Bat Movies Part 2: Batman Forever & Batman & Robin

Let's stop here, this is Bat Movies: a five part article series exploring the films and cultural impact of Bruce Wayne and his night moves as justice-dispensing vigilante. In this second installment: Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.


The summer of 1995 produced a particularly bountiful yield of American nonsense for my juvescent ripe mind: Mortal Kombat, Bad Boys, Batman Forever. This new Batman represented Warner Bros attempt to rebrand the franchise as family-friendly and, though I dislike Hollywood's advertorial, quadrant-specific filmmaking, it worked like gangbusters: it got me and my dumbass friends into the theaters. What also helped was the "empire of media" I described yesterday, wherein a TV show or video game (Sega Genesis version of The Adventures of Batman & Robin, highly recommended) could have a longer lasting influence than the movies themselves. The daily offering of Batman erased all memory of Batman Returns, I'm sure to WB's delight.

Having now seen Batman Forever for the first time since the Clinton era, it's apparent the studio modeled this movie after The Animated Series. Forever wastes no time with money shots of the new Batsuit and Batmobile, amping up the audience from the get-go, a deliberate move away from Burton's method of keeping Batman in the shadows and building up anticipation to his first appearance. Forever also hews closely to the cartoon's characterization of Bruce Wayne as millionaire playboy: He immediately gets a beautiful blonde tacked to his arm (Dr. Chase Meridian, played by Nicole Kidman) for star-studded galas, and he is also shown working at Wayne Enterprises. When played by Michael Keaton, Wayne wasn't much beyond a creepy loner who sits in his house with the lights off, who apparently doesn't have to work very hard to maintain the empire.

The Riddler's origin stems directly from an unpleasant encounter with Bruce at a Wayne Enterprises laboratory. The villain then goes on to taunt both Wayne and Batman, unknowing they're the same person. In the Burton films, Bruce Wayne, the man, never had a consistent physical threat, so Edward Nigma (Jim Carrey) antagonizing Wayne with riddles is a credible way to keep the action going when Bruce is out of the cowl.

In terms of pure popcorn entertainment, Forever probably delivers the most out of the Bat movies. Granted, I find Schumacher's design tastes garish beyond belief, but the action rarely lets up and when it does, the romance is soapy enough to make Gotham's ugly world feel right. Special mention must be made to Chris O'Donnell as Robin, who has always been such a pointless and annoying character. He's the Poochie of Batman movies. Sample line from a WB board meeting circa 1995: "If we want to hit the four quadrants, we gotta grungify this movie by 10%."

Filming was troubled. Schumacher called Jim Carrey a gentleman, but had more choice words for the rest of the cast. Kilmer was difficult as Schumacher tells it, while Tommy Lee Jones is "overpaid, overprivleged." I can see why Jones would be extra curmudgeonly on the Forever set: Carrey stole the show, and not in a way as though Carrey outperformed Jones. Schumacher was quite content to let Carrey carry on for as long as he liked, giving Jones not much to work with. The Riddler's mania completely eats up the screen and thuse Jones is forced in kind to use broad theatrics and idiotic mugging to even have a place onscreen. I seent it: That day, beneath the eyes of Tommy Lee Jones there was a cauldron of seething contempt for this damn movie.

And speaking of contempt...


I have a Reverse Bucket List, aka the things I never want to do before I die. Stuff like contracting the ebola virus, falling into a mouse trap delivery truck, or calling AT&T customer service. Above all those: Never ever watch Batman & Robin. But indeed I now have and oh, my goodness. It's soooo bad but soooo good. The contempt Schumacher had for his audience...I can't even fathom it. At what point between Batman Forever and Batman & Robin did he pick up the idea that the world will eat up whatever slop he throws at it?

Batman Forever was a decent movie always on the verge of turning lousy (it jumped the shark with that execrable "holey rusted mountain" line) but Batman & Robin is camp to the core. I urge you to watch this at your earliest convenience. I'm not much of an ironic movie viewer, but this movie is so transcendentally stupid, so sublimely miscast that I feel a tingle of sadness for those who were anticipating it and saw it in theaters. You were burned and perhaps can never distance yourself objectively to witness this comedy goldmine for what it is.

Any semblance of real world physics is tossed out the window, every piece of dialogue is a worthless one-liner or cliché platitude. They couldn't resist the Alfred-is-old, Alfred-gets-cancer subplot! Alicia Silverstone mumbles everything. George Clooney doesn't even have a Batman voice -- he looks and sounds like ER doctor guy playing dress-up. And Arnold Schwarzenegger, bless him for delivering the worst lines ever in the worst way possible. It's just...beautiful.

