Sunday, February 23, 2020

Freeze Frame

This is my second entry in the So Bad Its Good Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room

There were four Batman movies produced from 1989-97.  Tim Burton was involved in three of them (and directed the first two).  Production of the fourth installment had ts ups and downs.  Interestingly, Patrick Stewart was originally going to play Mr. Freeze until the production crew and director decided he needed to be played by a beefier actor.  Enter Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the script was altered somewhat to accommodate a hulkier actor.

The problems involved included the fact that director Joel Schumaker insisted to the cast and crew that he was making "a cartoon".  And the cartoonish aspect went beyond just Akiva Goldsman's script.  Chris O'Donnell who played Robin, commented in an interview " On Batman Forever, I felt like I was making a movie.  The second time, I felt like I was making a kid's toy commercial."

The film was not received well by the critics, or for that matter, the general public.  It barely made back it's budget.  It wasn't even in the top ten of money makers for the year.  According to wikipedia, the top ten movies of 1997 included Liar, Liar, My Best Friend's Wedding and The Full Monty, movies that were good, but not so good that that they should have out-gained a superhero action film, which typically makes a good show, even if its not so good...

Still, all in all, Batman and Robin is a cool film if you like superhero movies.  Just not exactly the greatest dialogue driven film that earlier incarnations of the Batman franchise had.

Batman and Robin (1997):

Robin : "I want a car!  Chicks dig the car."

Batman: "This is why Superman works alone."

Thus begins the movie and foreshadowing much of why the movie is so disparaged.  The dialogue for Batman and Robin seems to have been written by a twelve-year-old geek comic book enthusiast with a 40 year life of immersion in action movies where everyone spouts non sequiturs and lame jokes.  But I don't come back to Batman and Robin for the dialogue, even though I admit it is kind of funny.  I come back to it because Arnold Schwarzenegger is a great villain, and Chris O'Donnell is a pretty good Robin.  George Clooney is miscast as Batman, in my opinion, but he is believable as Bruce Wayne.

Batman and Robin appear on the scene as our new resident supervillain, Mr, Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) attempts to steal a diamond.  See, Mr. Freeze (alias Dr. Victor Fries) had an accident which causes him to need a space suit designed to keep his body at a relatively cold temperature in order to survive in the outside world.  And to maintain the suit Freeze needs diamonds, which makes it imperative that he steal them.  (The suit couldn't need something simple like potato chips, otherwise we wouldn't have a movie...)  Freeze also needs diamonds to continue his research in curing his wife, currently in suspended animation, from a rare disease.

At the museum where the diamond that Freeze intends to steal is installed, a fight ensues, which breaks out into a hockey game.  And eventually Freeze succeeds in his theft.

Mr. Freeze: "You're not sending me to the cooler!" 

Mainly because the rash Robin, overstepping his capabilities, is frozen and Batman must let Freeze escape with the diamond in order to thaw out his comrade.

Mr. Freeze: "Stay cool, Birdboy."

The somewhat bitter rivalry between Batman and Robin is part of the story line.  Robin, it seems, resents the fact that Batman treats him like a child, not letting him do the things he, Robin, thinks he is capable of doing.  It comes close to Robin deciding to go out on his own as a separate force.

Enter Poison Ivy.  Dr Pamela Isley (Uma Thurman) has been doing research in a remote location trying to develop a strain of plant life that can fight back against the humans.  But she is saddled with a psychotic scientist, Dr. Jason Woodrue (John Glover), who keeps stealing her work in an effort to create a super soldier.  When he creates Bane, he tries to sell it to the highest bidder    .  The bidders are a collection of Evil Empire leaders (such as Iraqis, Russians, North Koreans etc.)  When Dr. Isley confronts Dr. Woodrue and threatens him with revealing his nefarious purposes, he kills her.

Or so it seems.  But like the Joker (from the first Tim Burton Batman), the death is not so sure.  The mass of equipment and fluids she falls into transform her into Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy eventually tries to seduce both Batman and Robin, and although Batman's inherent nonchalance towards women in general helps him resist, Robin is infatuated with Ivy.  (I would be too.  Uma Thurman at 25, when the movie was made, was hot...)

Robin: "I need a sign that you've turned over a new leaf."

Poison Ivy: "How about 'slippery when wet'?"

Poison Ivy eventually teams up with Freeze, as they both have one particular goal in mind, the destruction of the Dynamic Duo.  Ivy tries to put her wiles on Freeze, but he is resistant because his devotion is only to his wife.

Mr. Freeze: "Hmm... Adam and Evil"

On the home side, Alfred (Michael Gough), Bruce Wayne's butler, has come down in the first stages of the same disease that is killing Freeze's wife.  And his niece, Barbara (Alicia Silverstone) has appeared on the scene to help.  Through some fortuitous events, she eventually discovers Bruce Wayne's secret, and with the help of an AI version of Alfred, becomes transformed into... Batgirl.

Batman:  "Batgirl?  That's not very PC.  What about Batwoman, or Batperson?"

(...and because "Batchick" not only isn't PC, but might be misheard...)

Eventually, of course, the Terrific Trio defeat both Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze.  Batman implores Freeze to help cure Alfred who is in the first stages of the disease killing Freeze's wife, and Freeze opens a secret compartment in his suit and hands Batman two vials.  (Don't tell me you don't see it coming...)

Mr. Freeze: "Take two of these and call me in the morning."

Batman and Robin  was so poorly received that another sequel was shelved.  It would take 8 years, and a complete reboot, for the franchise to come back to the big screen.  Admittedly the attempt to try to change Tim Burton's original dark vision evidenced with the first two Burton Batman's suffered from an attempt to try to meld the darkness with, apparently, the camp of the  60's TV series.  Fortunately for Batman fans, the death knell was only 8 years.  The Christian Bale Batman eventually gave us what is in my opinion the greatest Batman movie ever, The Dark Knight (coming to a blog near you very soon).

Its no Batmobile, but it does run, mostly.  Time to fire up this old Plymouth.  Drive safely, folks.



  1. Maybe this isn't the place for this question, but...

    I'm not a "super-hero" movie guy, so maybe I'm missing something, but isn't Batman not really a super-hero? He seems more like a guy with a cool car and tool-belt...

    1. Depends on your definition of superhero, I guess. But that definition would eliminate almost every DC character except Superman, and pretty much all of the Marvel pantheon too. Thanks for reading.

  2. Good grief, this movie was lame. I agree with you--the Nolan Batman was a breath of fresh air. Thanks again for joining the blogathon with two entertaining posts!

    1. Without the dialogue it's a pretty decent action flick. Just that script gets pretty cheesy. Thanks for reading.

  3. It took me years to finally experienced Batman and Robin and I was surprised by how much I did not despise it. It's ridiculously entertaining. So, thank you for confirming my feelings. 👍

    1. from 1980 until 2000 I went to every superho movie that came out. I had a period of about 8 years where I avoided the theater because it hurt my glaucoma, but I've had some surgery done and now I go to them again. Superhero movies are better in a theater. Thanks for reading.

  4. Campy fun, have not seen it since it came out. Forgot it was Clooney in this one, why did I think Val Kilmer made two? Keaton was the best, though, wasn’t he?
    - Chris

    1. Can't disparage that. I prefer Keaton over Clooney and even Kilmer. Thanks for reading


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