Batman & Robin (film)
Batman & Robin

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Produced by Peter MacGregor-Scott
Benjamin Melniker
Michael Uslan
Written by Akiva Goldsman
Based on Characters by
Bob Kane
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
George Clooney
Chris O'Donnell
Uma Thurman
Alicia Silverstone
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Cinematography Stephen Goldblatt
Editing by Dennis Virkler
Mark Stevens
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) June 20, 1997 (1997-06-20)
Running time 125 minutes
Language English
Budget $125 million[1]
Box office $238,207,122

Batman & Robin is a 1997 American superhero film directed by Joel Schumacher. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is a sequel to Batman Forever (1995), with George Clooney replacing Val Kilmer as Batman.

Batman & Robin also stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, and Michael Gough. The film tells the story of Batman and Robin struggling to keep their partnership together while trying to stop Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Bane from covering Gotham City with ice and vegetation.

Development for Batman & Robin started immediately after Batman Forever, and Warner Bros. commissioned the film for an adamant June 1997 release. Principal photography began in September 1996 and finished in January 1997, two weeks ahead of the shooting schedule.

Batman & Robin was released on June 20, 1997, and was critically panned. Observers criticized the film for its toyetic and camp approach, as well as possible homosexual innuendo added by Schumacher. Batman & Robin received 11 nominations at the 1997 ceremony of the Razzie Awards, including one for Worst Picture, and frequently ranks among the worst superhero films of all time.[2][3] After this, Warner Bros. canceled the unproduced Batman Triumphant, and the film series was eventually rebooted with Batman Begins (2005) by director Christopher Nolan. The song made for the film, "The End Is the Beginning Is the End" by The Smashing Pumpkins was more successful than the film itself, winning a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards.

Contents

Plot

In Gotham City, Batman and Robin attempt to stop Mr. Freeze from stealing a cache of diamonds, but he escapes. The Dynamic Duo soon learn that Mr. Freeze was once a scientist named Victor Fries who became dependent on a diamond-powered subzero suit following an accident in a cryogenics lab he was using to find a cure for his wife, Nora, who was suffering from a terminal illness called MacGregor's Syndrome.

In South America, Pamela Isley is working under Dr. Jason Woodrue, a mad scientist who is experimenting with the Venom drug. She witnesses Woodrue use the formula to turn a diminutive convict into a hulking monstrosity dubbed "Bane". Woodrue and Isley argue over the use of the drug and Woodrue overturns a shelf of various toxins onto her. She transforms into the beautiful and seductive Poison Ivy before killing Woodrue with a kiss from her now-poisonous lips. She finds that Wayne Enterprises funded Woodrue, so she takes Bane with her to Gotham.

Meanwhile, butler Alfred Pennyworth's niece, Barbara Wilson, makes a surprise visit and is invited by Bruce Wayne to stay at Wayne Manor until she goes back to school. Alfred is revealed to be suffering from MacGregor's Syndrome.

Poison Ivy interrupts a Wayne Enterprises press conference to propose a project that could help the environment. Bruce Wayne declines her offer, as it would kill millions of people. That night, a charity event is held by Wayne Enterprises with special guests Batman and Robin in attendance. Poison Ivy decides to seduce them. Freeze crashes the party and steals a diamond from the event. He is captured and sent to a chamber prison in Arkham Asylum, but escapes with the help of Ivy and Bane.

Robin becomes smitten with Ivy and begins to rebel against Batman. Ivy imprisons Robin when he does not give in to her charms; she also subdues Batman when he arrives to save his partner. Just then, Barbara — now a costumed crimefighter calling herself Batgirl — shows up and fights Ivy, eventually defeating her.

Batman, Robin, and Batgirl decide to go after Freeze together. By the time they get to the observatory where Freeze and Bane are, Gotham is completely frozen. Robin and Batgirl confront Bane and defeat him, while Batman and Freeze begin to fight each other, with Batman winning. Batgirl and Robin unfreeze Gotham.

Batman then shows Freeze a recording of Ivy during her fight with Batgirl, in which the former brags about killing Nora. Batman then tells Freeze that his wife is not dead; she has been restored in cryogenic slumber and moved to Arkham so he can finish his research. Batman asks Freeze for the cure he has created for the first stage of MacGregor's Syndrome for Alfred; Freeze atones for his misdeeds by giving him the medicine he had developed.

Ivy is shown imprisoned in Arkham with a vengeful Freeze as her cellmate. Alfred is eventually healed. Everyone agrees to let Barbara stay at the mansion.

