Tuesday, July 15, 2008


“Men, always doing things the hard way.” She’s right and she knows it. She’s got sass, spunk and a whole lotta attitude! Some would call her bossy or a pain in the bat-butt, but she’s independent, dammit! She’s gonna pay her own bills, dominate the weaker wills and kick bad guy keister straight across the hills! She’s both a clumsily portrayed modern woman and the embodiment of all that Joel Schumacher hath horribly wrought. From hardcore biker bad-girl to rubber-suited avenger goddess, she’s a firestar amidst a world of ice, snow and lame puns. Her film is Batman & Robin, her name is Batgirl and this, regretfully, is 7 Days Of The Bat – Day 5.

Well, we all knew what was coming this-a-time around. There were no illusions of classic Bat-action or intrigue. No chances of feeling anything other than resentment and spiteful hostility. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze? Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl? Batman and Robin on bat-skates? The return of the neon street gangs? Yup, we all knew what we were in for.
And yet we mostly all still showed up. Why? Cuz it’s Batman, that’s why! And a Batman film, no matter how disastrously desecrated, is still worth my $10. That is why I have money management problems... But anyways, I recall being annoyed by the repeat of the “chicks dig the car” bit (Who decided THAT was worth recycling???), and Mr. Freeze’s groan-inducing punny business, but then a funny thing happened: I began to find enjoyment in the frenzied inanity. Oh, it was awful alright, but absorbingly so. There was hardly a single moment that didn’t feel like being kicked in the crotch with steel toes, and yet I was transfixed. I was also amused how much of a recycle job it was of Batman Forever.

As with Forever, we get the same type of Warner Bros. logo /credit sequence. Then we get Batman (now with Robin) in the Batcave, with Alfred giving exposition, and the Physical Villain being introduced (Two-Face in Forever, Mr. Freeze here.) We then suffer through a lousy fight scene with said villain, in which Batman (and now Robin) end up trapped in a rapidly elevating cylinder shaped object (Safe suspended by helicopter/Rocket thing-a-majig). The villain’s flying vehicle is destroyed, and the heavy escapes by parachute/glider wings. Only this time we get sky-surfing scenes (Batman and Robin defy gravity A LOT in B&R) that is a veritable mess-hall of pixels. Villain then gets away, and so forth. Then, as Villain A is being discussed, and their intentions discovered, the Manipulative Villain (Villain B) shows up. They are bespectacled, nerdy, and obsessive about their life’s work (Brain box/Plants). They are dressed down by their wacko bosses, and mentally/physically hurt. Then there is a transformation, they kill their boss and dress in green. Now they are the Riddler/Poison Ivy. Oh, and there must always be a scene where their geeky alter-egos beg Bruce Wayne for scientific funding (He always turns them down!). I could keep on going, but I don’t want to. Brain-freeze. Though I will recommend you pay attention also to the similar simplistic reasons behind villain A&B teaming up, as well as the stunning resemblance with both Manipulative Villain’s final fates. Look, I don’t mind formulaic flicks. Just recycle the good stuff, not the insufferably dreadful.

I’m not going to highlight too many specific terrible moments. There are far too many, and this flick ain’t worth the space. So instead let’s examine the characters. Batman, as played by George Clooney, is not a far-cry from Adam West’s Batman. He’s goofy, prone to excessively light-hearted line-delivery, and not above skin-crawling gags. The Bat-Credit Card for example (Cha-Ching!). My favourite moment is when Batgirl shows up and, after Robin essentially saying “Can you keep a secret? Cool, you’re on the team!” he simply shrugs and calls out something like “Let’s go gang, we got work to do!”.

Schumacher may have not quite killed Batman, but he drove a neon stake through the heart of the Dark Knight. (The Dark Knight would never hang out at a cheesy charity ball...) Yet, as wretched as Clooney is in the cowl, he’s a pretty good Bruce Wayne. He is arguably one of the best at playing the playboy aspect of Wayne. As well, his scenes with Alfred are effective and in dire need of a watchable movie. Shame on the producers for only really using Michael Gough’s butler until this film!

