, I realize that might not have been the best call on their part, but hey, they probably didn't know what they were getting into. Some of my earliest, most formative memories are literally scenes from this movie. I'm... I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing.

Anyway. Part of me likes this movie simply because it sparked my multi-decade love of going to the movies. And of drive-ins, dying art though they may be. And of Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, since she was the first time I consciously remember going, "damn," as a child. That's... that's kind of messed-up, actually. Moving on.

Another part of me not thinking Batman & Robin is as memetically bad as people say is... well, it's just not. Some people consider it to be the lowest point of Arnold's career, if you can believe it. Hell, some people consider it to be the lowest point of the careers of all parties involved. I just can't see that. I mean, I've seen Hercules In New York. I've suffered through Ocean's Twelve (George Clooney.) For some reason, I watched Max Payne (Chris O'Donnell.) Movie 43 exists (Uma Thurman.) And well... Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (Alicia Silverstone) was a thing so... yeah. Worst movie all these actors have been in? Hardly. Because unlike all of those? This is absurdly watchable.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't some hidden, underappreciated masterpiece or anything. It's still quite bad. Like, it's really, truly, gobsmackingly bad. I'm not quite sure how Warner Brothers looked at this and greenlit a sequel based on what they'd seen. It's hammy and ridiculous and nothing like any of the other previous films... well, except Batman Forever, which in my book is a far, far worse movie than this. Yeah, I said it. I think Forever is way worse than this, and always have. Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones were awful casting choices, and the story was an incoherent mess, and it... it just sucks, alright? Come at me. I'll fight you.

"But wait," you say, "how can you say Forever's plot is incoherent, but defend Batman & Robin?" I'll tell you why: because this story is at least memorable. Yes, it's ludicrous, absurd, improbable, and stupid beyond belief, but you won't soon forget it. Batman and Robin airboard on metal doors out of an exploding vessel bound for space to chase Mr. Freeze through the skies, all while doing tricks and making one liners. Uma Thurman acts sexily devious for the whole movie, hamming up every line, as if she knows exactly the caliber of movie she's in. Arnold makes some of the worst ice puns ever to grace the silver screen. Look at this shit:


The point is, Batman & Robin is bad in the same way that the Adam West Batman series is bad. It's comprised of some of the stupidest ideas ever conceived, which are written down and acted out by performers who are obviously having a hard time selling the plot and dialogue to the audience. Well, except for Thurman and Schwarzenegger. Clooney, O'Donnell and Silverstone seem to think they should be in a better movie the whole time, giving performances that are wooden at best. But the two villains? They embrace the chaos.

Arnold is the master of taking a stupid role and running with it, trying to milk as much laughter from the audience as possible. His overacting is cranked up to Nicolas Cage levels here, and the result is the second-best part of the film. The first-best, of course, being Thurman. Paycheck on the line, she spouts plant-based innuendo and one-liners with pure sexual bravado, seemingly aware that everything about the role is patently stupid and embracing it. At risk of people crying sacrilege, I actually like her better here than I did in Pulp Fiction. In Tarantino's masterpiece, she sort of fulfilled a sort of subdued typical femme fatale role. Here, she just goes apeshit, pulling out all the stops and not giving a fuck. I sort of admire that.

Plus, I had a huge crush on her when I was a kid because of this movie. So there's that. Something about those fake eyelashes, man.

I rest my case.

Anyway, Batman & Robin is some seriously trashy garbage, but in the best way possible. I really like watching it anytime I get the chance, and I honestly think I've seen it more than any of the "good" Batman movies. It's just big, dumb fun from start to finish. Don't believe the negative hype, as this is a thoroughly enjoyable flick. For the right reasons? No, of course not. But who cares? If something is fun, it's fun, end of story.

Next Time: Somebody listened to Creed and Korn and decided that Arnold should be in a movie with their music. It's time for End of Days!


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