In one way, it certain gives insight into the movie making process. Want to see how a bunch of A-list actors appear on their first, unrehearsed takes? Now you can: They were all used in the movie. No wonder Joel Schumacher finished shooting this movie two weeks ahead of schedule.

This is like the Zardoz of superhero movies and I was grinning like a moron the whole way through.

Comments

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Shit.

Jul 18 - 04:49 PM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

Well, B&R was shit times 100.

Jul 18 - 04:59 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

I remember enjoying BATMAN FOREVER with my family . . . its sooooooo long ago. BATMAN & ROBIN is incoherent crap; NOBODY LIKES BATMAN & ROBIN. ( . . . Grindhouse Releasing AND Sage Stallone FOREVER!!!!!!!!)

Jul 19 - 07:59 AM

Norman Dostal

Norman Dostal

who is sage stallone?

Jul 19 - 02:10 PM

Shawn Prime

Shawn Prime

Some dead guy.

Jul 19 - 05:32 PM

Mike Y.

Mike Young

He was the son of Sylvester Stallone, he also played his son in Rocky V! He just died recently.

Jul 21 - 07:06 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

More Facebook punks giving RT a classless rep in the news...

Jul 19 - 08:07 PM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

Well, B&R was shit times 100.

Jul 18 - 04:59 PM

Skyler Jokiel

Skyler Jokiel

Nipple Costume!!! lol

Jul 18 - 05:12 PM

Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Yes, I did see a nipple on Robin's costume!!! It's as if Katie Holmes falling in love with Batman thinking she looking at Tom Cruse!!!

Jul 18 - 05:30 PM

mastershake616

Tanner Kish

Good article, but I'm not on board with the whole "Batman & Robin is so bad it's good" bandwagon. It's bad, and it ends there. It's an insult to the source material and the viewer. WB enabled Schumacher every step of the way- which is why it is so insulting. I'm only 19, Batman & Robin was released when I was just 4, so obviously I don't recall the hype leading up to it nor the pissed off reactions it gathered. If the hype was anything like it is now for these comic book sagas, then B&R may very well have been, at the time, the worst major release out of Hollywood of all time.

Also, I have gone back and re-watched this film, and I can't say I felt the same way you did throughout. The reason I did this was so that I could share the same sentiments you had, but, honestly, I was bored throughout and didn't find much funny about the package other than Arnold's ridiculous one-liners. Going back and viewing this film is a waste of the precious time we are given on this planet, kinda like opening a carton of 15-year old spoiled milk and drinking it because you'll think it'll be funny. In essence, though, you're just torturing yourself.

Jul 18 - 05:14 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

I was eleven when Batman and Robin came out and I loved it. I think the problem is, it's a kid's movie. If I go back and watch it right now, I know I'll hate absolutely everything about it and ruin the memory of when I was actually excited just to be seeing the new Batman movie in theaters. Yes, it's a terrible movie. You don't have to be so cynical though. Most of you were probably kids when it came out and you can't tell me that the eight or nine year old version of yourself didn't love that movie.

Jul 18 - 05:50 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

Oh, and mastershake, that comment wasn't directed at you. My mouse is broken and it just happened to highlight reply under yours when I stopped hitting tab.

Jul 18 - 05:52 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

I think there's plenty of cause to be cynical about this movie. The reasoning being, it was a movie where the director, producers and studio blatantly had no respect for their audience or the cast. It's the closest thing to grand larceny Hollywood ever committed. They stole people's money with this movie and had no remorse for doing it. This movie itself was a deliberately cynical act on behalf of WB and Schumaker and there's nothing wrong with the people who were robbed of their time and money responding to it as such.

Jul 18 - 06:12 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

What you just said is basically the definition of a movie for kids. It's the Batman equivalent of Ice Age 9 or Shrek 47. A crappy excuse for a movie made solely to sell toys. I'm not really defending it in any way. When I was eleven I took it for what it is. Just stupid "entertainment" (and believe me, that word would not be at the forefront of my vocabulary if I watched it again 15 years later). I just try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible, but when it's brought up I don't let it ruin my day. Just don't make me watch it again. lol

Jul 18 - 06:20 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

I think my biggest complaint about Batman and Robin (apart from the whole tone and look of the movie) is Mr. Freeze. The animated series finally evolved him from being a mostly one dimensional villain who made puns about ice almost constantly to a layered, tragic character that you almost wanted to see succeed as much as you wanted Batman to kick his ass. lol Then this movie comes along and I hear ICE PUNS!!!! There really was so much potential for a moving story involving him and they wasted it.

