Batman and Robin

Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah.

It’s really a shame that Evita did not bring about the predicted resurgence of interest in big budget Hollywood musicals. Joel Schumacher should really be directing elaborate song and dance numbers, because that is where his true talents (and interests) seem to lie. He should not, however, under any circumstances be allowed to helm another alleged action/adventure film. He lacks the slightest understanding of how to maintain suspense. He also has no idea of how to properly shoot a fight scene – which is surprising, since shooting a dance number is a similar challenge. Come to think of it, maybe Schumacher should stick to music videos, teen idol movies, and gay porn.

Not that Schumacher’s direction is the sole reason that Batman and Robin is a disappointment – much like the later entries in the Superman series, it appears that no one involved in the production has the slightest idea what the character is all about. In an effort to keep up audience interest, they think all they have to do is pile on more costumes, more giant sets, and more characters – in fact, the title should really be Batman and Robin and Poison Ivy and Batgirl and Mr. Freeze and Alfred and Bane. They think that comic book source material demands camp, juvenility and glitter. What they really need is a script with depth and substance. The only scenes that even approach any involvement are tainted – such as when Bruce Wayne (George Clooney) and his lifelong friend Alfred (Michael Gough) share a few moments of compassion, only to have the mood ruined by the revelation that Alfred is afflicted with the phony “McGregor’s Disease”.

Admittedly, the fourth Batman film is not as big a bomb as the previous entry, Batman Forever (an embarrassing mess which concerned itself almost solely with the Riddler’s unrequited crush on Bruce Wayne). Actually, individual elements are often quite entertaining: Arnold Schwarzenegger adds both menace and pathos to his role as Mr. Freeze, who holds Gotham City hostage in an attempt to extort funds to save his dying wife. Batman and Alfred continue to struggle with the presence of Robin (Chris O’Donnell, doing his best to recall Burt Ward) in their lives. Uma Thurman makes a good Poison Ivy, adding shimmer to the role of a relatively unknown member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery. The problem is that none of these intriguing facets is fully explored before a less compelling facet tries to wrestle away the spotlight. Do the producers really expect us to swallow Alicia Silverstone’s overnight transformation from schoolgirl to Batgirl? Or the fact that super-strong villain Bane (who snapped Batman’s spine in the comics) can break through walls but can’t break Robin’s neck when he gets his hands on it?

No, they believe that when watching a movie based on a comic that the audience wants a living cartoon in which Robin can break through a door and leave a hole in it shaped like his logo (conversely, the current Batman TV cartoon does an excellent job in maintaining the proper atmosphere). But they’re wrong, and we can only hope they’ll learn that some day.

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