BATMAN AND ROBIN: IS IT BEYOND SALVATION?
I, for one, have something of a soft spot for BATMAN AND ROBIN (the movie, not the men, although I’m sure both are perfectly nice blokes). It was released in summer 1997 and frankly, anything in that era, is for me, a kind of Holy Grail of happy. Same as 2008 and 2012. Blame the women. That’s all you need to keep me happy: lovely dates with wonderful women and a Batman film, however good or bad. I’m exaggerating. A bit.
That said, I DO think BATMAN AND ROBIN has moments. GEORGE CLOONEY was let down by the script but he does show an urbane charm and underlying grit as Bruce Wayne, to the extent that I still feel he could play the part again, maybe for a full take on DARK KNIGHT RETURNS?
UMA THURMAN is of course vampy and campy but somehow she is entertaining and yes, dammit, easy on the eye and sexy! And let’s not forget that, but for this flop, we would never have had BATMAN BEGINS and in turn, the whole Nolan/Snyder universe take on the Dark Knight.
But on the whole? I appreciate this was a missed opportunity. Forced out, prematurely. Raced into production, with under-cooked script and lack of clarity in the vision. The notion that a word ‘toyetic’ was developed just so this film could appease toy companies? Absurd.
SCHWARZENEGGER could have been a decent baddie IF he’d played it like TERMINATOR. Instead, we got a sequence of bad puns. ALICIA SILVERSTONE could have been fun as BATGIRL, had they gifted her a script as good as CLUELESS and not fetish flat-packed her into a rubber costume that simply did not play to her strengths. BANE is an insult to his comic book counterpart character and actually, for all the ‘this is too kid friendly’, there are some plain nasty bits.
But who am I to give the last word? Time for a second opinion with MIKE BROWN! Mike gives us not so much an attack on what DID happen as a formula for what SHOULD have happened with this missed opportunity of a movie. Take it away, Mike
Here are a few ways that Batman & Robin could be better. A lot better.
First off? No bat nipples. No bat ass. No Robin ass, no shots of ass, no ass shots allowed period. No gratuitous shots of crotches either. This is not a gay porn, this is a Batman movie. And under no circumstances will a Bat Credit Card be used in the film or even mentioned under the penalty of death.
Now that that’s out of the way? Let’s talk tone. No more glitz and glam. No bright colored neon lights. In order for Batman & Robin to be a better movie? The bat needs to be taken back to the shadows where he belongs. Less like Adam West’s Batman and more like Burton and Bruce Timm.
Take the characters and the story seriously. No puns. No sight gags. No singing. No slapstick. A more straight forward gritty darker approach to the film and it’s story, while still being able to have some fun with the concept along the way. Schumacher is definitely capable of darker material as evidenced in Falling Down and Flatliners. So he is more than capable of being able to handle this tone and this approach.
Less villains please. Three is way too many for one movie. Hell two was almost too much in Batman Returns and Batman Forever. Focus on one strong villain, like Batman(1989) did with the Joker. Poison Ivy isn’t a strong enough villain for one movie, and Bane would be out of place, especially in this particular franchise.
So the best choice out of the three, would be Mr. Freeze. Take this villain seriously this time around. Do not make him a complete joke singing like a jackass and saying ice puns all the time. Take a page from the Batman Animated Series (TAS) and it’s approach to the character. In particular the episode Heart Of Ice.
Mr. Freeze is a tragic villain who has a sympathetic side that is unique and different than most villains in Batman’s rogue’s gallery. He is a multi faceted character who should be adapted with the utmost respect. Ideal casting choices for Mr Freeze would be Patrick Stewart, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons or John Malkovich. IE: Great actors who can not only be intimidating when they need to be, but can also display the inner sadness that is vital to really getting the best potential Mr. Freeze on film as possible.
Audiences should sympathize with Freeze at times and see the humanity behind his cold eyes and actions which will make him a much more compelling villain. A way to tell Freeze’s story could be centered around the tragedy of his wife’s sickness, his transformation into a cold hearted mutant in the process of trying to find a cure, the extreme lengths he is willing to go to in order to keep his wife alive, and the anguish of losing her for the second time and the revenge that follows suit. The loss could be caused by Batman himself which would fuel Freeze’s reason to freeze Gotham city in retaliation for Batman accidentally taking away the very thing he loved the most.