Jul 18 - 06:29 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Yeah, the problem I had was none of the previous movie's took that tone and it wasn't advertised as what it was. People had certain expectations from a Batman movie I think and this failed to meet any of them. Plus, this came out right on the heels of Batman the Animated series which showed you could do something essentially for kids that time has shown they can still enjoy 20 years later. I don't let it ruin my day anymore either, though it certainly did when I saw it the first time. Arnolds Freeze was the only part of the movie I felt met the "So bad, it's good criteria." He seemed to realize it was camp and Schwarzennegger knows how to play camp.

Jul 18 - 08:59 PM

King  S.

King Simba

Agreed with Bigbrother. Batman and Robin represents the hollywood blockbuster at its worst. I have no problem with a film selling a lot of toys, but Batman and Robin felt like a film made only to sell toys. Even the cast complained that it felt like they were just doing a big toy commecial, while Schumacher would reportedly just sit there behind the microphane yelling "remember, this isn't real guys!" At least Batman Forever tried to have some depth to it.

Jul 19 - 12:19 AM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

I was, I think, 8 or 9 when this movie came out. I was a big, big fan of Burton's original and especially Returns, and I FUCKING HATED every second of this piece of shit, even back then. Forever I remember disliking but finding it somewhat tolerable cos of Jim Carrey, but this.... fuck Mr. Freeze, Ahnold forever ruined that character for me.

Jul 18 - 06:49 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

Then you have to play Arkham City if you haven't already. The fight with Mr. Freeze is fucking amazing!

Jul 18 - 06:58 PM

Jesse Leon Rodgers Jr

Jesse Leon Rodgers Jr

Exactly. I loved it...when I was 12.

Jul 18 - 09:43 PM

Will Hyland

Will Hyland

I disagree. It's disrespectful to the source material IF you go in expecting dark Batman. If you go in expecting gloriously campy, Adam West-esque high-tech hijinks, complete with a punning Ahnuld and craptastic one-liners, you can actually have a lot of dumb fun watching it. It's not a good movie, but it has the wonderful trainwreck quality that also is in movies like Flash Gordon.

Jul 19 - 01:43 PM

Layton Eversaul

Layton Eversaul

The title for the article reads "Batman Forever & Batman Returns", not Batman & Robin.

Jul 18 - 05:21 PM

Lowell Renold

Lowell Renold

I like Batman Forever. Sure, it's not the best Batman movie in the franchise, but it's pretty decent and fun to watch. Besides, it's The Godfather compared to Batman and Robin.

Jul 18 - 05:26 PM

AccursedArachnid

Accursed Arachnid

Totally agree. Batman Forever has a few cringe inducing moments(Butt-shot anyone?, but I'd watch it 1000 times before I'd ever watch Batman and Robin again. I'm in that "old enough to feel like I was stabbed in the back by WB" group. There was not one redeeming aspect to Batman and Robin. It is simply the worst film I've ever watched in the theater and one of the worst experiences of my life. If I could find every copy and burn it, I would.

Jul 18 - 11:45 PM

Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Yes, I did see a nipple on Robin's costume!!! It's as if Katie Holmes falling in love with Batman thinking she looking at Tom Cruse!!!

Jul 18 - 05:30 PM

Joshua Henderson

Joshua Henderson

The horrible ones.

Jul 18 - 05:31 PM

Alison A.

Alison Anzrin

Batman: capable of being so awesome on moment, and doing something so embarassing and ass-backwards it embarasses its ancestors the next.

Jul 18 - 05:35 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

I was eleven when Batman and Robin came out and I loved it. I think the problem is, it's a kid's movie. If I go back and watch it right now, I know I'll hate absolutely everything about it and ruin the memory of when I was actually excited just to be seeing the new Batman movie in theaters. Yes, it's a terrible movie. You don't have to be so cynical though. Most of you were probably kids when it came out and you can't tell me that the eight or nine year old version of yourself didn't love that movie.

Jul 18 - 05:50 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

Oh, and mastershake, that comment wasn't directed at you. My mouse is broken and it just happened to highlight reply under yours when I stopped hitting tab.

Jul 18 - 05:52 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

I think there's plenty of cause to be cynical about this movie. The reasoning being, it was a movie where the director, producers and studio blatantly had no respect for their audience or the cast. It's the closest thing to grand larceny Hollywood ever committed. They stole people's money with this movie and had no remorse for doing it. This movie itself was a deliberately cynical act on behalf of WB and Schumaker and there's nothing wrong with the people who were robbed of their time and money responding to it as such.