Cast

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze: A molecular biologist who suffers a terrible accident while trying to cryogenically preserve his terminally ill wife. As a result, he is transformed into a criminal forced to live in a sub-zero suit powered by diamonds. Patrick Stewart was considered for the role,[4] before the script was rewritten to accommodate Schwarzenegger's casting.[5] Schumacher decided that Mr. Freeze must be "big and strong like he was chiseled out of a glacier".[6] Schwarzenegger was paid a $25 million salary for the role,[7][8] while his prosthetic makeup and wardrobe took six hours to apply each day.[9]
  • George Clooney as Bruce Wayne / Batman: A billionaire industrialist who witnessed his parents' murder as a young boy. At night, Bruce becomes Batman, Gotham City's vigilante protector. Eric Lloyd portrays him as a child in a flashback. Val Kilmer decided not to reprise the role from Batman Forever. Director Joel Schumacher admitted he had difficulty working with Kilmer on Forever. "He sort of quit," Schumacher said, "and we sort of fired him."[10] Kilmer said he was not aware of the fast track production and was already committed to The Saint (1997).[6] Schumacher cast Clooney in the role because he felt the actor could provide a lighter interpretation of the character than Michael Keaton (in Batman and Batman Returns) and Kilmer.[6] The shooting schedule allowed Clooney to simultaneously work on ER without any scheduling conflicts.[11]
  • Chris O'Donnell as Dick Grayson / Robin: The crime-fighting partner to Batman and legal ward to Bruce Wayne. He has begun to chafe against Batman's authority.
  • Uma Thurman as Dr. Pamela Isley / Poison Ivy: A crazed botanist who becomes an ecoterrorist after being pushed into vials of chemicals, poisons, and toxins. Demi Moore was considered for the role.[4] Thurman took the role because she liked the femme fatale characterization of Poison Ivy.[6]
  • Alicia Silverstone as Barbara Wilson / Batgirl: Her parents died in a car accident and Alfred, her uncle, was very close to her mother, Margaret. Silverstone was the first and only choice for the role.[4]
  • Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth: The trusted butler for Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Alfred is dying of a rare disease from which Mr. Freeze's wife also suffers.
  • Pat Hingle as Commissioner James Gordon: The police commissioner of Gotham City. He is close to Batman and informs him of numerous crimes.
  • John Glover as Dr. Jason Woodrue: A deranged scientist with a desire for world domination via his Venom-powered "supersoldiers". He is responsible for the creation of both Bane and Poison Ivy, the latter of whom kills him with a kiss from her toxic lips.
  • Elle Macpherson as Julie Madison: Bruce Wayne's girlfriend. She proposes to Bruce, but he does not respond, fearing for her safety.
  • Vivica A. Fox as Ms. B. Haven: Mr. Freeze's sexy assistant who flirts with him constantly. He is unresponsive, as he is still in love with his wife.
  • Vendela Kirsebom as Nora Fries: Mr. Freeze's cryogenically frozen wife.
  • Elizabeth Sanders as Gossip Gerty: Gotham's top gossip columnist.
  • Jeep Swenson as Bane: Poison Ivy's bodyguard and muscle, who was originally a diminutive criminal named Antonio Diego. Transformed into a hugely powerful "Super-soldier" by the strength-enhancing drug "Venom", he was seen assisting the main villains in several ways, including getting Mr. Freeze's suit back from Arkham Asylum, and fighting against the main heroes several times, eventually being defeated by Robin and Batgirl after they found a way to stop the venom flow to his brain.
  • Michael Paul Chan as Dr. Lee: The research scientist who Mr. Freeze kidnaps.

Production

With the box office success of Batman Forever in June 1995, Warner Bros. instantly commissioned a sequel.[12] They hired director Joel Schumacher and writer Akiva Goldsman to reprise their duties the following August,[6] and decided it was best to fast track production for a June 1997 target release date.[12] Schumacher wanted to homage both the broad camp style of the 1960s television series and the work of Dick Sprang.[11] The storyline of Batman & Robin was conceived by Schumacher and Goldsman during pre-production on A Time to Kill.[13] Portions of Mr. Freeze's back-story were based on the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Heart of Ice", written by Paul Dini.[14] The original start date was August 1996,[10] but principal photography did not begin until September 12, 1996.[15] Batman & Robin finished filming in late-January 1997,[16] two weeks ahead of the shooting schedule.[11] The film was mostly shot at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.[6]

When comparing work on Batman Forever, Chris O'Donnell, who portrayed Robin, explained, "It just felt like everything got a little soft the second time. 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."[6] According to John Glover, who played Dr. Jason Woodrue, "Joel [Schumacher] would sit on a crane with a megaphone and yell before each take, 'Remember, everyone, this is a cartoon'. It was hard to act because that kind of set the tone for the film."[6] Production designer Barbara Ling admitted her influences for the Gotham City design came from "neon-ridden Tokyo and the Machine Age. Gotham is like a World's Fair on ecstasy."[17] Rhythm and Hues and Pacific Data Images created the visual effects sequences, with John Dykstra and Andrew Adamson credited as the visual effects supervisors.[18]