No Batgirl. Which means no Alicia Silverstone. Which is a good thing. Focus a large part of the plot on the relationship between Batman & Robin. The film is called Batman & Robin after all anyway, not Batman, Robin and Batgirl. George Clooney is still a good casting choice to play Bruce/Batman because he is honestly a great actor and with a better script with a tone better suited to his style? Clooney will do just fine in the role.
Chris O’Donnell is also capable enough to pull off the role with a better tone and a better approach to his character. So no drastic casting changes are necessary here. In order to make the film better? The story must have a reason to solidify Batman & Robin’s relationship with one another and prove why they need to work to together as a team, instead of as individuals. A great way to do this, would be to feature a story where Robin goes out on his own, fighting crime and actually doing quite well. So well that he is getting accolades for his efforts from the Gotham police.
The press are even starting to take notice as well. This is severely straining Batman’s relationship with Robin and in the first scene we see them together? They argue and get into a physical altercation which leaves both of them bruised and bloody. Soon after the fight, Robin decides to take on Mr. Freeze on his own and gets brutally beaten and almost killed by Freeze and his men.
Batman arrives just in time to save Robin and get him to safety. While Robin is recuperating, Batman is trying to figure out a way to stop Mr. Freeze and his reign of terror. Batman, thinking he has a plan that will work decides to try it. The plan backfires and Batman himself is beaten badly by Freeze and his companions. Batman survives to fight another day and escapes the battle but not without some extra cuts and bruises. The film climaxes with a rejuvinated and motivated Batman & Robin teaming up to defeat Freeze and save Gotham from an icy fate.
By showcasing both Robin and Batman’s failures to beat Freeze on their own? Their partnership is revealed as being necessary and vital to the safety of not only themselves but of Gotham City as well. Robin isn’t just a whiney piss ant in this movie. He can hold his own but he still is not mature or strong enough to beat Freeze by himself.
And we find out that the mighty Dark Knight can’t accomplish the goal of defeating Freeze either which is a first for the franchise and this dynamic would really make film a lot better and make it a stronger, more memorable movie. In this instance? Less really is more. Also: No Alfred is dying story-line. He is in fine health and is there to provide much needed advice to Bruce during the falling out between him and Robin.
Music /score: Less of a circus feel and more of a darker somber feel instead. More Alien 3 and less Batman Forever. If possible just re hire Danny Elfman to write a new score for the film. Better costumes and art/production design. Bring the darkness back to Batman’s suit. No more generic gray outfits.
Get Batman back in black, or take a page from TAS and combine black and grey. Bring back the yellow symbol. That’s important. Robin’s costume is actually fine. Just no nipples. Freeze’s suit should be more like TAS and less bulky. More practical and refined. Freeze’s henchmen should be more intimidating. A possible concept is that Freeze’s henchmen are re-animated corpses kept alive by cryogenics? Hence why they are so strong and hard to beat.
Have Batman and Robin wear special heat based costumes during the climax, with the ability to radiate heat throughout and amplify it, which is what will give them the upper hand in the final battle with Freeze and his henchmen. Plus, it’s a really cool concept and it would work well on film and with the plot of the film.
The Batmobile should also be less glamorous than it was in Batman Forever. Make it more industrial looking, or just bring back the design from the Burton films. No disco balls in the engine. Robin’s bike should also have a similar design, more stripped down and not so flashy. The look of Gotham should be a throwback to Anton Furst’s design in the first two films in the franchise.
Maybe even a little of Bruce Timm’s TAS design thrown in for good measure. The Batcave itself should also be more subdued, similar to it’s appearance in Burton’s films or TAS. And no neon. Light should be used only when it is absolutely necessary. For dramatic effect or in sequences with Freeze. Which should mostly be shot in eerie cold blue tones more than anything else. Less color, less brightness and more darkness is the way to go. Batman belongs in the shadows. Bats don’t roost in raves. They roost in caves. And caves are most definitely dark.
Better more dynamic action sequences. Less over the top ballet choreography and more actual martial arts. Some knock down drag em out slug-fests. And sequences with Freeze’s freeze gun that are more akin to sequences witnessed in Demolition Man. More realistic freezing. Not as cartoonist. Fight scenes that make you wince and cheer. And action sequences that leave you reeling and asking for more. And make it a hard PG-13. More akin to what Batman was in 1989. Not as dark as Returns, but still dark enough to have an edge to it.
That my folks, is how you could make Batman & Robin better.
MIKE BROWN IS A FREELANCE BLOGGER. A Passionate film fan, he has contributed to a range of publications across the worldwide web.