Jul 18 - 06:12 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

What you just said is basically the definition of a movie for kids. It's the Batman equivalent of Ice Age 9 or Shrek 47. A crappy excuse for a movie made solely to sell toys. I'm not really defending it in any way. When I was eleven I took it for what it is. Just stupid "entertainment" (and believe me, that word would not be at the forefront of my vocabulary if I watched it again 15 years later). I just try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible, but when it's brought up I don't let it ruin my day. Just don't make me watch it again. lol

Jul 18 - 06:20 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

I think my biggest complaint about Batman and Robin (apart from the whole tone and look of the movie) is Mr. Freeze. The animated series finally evolved him from being a mostly one dimensional villain who made puns about ice almost constantly to a layered, tragic character that you almost wanted to see succeed as much as you wanted Batman to kick his ass. lol Then this movie comes along and I hear ICE PUNS!!!! There really was so much potential for a moving story involving him and they wasted it.

Jul 18 - 06:29 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Yeah, the problem I had was none of the previous movie's took that tone and it wasn't advertised as what it was. People had certain expectations from a Batman movie I think and this failed to meet any of them. Plus, this came out right on the heels of Batman the Animated series which showed you could do something essentially for kids that time has shown they can still enjoy 20 years later. I don't let it ruin my day anymore either, though it certainly did when I saw it the first time. Arnolds Freeze was the only part of the movie I felt met the "So bad, it's good criteria." He seemed to realize it was camp and Schwarzennegger knows how to play camp.

Jul 18 - 08:59 PM

King  S.

King Simba

Agreed with Bigbrother. Batman and Robin represents the hollywood blockbuster at its worst. I have no problem with a film selling a lot of toys, but Batman and Robin felt like a film made only to sell toys. Even the cast complained that it felt like they were just doing a big toy commecial, while Schumacher would reportedly just sit there behind the microphane yelling "remember, this isn't real guys!" At least Batman Forever tried to have some depth to it.

Jul 19 - 12:19 AM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

I was, I think, 8 or 9 when this movie came out. I was a big, big fan of Burton's original and especially Returns, and I FUCKING HATED every second of this piece of shit, even back then. Forever I remember disliking but finding it somewhat tolerable cos of Jim Carrey, but this.... fuck Mr. Freeze, Ahnold forever ruined that character for me.

Jul 18 - 06:49 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

Then you have to play Arkham City if you haven't already. The fight with Mr. Freeze is fucking amazing!

Jul 18 - 06:58 PM

Jesse Leon Rodgers Jr

Jesse Leon Rodgers Jr

Exactly. I loved it...when I was 12.

Jul 18 - 09:43 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

Oh, and mastershake, that comment wasn't directed at you. My mouse is broken and it just happened to highlight reply under yours when I stopped hitting tab.

Jul 18 - 05:52 PM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

When I saw BATMAN FOREVER in the theater back in the summer of 1995, I was a rebellious 15-year-old who saw anything and everything at the theater. My thoughts then:

1) Kilmer was doing a perfectly ok job, but I missed the darker Keaton

2) As much as Jim Carrey is trying, he's still no Frank Gorshin (the latter was nominated for an Emmy for his version of the Riddler...and for good reason!)

3) Where can I get some of that coke Tommy Lee Jones snorted before playing Two-Face?

4) Holy Grayson! Where the f*ck is Burt Ward when you need him?

5) A double dose of Kidman's cleavage, after TO DIE FOR, was more than enough to compensate for the Lite-Brite Gotham City

As for BATMAN & ROBIN, I got a migraine 20 minutes into the film. I should have left, but I decided to endure the torture after paying for the ticket (I know, I know!). I remember very little from that day, and I have no intention of giving the film a second chance. Seriously, if you're going to adapt the 1960s series to the big screen, hire Lorenzo Semple, Jr. and not Akiva Goldsman (WTF???) and cast anyone--and I mean ANYONE---other than Alicia Silverstone for Batgirl. Then again, who would you have cast? Christina Ricci?

I would rather have a dog fart in my face than see BATMAN & ROBIN again.

Jul 18 - 05:52 PM

Joe O'Leary

Joe O'Leary

The 15-year-old you sounds like a pretentious douche............

Jul 21 - 03:58 PM

Justin D.

Justin D.

