Batman & Robin (1997)

(On TV, March 2000) If someone with only a superficial knowledge of -and no particular affection for- comics books set out to do a big-big-big budget blockbuster, s/he probably wouldn’t do worse than Joel Shumaker’s Batman & Robin. Let’s get all the positive out of the way first: The set design is fabulous, and none of the actors really embarrass themselves with the material they’re given. The rest of the film is pure trash. The scenario makes no attempt to be smarter than the average adult’s worst prejudices about comic books they never read. The dialogue is almost uniquely composed of one-liners, and they’re so lame that the audience laughs at them, not with them. The direction shows occasional blips of interest, but usually seems unaccountably off by some ill-defined degree. The film is shot in one of the most garish, less visually attractive neon-on-black colour scheme you’ll ever see. Subplots abound, and strangle each other in an effort to get some recognition. But in all its awfulness, Batman &  Robin attains some kind of bad-movie nirvana of compulsive watchability. How worse can it become, after its first moronic fifteen minutes? Not much, but you can’t stop watching. A surefire candidate for a home-grown group MST3K session.

(Second viewing, On DVD, April 2010) An extra decade hasn’t been kind on this film, which is just as terrible now as when it first escaped in theaters.  Yes, there is a lot of work in what’s shown on-screen… but the childish script, overdone set design and garish cinematography quickly kill off any interest we could have in the rest.  If the 2005 DVD re-issue has a saving grace beyond the lavish making-of featurettes, it’s that the filmmakers seem to have an idea that the film wasn’t well received, and (for what it’s worth), director Schumaker half-apologizes to those (read; everyone) who were disappointed in the film.

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