Robin: “I want a car. Chicks dig the car!”
Batman (to camera): “This is why Superman works alone!”
The fourth film in the Batman franchise achieves the impossible: it’s actually CAMPIER than the original 1960’s television series. Like the show, it’s filled with bad puns, garish colors and isn’t boring. It’s got a pretty bad reputation, but it’s fascinating to watch in a train wreck sort of way, and is at least more fun than Batman Forever. This movie borders the thin line between complete incompetence and sheer brilliance.
What’s more, every single creative decision director Joel Schumacher makes is WRONG! Have Arnold Schwarzenegger play Mr. Freeze? WRONG! Having every line that Mr. Freeze says be either a cheesy “cold”, “ice”, or “freeze” pun? WRONG! Ask George Clooney to play Batman as well… George Clooney? WRONG! Have Uma Thurman play Poison Ivy as a bad Mae West imitator? WRONG! Have Bane, one of the cooler baddies in Batman’s rouge gallery, reduced to being a mindless monosyllabic stooge? WRONG! Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl? WRONG! Have Batgirl be Alfred’s niece? WRONG! (She’s supposed to be Commissioner Gordon’s daughter.) And don’t get me started on the whole nipples on the Batsuit thing!
Despite these impossible odds, or perhaps because of them, the movie still manages to be highly entertaining. I hate to use the cliché “so bad it’s good”, but seriously if any movie was made to fit that cliché, this is it.
The flick starts out with The Dynamic Duo battling Mr. Freeze in a museum. “The Iceman Cometh!” Batman drops in and nonchalantly introduces himself. “Hi Freeze. I’m Batman.” Freeze grabs him and throws him through the air and Batman says, “Whoa!” (I’m sorry but Batman should never ever say “Whoa!”) Freeze says, “You’re not sending me to the cooler!” and sends his goons after them. “Kill the heroes! Kill them! Yes! Kill!! Yes! Destroy everything!” Yep folks, this is the kind of movie where the villains says, “Kill the heroes!” While fighting Freeze’s ice skating goons, Robin quips, “It’s a hockey team from Hell!” All I’m going to say about the ensuing fight scene is thank goodness the Batsuit is equipped with ice skates to combat them. In the meantime Freeze muses, “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” and escapes in his rocket ship. Batman tries to stop him but Freeze gets the upper hand and captures him. All I’m going to say about Freeze’s ensuing getaway is thank goodness Freeze’s suit comes equipped with wings (YES WINGS!) Meanwhile Robin saves Batman from Freeze’s rocket. All I’m going to say about their escape is thank goodness rocket ship doors double as surfboards. “Cowabunga!”
While all this nonsense is going on, Dr. Pamela Isley becomes the deadly Poison Ivy when her psycho rival (John Glover) kills her and she is resurrected as a killer plant lady whose venom filled lips can kill a man with a single kiss. “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature!” She then heads to
That night at a diamond charity auction where Batman and Robin are the guests of honor, Poison Ivy crashes the party. All I’m going to say about the way she gets everyone’s attention is that she does a striptease out of a purple gorilla suit. She puts herself up for auction and puts a spell on the two heroes by using some love dust. Batman wins the auction naturally by using his Mastercard (which is good through “FOREVER” by the way). “Never leave the cave without it!” Freeze shows up and throws cold water on the sexual innuendo. “Everybody CHILL!” Batman however gets the upper hand and apprehends him and Freeze gets whisked away to Arkham Asylum where he’s put in a refrigerated cell. “You can’t live outside the cold zone!”
Meanwhile Barbara participates in an underground motorcycle race (run by Coolio). When she’s run off a cliff, Dick swoops in at the last minute to save her. Afterwards she confides in him that Alfred is dying. Back at Arkham, Ivy shows up to spring Freeze. Bane grabs his freezing suit for him and Freeze exclaims, “A laundry service that delivers! Wow!” They head back to Freeze’s hideout where Batman and Robin are waiting. Ivy uses her love dust to have them fight over her so they can escape. She also pulls the plug on Freeze’s wife and tells him that Batman was responsible. Together they concoct a plan to freeze the planet and overrun it with plants, killing everyone else on Earth in the process, except for themselves of course. “Adam and Evil!” We also learn that Alfred has the same disease Freeze’s wife has and Freeze is the only one that can cure him.
Elsewhere Ivy convinces Robin that he’s just as good as Batman and deserves his own signal. Meanwhile Barbara hacks into Alfred’s computer, learns that Bruce and Dick are Batman and Robin, discovers the Batcave and suits up as Batgirl. Ivy lures Robin to her lair and tells him her plan before giving him a deadly kiss. Thankfully he’s wearing rubber lips (Of all the bad puns in the movie I can’t imagine why there isn’t some sort of “protection” joke here, but never mind.) and doesn’t die. She has her vines capture Batman and Robin and tries to flee, but Batgirl gets the drop on her. “Using feminine wiles to get what you want, trading on your looks, read a book sister! That passive aggressive number went out long ago! Chicks like you give women a bad name!” She cold cocks Ivy, who yells “Curses!”
Yep folks, this is the kind of movie in which the villain yells, “Curses!”
Batgirl then reveals her identity to Batman. “Batgirl? That’s not awfully PC. What about Batperson or Batwoman?” Batman, Robin, and Batgirl then don brand new silvery suits (obviously a gratuitous toy tie-in) and head down to the Gotham Observatory to stop Freeze from freezing the world. Batman confronts Freeze and tells him that it was actually Ivy who pulled the plug on his wife, who miraculously is still alive. He promises Freeze that he can still continue his work at Arkham if he cures Alfred. Freeze gives him the serum and says, “Take two of these and call me in the morning!” At Arkham he becomes Ivy’s cellmate, “Prepare for a bitter harvest! Winter has come at last!” Back at Wayne Manor, Freeze’s serum cures Alfred, who muses, “We’re going to need a bigger cave!”
In short: big budget bad movie jackpot.
After this flick flopped big time, Warner Brothers put the franchise on ice (no pun intended) for eight years until Christopher Nolan reinvented the Dark Knight with Batman Begins. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (who also co-wrote Batman Forever) incredibly would go on to win an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, but you never would have guessed that from such dialogue as “Let’s kick some ice!” Co-starring Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon, Elle MacPherson as Julie Madison and Jesse “The Body”
BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) ***
Robin: “I want a car. Chicks dig the car!”