Batman & Robin, 25 Years Later: Embrace the Cheese
If ever there was a year that could be called the year of the summer blockbuster, it would almost certainly be 1997. Not only was it the year of men in black, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and Air Force Oneit was also the mainstream peak of the craziest career an actor has ever had, as Nicholas Cage would give us both Air conditioning and Front/Off. Not only were these films smash hits in financial terms, but they were also well-crafted films that, in most cases, are still beloved to this day. Also released that summer was perhaps one of the most infamous films ever made: Joel Schumacher batman and robin.
All of whom were about four years old in the summer of 1997, batman and robin was a movie I wouldn’t see for myself until much later in life. But it was one that I inevitably heard about, usually in a way that almost felt like I was hearing about an urban legend: a film of almost mythical levels of horror, which made a superhero whose name practically meant “cool” a laughing stock. and turned a fairly successful movie franchise into the Hollywood equivalent of radioactive waste. So when I first took the plunge and saw batman and robin somewhere in the stadium five years ago, I was prepared for the worst.
And… honestly, I loved every minute of it. Mind you, I was cracking up in laughter pretty much the whole time, but there was hardly a time when I wasn’t completely amused. Yes, by virtually all metrics batman and robin is an awful movie. This is the movie that topped Empire’s readers’ vote list.”50 worst movies ever made“. It’s a movie that one of our own screenwriters called “one of the worst, maybe the worst, blockbuster of the 90s.” It’s a film that Joel Schumacher has thoroughly apologized for the manufacture.
But it’s also a film that not only dares to say that there might be something a little absurd about a rich man who spends his nights dressing up as a bat to fight off criminals, but that absurdity is something that should be fully embraced and celebrated. . It’s a completely ridiculous movie that wears its ridiculousness like a badge of honor. And finally, it’s a film that in 2022 is a bizarrely refreshing antidote to modern superhero movies, as the genre feels increasingly weighed down by the need to try and establish itself as more serious fare.
batman forever found Joel Schumacher mixing the campy tone of ’60s Batman with the gothic grandeur of ’80s Batman, drenching it all in neon and letting Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey loose to see who could chew up the most scenery. batman and robin is the same formula turned into full-fledged madness. When you get about a quarter into the film to see Uma Thurman perform a slapstick dance while sensually stripping off a gorilla costume, then about five minutes later find Batman and Robin in the midst of a bidding war for her crowned affections. by Batman pulling a themed credit card from his utility belt and joking “never leave the cave without it”, you realize we didn’t just jump the shark, we jumped the explosive shark that Adam West got into barely escaped the 60s with the help of his faithful Shark repellent spray-seriously, 60s Batman is a true masterpiece, and if you haven’t watched it already, you are doing it disservice yourself.
The film feels like a constant game of climbing, continually outdoing itself in daring and ridiculousness: we go from Robin crashing through a museum gate on his motorbike and leaving behind a perfect silhouette of the Robin symbol to Mr. Freeze freezing a skeleton dinosaur and shouting “What killed the dinosaurs?” Ice Age!” to Batman and Robin surfing through the air on the broken doors of a space capsule to somehow survive a thirty-thousand-foot drop in about five minutes. The characters – finally , rather caricatures – are equally ridiculous, of George Clooney’s Batman – the third actor take on the role in the same franchise and same continuity – to Uma Thurman’s “Mae West but somehow After provocative” takes on Poison Ivy in a version of Bane who is essentially Frankenstein’s monster in a luchador mask, and the city of Gotham they all inhabit feels more like an entertainment house than an actual city. Roads zigzag past each other for miles above the ground, giant statues seemingly adorn every building, and the ground level appears to be overrun with gangs of metrosexual bikers. It’s not so much a tonal boost as an assault on any part of your brain trying to logically process what you see, all you can do is hope to hold on from moment to moment. the other.