Marketing

The Batman & Robin film trailer debuted on the February 19, 1997 episode of Entertainment Tonight.[19] Warner Bros. spent $15 million to market and promote the film, in addition to its $125 million production budget.[20] The studio also brought in toy companies to be involved with pre-production, including the design of concept art and character illustrations. Director Joel Schumacher criticized Warner Bros.' strategy for Batman & Robin as being overtly toyetic. Various Six Flags parks (Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Over Texas, and Six Flags St. Louis) all debuted coasters themed to the film.[6]

Reception

Box office

Batman & Robin was released on June 20, 1997 in North America, earning $42,872,605 in its opening weekend,[21] making it the third-highest opening weekend of 1997.[22] However, the film rapidly declined with a 63% second week plunge.[23] Many observers based the second week drop on negative word of mouth. In addition, Batman & Robin faced early competition with Face/Off and Hercules.[20] Schumacher blamed it on yellow journalism started by Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News and other film websites such as Dark Horizons.[24] The film went on to gross $107.3 million in North America and $130.9 million internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $238.2 million.[21] Warner Bros. acknowledged Batman & Robin's shortcomings in the domestic market but pointed out success overseas.[20]

Critical reaction

"If there's anybody watching this, that... let's say, loved Batman Forever, and went into Batman & Robin with great anticipation, if I've disappointed them in any way, then I really want to apologize. Because it wasn't my intention. My intention was just to entertain them."

—Joel Schumacher's apologizing for his work on the film[6]

Batman & Robin was a critical failure and received mainly negative reviews. As of June 2010, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 13% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 61 reviews, certifying it "Rotten", with an average rating of 3.5/10, and the consensus: "Joel Schumacher's tongue-in-cheek attitude hits an unbearable limit in Batman & Robin resulting in a frantic and mindless movie that's too jokey to care much for."[25] By comparison Metacritic collected an average score of 28, based on 21 reviews.[26]

Schumacher and producer Peter MacGregor-Scott blamed the negative reception of Batman & Robin on Warner Bros.' decision to fast track production. "There was a lot of pressure from Warner Bros. to make Batman & Robin more family-friendly," Schumacher explained. "We decided to do a less depressing Batman movie and less torture and more heroic. I know I have been criticized a lot for this, but I didn't see the harm in that approach at all."[6] Roger Ebert criticized the toyetic approach and Mr. Freeze's one-liner jokes.[27] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times believed the film "killed" the Batman film series, and felt Batman & Robin depended too much on visual effects.[28] Desson Thomson of The Washington Post largely disapproved of Schumacher's direction and Akiva Goldsman's script.[29] Mick LaSalle, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, said, "George Clooney is the big zero of the film, and should go down in history as the George Lazenby of the series."[30] However, Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave a positive review. She praised Uma Thurman's acting, as well as the production and costume design.[31]

Batman & Robin was nominated the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, as well as categories for Best Make-up and Best Costume. Alicia Silverstone won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Other nominations at the Razzie Awards included Schumacher (Worst Director), George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell (Worst Screen Couple), Akiva Goldsman (Worst Screenplay), both Chris O'Donnell and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Worst Supporting Actor), Uma Thurman (Worst Supporting Actress), and Billy Corgan (Worst Song for "The End Is the Beginning Is the End"). Batman & Robin also received nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Remake or Sequel and Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property. Ultimately, out of 11 nominations, this movie garnered only one Razzie Award.

Many observers thought Schumacher to have added possible homoerotic innuendo in the storyline.[6] James Berardinelli questioned the "random amount of rubber nipples and camera angle close-ups of the Dynamic Duo's butts and Bat-crotches."[32] Similar to Batman Forever, this primarily included the decision to add nipples and enlarged codpieces to Batman and Robin suits. Schumacher stated, "I had no idea that putting nipples on the Batsuit and Robin suit were going to spark international headlines. The bodies of the suits come from ancient Greek statues, which display perfect bodies. They are anatomically erotic."[6] Chris O'Donnell, who portrayed Robin, felt "it wasn't so much the nipples that bothered me. It was the codpiece. The press obviously played it up and made it a big deal, especially with Joel directing. I didn't think twice about the controversy, but going back and looking and seeing some of the pictures, it was very unusual."[6] Batgirl was given a similarly designed suit, although for unknown reasons hers lacked nipples. George Clooney joked, "Joel Schumacher told me we never made another Batman film because Batman was gay".[33] Clooney himself has spoken critically of the film, saying, "I think we might have killed the franchise",[34] and called it "a waste of money".[35]