Arnie’s Mr. Freeze is one cool customer. He likes to kick ice and then fill up his car... With anti-freeeeeeze! He says a lot of stupid stuff in Batman & Robin. In fact, that’s basically his whole character. Well, there is the dying/frozen wife thing but the film’s campiness takes a baseball bat to the knees of any encroaching poignancy. To this day I am baffled by the scene in which he leads his ridiculously attired henchmen (Another swipe from Forever) in a sing-a-long to an old frozen dessert jingle. Is this guy a brilliant, evil scientist or a brain-damaged man-child? Only Schumacher knows for sure. Mr. Freeze does look kinda... cool, with his icy blue and silver muscle suit, but he loses all potential fearsomeness once he bellows “The Iceman Cometh!”. Schwarzenegger is fine, I suppose. I mean he does what he can with sub-Conan The Destroyer material, but he's completely miscast. Patrick Stewart or Ben Kingsley would have been a better choice. Basically someone who could play "smart".

Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy is another misstep, as she is a complete rip-off of Catwoman. Demure, neurotic professional woman? Yup. Pushed to her doom by a weirdo boss? Double yup. Awoken by her catalyst of choice (Plants/Cats) and reborn as a sexually dominant femme fatale? Triple yup. Manipulates a bigger, stronger ally? Quadruple yup. Draws the romantic interest of Batman? Well, you get the point. She also uses a whip (Okay, fine, a long vine. But it cracks all the same!) as a weapon! But while Catwoman was a worthy opponent, Poison Ivy is just really, really tiresome. There are, like, 75 shots of her love-vapours drifting around the screen. And, just to add that extra injection of irritation, her scenes are accompanied by ghastly quasi-After Hours jazz music. Oh, and her sidekick Bane is a waste of a potentially cool character. He could have just been called “retarded hanger-on”.

Chris O’Donnell takes his semi-okay Robin from Forever, and makes him a whining snot. No really, this guy cries more than an over-tired girl scout. And his weird come-ons aimed at Batgirl? Creepy.
Ah, Batgirl. What can I say? Alicia Silverstone. Street-racing. Martial arts combat. Please. I don’t even know how much to blame the actress, as she shouldn’t have been cast (Along with Elle MacPherson), and the fact that, as a character, Batgirl sucks. I love how all she has to do is discover the Bat-cave and she’s immediately promoted to de-facto super-heroine. What if MacPherson’s Julie Madison had found it too? Would she then be the Huntress? Or what about Commissioner Gordon? The Oracle? Yeesh. And despite no formal training she’s immediately given a suit and sent to battle three insane madmen bent on world domination. Jesus...

The entire film can basically be summed up by its repeated Bat-ass/crotch/nipple/breasts shots. Ooooh! Also its super-human cod-pieces. I have this icky feeling that Joel Schumacher was only using the franchise to advertize his own personal fetishes. Regardless, I have made it my first order of business to avoid the man, at all costs, for the rest of my shameful existence. At one point Batgirl asks Robin “What should we do now?” to which the Boy Wonder curtly responds “Pray!”. I imagine there was a lot of praying going on in the audience for a future when Batman flicks wouldn’t make their eyes bleed. Well, those prayers were answered. But that is another story, for another day...


Best Bat-Dispatch:
That inexplicable scene where Batman crashes through Mr. Freeze’s vehicle’s wind-shield, followed by a cut to Batman standing over Freeze, enveloping him in his cape. It’s like he’s incubating him or something. Maybe he mistook his shiny blue head as a Dodo egg...

Best Villain-Dispatch:
When Mr. Freeze grabs a security guard’s head, and uses it to pummel another guard in the face.

Best Lines:
“In this universe, there's only one absolute... everything freezes!”– Mr. Freeze, apparently having never encountered Twinkies.
“BOMB! BOMB! BOMB!” – Bane

-Street gang dressed like the Clockwork Orange thugs at motorcycle race.
-Bane’s creation scene echoes the classic Frankenstein.
-Riddler & Two-Face costumes hang in Arkham Asylum. Do ya think they went to all the effort of dredging Two-Face’s watery grave simply for his duds?
-Ivy’s pet plant is an homage to Little Shop Of Horrors.
- Dr. Jason Woodrue (Ivy’s evil boss) appeared in DC Comics as another plant themed super-villain called The Floronic Man.Yup.
-Governor (and Predator co-star) Jesse Ventura plays an Arkham prison guard.

Worst moment:
-Aforementioned commercial jingle sing-a-long with tragic misuse of Vivica A. Fox.
-The Bat-Credit Card. Expiration: Forever. *Barfs*
-Robin leaving a Robin-logo-shaped hole in the wall after crashing through the museum wall on his motorcycle.
-Elizabeth Sanders (Bob Kane’s widow) as Gossip Gerty. Acting lessons, stat!

Success As A Batman Film:
1 out of 5

Success As A Film:
1.5 out of 5

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