Plot: Batman (George Clooney) is still determined to fight crime and protect his beloved Gotham City, but the adjustment to having a partner has been a tough one. Since Robin (Chris O’Donnell) has arrived and fought by his side, the two have hit a lot of friction and the relationship is a tense one. Robin wants a more active role, while Batman mopes about and seems averse to sharing the full spotlight, claiming he is worried that inexperience is a concern. But the villains of the world won’t sit on the sidelines while the bromance tries to recover and once again, several forces of evil seem poised to bring down Gotham. Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is on a warpath with his high tech ice driven attacks, a scorned botanist named Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) is on the hunt, and a mysterious beast known as Bane is also somewhere in the dark. Can the dynamic duo put aside their personal issues and defend the city together, or will the rift between them give the villains the edge they need to secure victory?
Entertainment Value: While Batman Forever took Tim Burton’s vision of Batman in a neon soaked, over the top direction, Batman & Robin dials up the camp even more and delivers the most absurd picture of the franchise. This movie was buried when it was released, but a lot of the things people disliked about the film, would become the foundation of future superhero cinema. The brisk tone with a lack of stakes, special effects as the prime focus, and broad, one liner driven humor are what made the Marvel movies global blockbusters. So while Batman & Robin will likely always be remembered as a bad movie, it does have a legacy and in failure, laid the blueprint that would take the genre to unprecedented heights. I also like the general production values, with some impressive set design and a good amount of practical effects that while a little hokey, are better than most digital effects. Arnold Schwarzenegger is here as Mr. Freeze and rattles off maybe the most one liners in villain history, all delivered in ham handed and over the top fashion. He seems to relish the camp of the movie and the absurd nature of his dialogue, which makes him fun to watch. Uma Thurman dials up the melodrama as well, while George Clooney is mostly lifeless and nondescript. But this run of Batman was always about the villains, so it isn’t an issue. This is an absurd, beyond over the top take on the comic book world, so I can see why it wasn’t well received, but for fans of bad movies, there’s a lot to soak in here.
No nakedness. In a welcome change of pace, Batman’s love life is on the back burner here, so no real romance unfolds. I appreciate that shift, even if Batman isn’t given much to do, despite one less subplot thread. But we do get a lot of fetishistic camera work that focus in on the costumes with an almost sexual zeal, so there’s a spark of lust here, but it is toward rubber molding, not naked flesh. The violence here is comic book style action, such as freezing people solid and stylized fight sequences. Some of the gadgets and set pieces are quite cool and fun to watch, thanks to good production design and attention to detail. But no bloodshed or graphic violence is present here. The dialogue is all about the one liners, with Mr. Freeze alone unleashing over 25 zingers and plenty from the cast as well. Your appreciation for puns and dad joke style humor will dictate how much you enjoy the writing, so not everyone will love the contrast stream of bad jokes. But I think it is rather humorous and seeing Schwarzenegger embrace the role and uncork one liners with such glee is fun to see. As for craziness, the costume fetish and general zaniness earn a couple points, but it mostly stays within established superhero cinema lines, just in more absurd ways than usual.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
The Disc: Warner Brothers has remastered Batman & Robin for this 4k release and Mr. Freeze has never looked so cool. The print is pristine and fine detail shines here, which is good news, since the visual design elements here are quite a sight. All the wild costumes and production design touches are visible down to the smallest of the textures, so this is a sharp, refined looking presentation. The movie’s vibrant color scheme is well handled too, with vivid and super rich hues throughout, offset by deep, accurate black levels that never waver. This is the high end visual treatment fans long to see, so for those who love the movie, this is the definitive release. The extras includes Joel Schumacher’s interesting director’s commentary track, the half hour Batman Unbound piece, the nearly hour long Batman Beyond documentary gallery, heroes & villains profile featurettes, a deleted scene, a trio of music videos, and the film’s trailer.