Legacy

During the filming of Batman & Robin, Warner Bros. was impressed with the dailies, prompting them to immediately hire Joel Schumacher to return as director for a sequel. However, writer Akiva Goldsman, who worked on Batman Forever and Batman & Robin with Schumacher, turned down the chance to write the script.[11] In late 1996, Warner Bros. and Schumacher hired Mark Protosevich to write the script for a fifth Batman film. A projected mid-1999 release date was announced.[36] Titled Batman Triumphant, Protosevich's script had the Scarecrow as the main villain. Through the use of his fear toxin, he resurrects the Joker as a hallucination in Batman's mind. Harley Quinn appeared as a supporting character, written as the Joker's daughter.[37] George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell were set to reprise the roles of Batman and Robin.[38]

Nevertheless, when Batman & Robin received negative reviews and failed to outgross any of its predecessors, Warner Bros. was unsure of their plans for Batman Triumphant. The studio decided it was best to consider a live-action Batman Beyond film and an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. Warner would then greenlight whichever idea suited them the most.[39] Schumacher felt he "owe[d] the Batman culture a real Batman movie. I would go back to the basics and make a dark portrayal of the Dark Knight."[40] He approached Warner Bros. about doing Batman: Year One in mid-1998,[40] but they were more interested in hiring Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky and Frank Miller developed a Year One script with Aronofsky to direct, but it was ultimately canceled. Christopher Nolan was eventually hired to helm the next Batman film in January 2003, resulting in the rebooted Batman Begins (2005).[39]

In "Legends of the Dark Knight", an episode of The New Batman Adventures, three teenagers discuss their ideas about what Batman is really like. They briefly meet an effeminate youth called Joel (in front of a shoemaker's shop) whose idea of Batman consists mainly of a fascination with the tight rubber suits and a Batmobile that can drive up walls. The other three kids treat Joel's ideas with utter disdain.[41] In Watchmen, director Zack Snyder and comic book artist Dave Gibbons choose to parody the molded muscle and nipple Batsuit design from Batman & Robin for the Ozymandias costume.[42][43] The film is referenced in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Legends of the Dark Mite!", when Bat-Mite briefly uses his powers to transform Batman's costume into the same suit shown in the Joel Schumacher Batman films, before declaring it "Too icky".[44] The Batman from Batman & Robin later appeared as part of an army of Batmen gathered from across the Multiverse in "Night of the Batmen!", complete with the rubber blue Batsuit. Artist Phil Noto revealed on his Twitter feed that he had drawn an unused cover for Batgirl #1 which referenced the film. The cover showed Stephanie Brown looking over photos of potential Batgirl costumes and writing notes for each of them. A photo of the Alicia Silverstone Batgirl design from Batman & Robin is shown crossed out with the words "Definitely not" scrawled over it.[45]

References

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  19. ^ Jenny Hontz (1997-02-20). "Inside Moves". Variety. http://www.variety.com/vstory/VR1117436590. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  20. ^ a b c Dave Karger (1997-07-11). "Big Chill". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,288644,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
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  23. ^ "'Bat' beats up B.O.". Variety. 1997-07-08. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1116677093. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  24. ^ Rex Weiner (1997-07-29). "Www.h'w'd.ticked". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1116675713. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
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  31. ^ Janet Maslin (1997-06-20). "Batman and Robin". The New York Times. 
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  33. ^ Sharon Swart; Bill Higgins (2005-06-27). "'Happy' to sign off". Variety. http://www.variety.com/vstory/vr1117925178.html?categoryID=38&cs=1. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  34. ^ Daniel, Mac (2005-06-12). "Batman and Robin". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2005/06/12/behind_the_masks/?page=1. Retrieved May 17, 2006. 
  35. ^ Lynn Hirschberg (2002-11-03). "Questions for George Clooney; True Confessions". The New York Times. 
  36. ^ Michael Fleming (1997-02-21). "Helmer's 3rd At Bat". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117435255. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  37. ^ Brian Linder (2000-07-27). "Rumblings From Gotham". IGN. http://movies.ign.com/articles/034/034019p1.html. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
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  39. ^ a b David Hughes (March 2004). "The Dark Knight Strikes Out". Tales From Development Hell. London: Titan Books. pp. 192–211. ISBN 1-84023-691-4. 
  40. ^ a b Jeff Jensen (1998-12-04). "Winging It". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,285969,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
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  43. ^ Dave Gibbons (December 2008). "Watchmen's artist tells us how the famed graphic novel changed his life and gives some thoughts on the upcoming movie and game". Electronic Gaming Monthly: p. 53. 
  44. ^ "Legends of the Dark Mite!". Ben Jones (director), Paul Dini (writer). Batman: The Brave and the Bold. May 29, 2009. No. 19, season 1.
  45. ^ Jondoe297 (November 23, 2010). "Phil Noto Shares some unused Batgirl and Batman First Wave covers". GothamKnightsOnline.com. http://www.gothamknightsonline.com/?p=11129. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 

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