I did enjoy Batman: Forever for what it was. It was a bad movie to be sure, but it had just enough self-awareness to hook me in. I urge anyone reading this to check out the deleted scenes for that movie. The one where Kilmer kicks the head off a practice dummy w/ all the grace of a headless chicken is priceless. Batman & Robin however, is a movie that's so bad it's bad. I'm normally an open minded person, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but a coworker of mine actually tried to to argue that, not only was The Dark Knight a bad movie, but that B&R was superior to it. I told him that from that point on his opinion on films was invalid had no weight whatsoever. No one should like that movie unless it's in an ironic sense and even then... It's so hard to pinpoint what was the worst part of that film. From Clooney's chin tuck/head bob, nipples on the batsuit, Ahnold's cringe worthy puns, Uma's cringe worthy puns, Barbara Gordon (who somehow went from Commissioner Gordon's daughter to Alfred's niece) coming from schooling in England yet somehow sounding like Cher from Clueless, to all the Schumacher-esque homoerotic architecture littered all over Gotham... this movie was cinematic poison.

Jul 18 - 06:01 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

I think there's plenty of cause to be cynical about this movie. The reasoning being, it was a movie where the director, producers and studio blatantly had no respect for their audience or the cast. It's the closest thing to grand larceny Hollywood ever committed. They stole people's money with this movie and had no remorse for doing it. This movie itself was a deliberately cynical act on behalf of WB and Schumaker and there's nothing wrong with the people who were robbed of their time and money responding to it as such.

Jul 18 - 06:12 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

What you just said is basically the definition of a movie for kids. It's the Batman equivalent of Ice Age 9 or Shrek 47. A crappy excuse for a movie made solely to sell toys. I'm not really defending it in any way. When I was eleven I took it for what it is. Just stupid "entertainment" (and believe me, that word would not be at the forefront of my vocabulary if I watched it again 15 years later). I just try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible, but when it's brought up I don't let it ruin my day. Just don't make me watch it again. lol

Jul 18 - 06:20 PM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

I think my biggest complaint about Batman and Robin (apart from the whole tone and look of the movie) is Mr. Freeze. The animated series finally evolved him from being a mostly one dimensional villain who made puns about ice almost constantly to a layered, tragic character that you almost wanted to see succeed as much as you wanted Batman to kick his ass. lol Then this movie comes along and I hear ICE PUNS!!!! There really was so much potential for a moving story involving him and they wasted it.

Jul 18 - 06:29 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Yeah, the problem I had was none of the previous movie's took that tone and it wasn't advertised as what it was. People had certain expectations from a Batman movie I think and this failed to meet any of them. Plus, this came out right on the heels of Batman the Animated series which showed you could do something essentially for kids that time has shown they can still enjoy 20 years later. I don't let it ruin my day anymore either, though it certainly did when I saw it the first time. Arnolds Freeze was the only part of the movie I felt met the "So bad, it's good criteria." He seemed to realize it was camp and Schwarzennegger knows how to play camp.

Jul 18 - 08:59 PM

King  S.

King Simba

Agreed with Bigbrother. Batman and Robin represents the hollywood blockbuster at its worst. I have no problem with a film selling a lot of toys, but Batman and Robin felt like a film made only to sell toys. Even the cast complained that it felt like they were just doing a big toy commecial, while Schumacher would reportedly just sit there behind the microphane yelling "remember, this isn't real guys!" At least Batman Forever tried to have some depth to it.

Jul 19 - 12:19 AM

Donavon Bray

Donavon Bray

What you just said is basically the definition of a movie for kids. It's the Batman equivalent of Ice Age 9 or Shrek 47. A crappy excuse for a movie made solely to sell toys. I'm not really defending it in any way. When I was eleven I took it for what it is. Just stupid "entertainment" (and believe me, that word would not be at the forefront of my vocabulary if I watched it again 15 years later). I just try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible, but when it's brought up I don't let it ruin my day. Just don't make me watch it again. lol

Jul 18 - 06:20 PM

Kyle VanderHeyden

Kyle VanderHeyden

I enjoy batman forever as a jim carrey comedy, not a batman movie. just think of it like ace ventura and your good to go

Jul 18 - 06:21 PM

Lenny M.

Lenny Monroe

Batman and Robin is the best superhero film of all time.....

Jul 18 - 06:22 PM

dudemeister

dude meister

You know, in a sick, twisted way it is. Had it not sucked so hard, we might not have gotten the Nolan Batman flicks, Spider-Man, X-Men or the Marvel movies.

Jul 18 - 09:34 PM

Peter W.

Peter Winters

I realy think it will oust Citizen Kane from the top spot on the next Sight and Sound poll.

Jul 25 - 09:38 AM

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