tek's rating:

Batman & Robin (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers.

Well, this is the fourth and final installment in the original "Batman" movie franchise, and by far the most cartoonish. Like the third movie, it was directed by Joel Schumacher, but Bruce Wayne/Batman's actor once again changed; this time, he's played by George Clooney. Chris O'Donnell returns as Dick Grayson/Robin, who is getting tired of being treated like a sidekick, and wants to be treated more like a full partner to Batman. (Failing that, he might just strike out on his own.) I should say that the movie was the worst-reviewed of the franchise, with good reason. And despite making a profit, it basically killed the franchise. Though I'll also say it's the first movie since the original for which I bought the soundtrack (this time on CD rather than cassette), and despite having some decent songs by familiar artists, the song I remember best from the movie is Fun for Me by Moloko, a group I don't think I'd heard of before (or since).

Once again, there are too many villains for one film. There's Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger, though before he was cast, a lot of Bat-fans, including myself, were hoping Patrick Stewart would get the role). There's Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). And there's Bane, though his role in the film is basically just a mindless mook, unfortunately. Anyway... Mr. Freeze's backstory as Dr. Victor Fries and his motivation are familiar to Bat-fans: he wants to develop a cure for his wife's terminal illness; until a cure can be perfected, she remains in cryogenic suspension. Meanwhile, Freeze has to steal diamonds to power the cryogenic suit that keeps him alive, ever since an accident changed his biology so that he must remain at below-freezing temperatures. (I don't recall his suit being powered by diamonds in any other incarnation I've seen, but whatever.) For the most part, this movie's version of the character is best known for his terrible ice-related puns, though I suppose there is some degree of drama involved in his love for his wife. (Though this is better represented by the version in Batman: The Animated Series, and one of its spin-off films, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero.)

Meanwhile, there's a mad scientist named Dr. Jason Woodrue (John Glover, with whom I wasn't familiar the first time I saw this movie, so it was neat to recognize him upon re-watching it, now). He creates a Venom drug to turn people into supersoldiers whom he can sell to whatever evil foreign government is the highest bidder. (It's kind of like if Hydra had made Captain America.) His prototype is Bane. His assistant (though the person I think did most of the work on creating the drug) is Dr. Pamela Isley, though she had no idea what he intended to use the drug for. When she finds out, she threatens to reveal his crime, so he tries to kill her... but ends up causing her transformation into Poison Ivy, after which she kills him. And Bane becomes her mook, since he's got all the muscle. I suppose he must have been under her spell (she can make men fall literally madly in love with her with a single kiss, so they'll do anything she says). I don't recall her actually kissing him. And his mindlessness has nothing to do with Ivy's mind control; that was apparently a product of the Venom's transformation of him. (And this is the only incarnation of Bane I've ever seen that is so mindless.)

Anyway... Ivy and Bane eventually team up with Mr. Freeze, and they'll all fight Batman and Robin. (And of course, Ivy tries to control both heroes, though it works better on Robin.) Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne's girlfriend in this movie is Julie Madison (Elle Macpherson), whose role is significantly lesser than any of his love interests from the previous films. And, um... at one point, Alfred's niece, Barbara (Alicia Silverstone), comes to visit her uncle, and stays at Wayne Manor. (Dick seems to crush on her, at least until Ivy kisses him.) I remember when the movie first came out, I was upset both by the fact that Barbara had blonde hair instead of red, and that she was Alfred's niece rather than Commissioner Gordon's daughter. (But then, Commissioner Gordon has never been a particularly well-developed character in this franchise, so it's just as well.) Neither thing bothered as much this time around, since I really liked the familial chemistry Barbara has with Alfred. Which is especially important, considering a major plot point that I won't spoil... but I will say it's the most serious and dramatic aspect of the movie. But aside from that... of course Barbara eventually discovers the Batcave, and decides to become Batgirl, to help fight the villains.

That's all I want to say about the plot, I guess. I did want to mention that I thought a lot of the fight scenes looked ridiculously unrealistic. (I mean, plenty of movies can have fight scenes that look totally unrealistic, but also look cool and not at all ridiculous, IMO. This is not one of those movies.) And I dunno what else to say, except of course, thank God for Christopher Nolan.


comic book movies

Batman * Batman Returns * Batman Forever * Batman & Robin