Batman & Robin, a reappraisal

Batman & Robin promotional art

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Batman & Robin, the most disliked Batman movie.

In some ways, it’s the closest you’ll find to a big-budget movie version of an Adam West-Burt Ward Batman television series.

From 1989 to 1997, Batman was one of Warner Bros.’s main movie franchises. Yet, things were askew.

When Batman & Robin came out in June 1997, there had been three separate actors (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney) playing Batman/Bruce Wayne over consecutive films.

The film series, over four installments, had chewed up and spit out multiple Batman villains (the Joker, the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze and Bane). The tone had diverged from dark to campy with two directors (Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher).

With Batman & Robin, the transformation was complete. The film even had sound effects similar to Hanna-Barbera cartoons (for example around the 46:25 mark during a big fight scene).

Like the Batman TV show, Batman & Robin depicts its namesake heroes utilizing Bat-gadgets in the nick of time such as Bat-ice skates hidden in the boots of Batman and Robin (Clooney and Chris O’Donnell).

With the 20th anniversary, director Schumacher has apologized for the movie. In recent years, Clooney has said he ruined the Batman film franchise.

After Batman & Robin, eight years would pass until Warner Bros. launched a new Batman project with the first of three Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films.

Still, there are some interesting moments in the 1997 movie. There’s a family theme (which is about as subtle as a heart attack).

Clooney’s best scenes are as Bruce Wayne interacting with Alfred (Michael Gough, in the fourth, and final, appearance as the character). The family theme carries over to Bruce’s relationship with Dick Grayson as well as Alfred’s relationship with his niece (Alicia Silverstone), this movie’s version of Batgirl.

Just to be clear, Batman & Robin is not a good movie. Still, with the recent death of actor Adam West, comparisons between West’s 1966-68 series and this film are obvious.

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2 Responses

  1. It was bad. But not as bad as “Man of Steel” or “Batman vs Superman”.

  2. This isn’t my birthday ;). I’m probably one of the few people who enjoyed the movie. Clooney was the first actor who actually looked like Bruce Wayne since West, with a chin Dick Sprang would be proud of. I know that the film is campier than the others but that’s not Clooney’s fault(I do wish he would stop “apologizing” for ruining the franchise. That film was actually successful).The fault starts with “Batman Returns” and the tie-in with McDonald’s. Parents take their kids to see the movie that was being promoted in the Happy Meals they bought for said kids, and find a film way too dark for young eyes to see. The powers that be decide to pull back from the darkness. I think they were successful with Batman Forever. The problem was they should’ve stopped there. Instead they decide to pull back even further, and the result is Batman & Robin. From what I’ve read, if they had been allowed to make the next film, Batman Triumphant, I think they could’ve righted the ship.

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