Meanwhile, we find ourselves asking questions throughout the film: how is Alfred, who is apparently dying– able to not only record a message for Barbara in anticipation of her discovery of the Batcave, but also make her a perfectly fitting Batgirl costume? Why did Mr. Freeze decide that his gang’s aesthetic would be “a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-style biker gang on ice skates with Slipknot masks and skull pieces”? Did Batman, in full suit, go down to the Bank of Gotham to ask for his credit card? None of these questions are ever explored, leaving an almost existential sense of awe and horror at the depth of the rabbit hole of absurdity.
Watching batman and robin now, twenty-five years after its release, it’s more than understandable that it was the film that killed the Batman film franchise for nearly a decade. The character was well into the dark and serious phase of his existence, ignited by both Frank Miller Return of the Dark Knight and the first two Batman films, and between those of Arnold Schwarzenegger increasingly horrible puns and the sadly prominent nipples on the Batsuit, batman and robin is a movie that sometimes feels like it’s making fun of you for trying to take anything seriously.
So why do I like this movie? It’s certainly partly a matter of taste – I’m definitely someone who’s been known to relish an objectively bad movie once in a while. It’s partly a matter of waiting…after hearing how wrong it was so long ago, it was a movie that I approached in the mindset of not taking anything seriously and embracing the badness of it all.
But, part of that is almost certainly that I’m a bit exhausted by the current state of superhero movies, which currently feel like they’re in their late teens/early twenties.”we demand to be taken seriously” phase. The current batch of messages Infinite War/End of Game MCU films feel particularly guilty about this: the fun seems to be abandoned in favor of stories centered on its heroes trying to deal with the consequences of mass trauma, the films begin to be overloaded as multi-hero crossovers become the norm instead of a novelty, and most glaring of all, each movie has an inevitable feel of being part of some kind of installment plan, requiring you to invest your future money and time to see what comes next or how it fits into the bigger picture that might only take shape years all along the line. It’s to the point that movies are retroactively is part of the cinematic universes – Michael Keaton’s version of Batman is set to return in the next Glow film as part of a “multiversal adventure” to bring his version of the character into the DC Extended Universe.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still absolutely to like the MCU and its films, Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in particular is one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. But I can’t deny how refreshing it is to watch a movie that doesn’t feel like you want anything more than to enjoy it. There’s no TV series I have to watch to find out what’s going on, and even if it ends with a typical “the Dynamic Trio are off on more adventures!” turned, there’s no lingering sense of “wait five years to see how it all comes together, it’ll be super cool, we promise!”
As for Batman, there’s an argument to be made that out of those first four films, batman and robin is the one that continues to have the most influence on the cinematic incarnations of Batman, in an entirely negative sense: each version of Batman on film has become darker and more quote, “realistic” in an attempt to distance yourself from any chance of approaching batman and robinThe campy tone of – in particular, the Bale-directed trilogy seemed to go out of its way to spend time giving technical explanations of all its gimmicks in an attempt to feel more grounded. Again, I’ve always loved these movies…The Batman in particular is another one of my personal favorites. But there is more than a little truth in what was noted in an opinion From the Movie: Somewhere along the line, someone decided that Batman movies shouldn’t be fun anymore.
batman and robin captures something that feels increasingly lost in modern superhero movies: a sense of escapism, of creating a world with only a passing resemblance to our own that can take you completely away from reality for a hour and a half. Sometimes, perhaps selfishly, I don’t want a superhero movie trying to deal with the trauma of a massive, cataclysmic event when everyone i know tries to cope with the trauma of a massive real-life cataclysmic event.
batman and robin is certainly what most people would consider a bad movie. But what a gloriously bad movie it is. It’s not just a bad superhero movie: it’s the better bad superhero movie ever made. It is the equivalent of the kind of The Rocky Horror Picture Show—both one camp masterpiece and a celebration of the absurdity inherent in its source material. It’s also a film that increasingly feels like a relic of a bygone era. While I hope Thor: Love and Thunder is the beginning of the MCU starting to move from the lingering trauma of Infinity War/Endgame, future Batman movies will almost certainly stay firmly in the realm of dark, dark, and intense. I’m not asking anyone else to like or even necessarily enjoy batman and robin, but if you ditch your expectations and enjoy it for what it is – an hour and a half of cheesy, campy, clinically insane fun– so who knows: you might find it funnier than you remember.