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Batman and Robin 1997

Bat George Clooney

Batman and Robin - 1997

Batman and Robin - released June 20, 1997

Directed by Joel Schumacher
Written by Lee Batchler
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone

Production budget: $125,000,000

Box Office:
Domestic American market earnings $107,325,195
Foreign market earnings $130,881,927
Total worldwide haul: $238,207,122


Batman and Robin: A Legendary Movie Production

I saw Batman and Robin on opening day in 1997. Accompanied by a rabid Batman comic book fan of long acquaintance, we expected something along the lines of the Val Kilmer Batman Forever. And why not? It was directed by the same guy, Joel Schumacher, and seemed to be in the same vein. We weren't big fans of that film, and could spend a lot of time picking it apart, but it still left us unprepared for the shock of Batman and Robin. Afterward, my friend walked out of the theatre very angry, and I walked out shaking my head... they had spent a fortune on making a badly modernized (probably unintentional, but who knows?) totally-missing-the-point imitation of the Adam West TV Batman but without the fun, all wrapped up in sitcom TV family dynamics.

George Clooney has spent decades now apologizing for the film whenever it is brought up, but the problem in the movie isn't Clooney (or anyone else in the cast), but in the script and art design.

A person might say the movie is not subtle, but that misses the point, which isn't that it is loaded with over-the-top acting (for example Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy), or that the screen is an eyesore of garish colors that says this is a "Las Vegas imitation of comic book colors." Instead, in Batman and Robin the Batman element is dialed down (or maybe dialed up, take your pick) until it just isn't Batman anymore, it's a celebrity wearing a goofy, silvery Vegas bat-suit and surrounded by faceless criminal goons sporting guns wrapped in neon colored piping, grunting and running around creating a fake impression that some nefarious activity is happening worthy of Batman's crime-fighting attention, but it isn't, we're watching a vibrating, clamoring, stage musical without songs, with swirling stage smoke and expensive set design.

On it's own Batman and Robin is visually astounding, but like an over-amped Broadway show, the story feels like a pretense for the staging. Thin scripting is hardly out-of-bounds for an action movie which can often use the story just as a springboard for combat and explosions, but in Batman and Robin we don't seem to ever get an actual action movie, rather we have special effects that come across as TV commercials for Bat-toys, inserted into a silvery-fog-machine of a plot. In the end it seems recognizable as a Batman tale only through imitation of the old Adam West Batman TV show by way of clowning Tim Burton's previous take on Bats, plus a few elements found in DC's Batman comic books.

As phony as the movie is, the filmmakers try to have a human element and I can't say it helps or hurts, it just seems like the natural course of a plot trying to function as a legitimate Hollywood feature film: it's tough for Babs Gordon and Dick Grayson in the shadow of The Batman because they're young and immature. There's also some emotional blackmail in the story: Alfred the Butler (Michael Gough) is possibly terminally ill. He's sick through most of the film, a substory that seems out of place compared to the baloney in the rest of the movie (and has caused some reviewers to say "he's sick because he's in this film").

Clooney, and this is where the script has him boxed into an unwinnable corner, seems saddled with playing Batman not as the frightening crime fighter dressed as a demonic human bat coming down off rooftops like a supernatural force to scare crooks within an inch of their lives just on appearances alone, but instead Clooney is "Bat-Dad" who tries to sort out all the melodrama of Chris O'Donnell and Alicia Silvertsone co-existing in his mansion, struggling with family issues, but his "family-time" is damaged by the menageries of goofy villains running loose (Mr.Freeze, Bane, Poison Ivy) until the last moment and the pro-forma climax.

If we can say something positive about the film, it is that great care was taken in the CGI effects. Did someone want the Batmobile and other Bat-devices to be presented in the right way, to maximize toy sales? If so, that's probably the main testimony as to what is wrong with this movie, it's really a commercial for a different industry's revenue-stream.


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Original Page June 2014 | Updated Feb 2023