The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Batman and Robin (1997)

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I first saw this in the theater when it came out, and was definitely under-whelmed. I think by then I'd tired of the big budget Bat-sequels with myriad Hollywood actors, product tie-ins, and ubiquitous soundtrack songs. I haven't seen it since then, but was intrigued when it was number on on Empire.com's 50 Worst Films Ever. I mean, I remembered it being bad, but worse than say, Catwoman?

Batman and Robin is the fourth in the Caped Crusader series started by Tim Burton. This time George Clooney takes the helm, with Chris O'Donnell as Robin and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl there at his side. As far as villains menacing Gotham City, Arnold Schwarzenegger steps up as Mr. Freeze, and Uma Thurman plays the ever sexy Poison Ivy. No one famous played Bane as far as I could tell. Anyway, does the plot matter? I didn't think so.

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In the first ten minutes, there's a goofy fight between Batman and Robin and Mr. Freeze and all his henchmen. They're ice skating and playing hockey with a large diamond. It was reminiscent of the old TV show, and I thought maybe I just didn't get it when I watched it the first time. But then, back at the Batcave, O'Donnell and Clooney have this stilted, poorly written argument about Clooney holding O'Donnell back, and I understood better why this was panned. It had its positives: Uma Thurman was great as this kind of Bette Midler send-up of Poison Ivy; the sets, when not covered in fluorescent green, were really cool, especially Arkham Asylum and the observatory; and Alicia Silverston was really hot and George Clooney looked great in a tux.

But neither Clooney nor Silverstone worked as superheroes. Clooney is probably one of the coolest men alive, which you think would work in his favor, but it turned out he was too cool to play Batman. I'd even say he's too cool to play James Bond. I say this because he's more sophisticated than that type of material. Watch a film like Leatherheads, and you'll see what I mean. Silverstone was hot as all get out in that Batgirl costume, but she had this air head quality that made her role as a superheroine totally unbelievable. As far as O'Donnell, if I was him I'd have fired my agent after this. They made his Robin like Rob Schneider in Judge Dredd, yet then tried to make it serious, so all we were left with was being annoyed with him. Finally, Arnold was the worst. His accent works great in a one line capacity-- see "Let off some steam, Bennett"-- but in the world of superhero/supervillain banter, he was way off and sounded overly rehearsed. Jim Carey, Danny DeVito, Tommy Lee Jones? Yes. Schwarzenegger? No.

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Let's address Empire.com's claim that this was the worst film ever. Yes, I can't argue with the Bat-nipples, and the script was all over the place, not knowing if it wanted to be tongue-in-cheek or serious; but worse than Catwoman? Worse than Highlander 2: The Quickening? Part of the reason why I think it won was because the list was put to a vote by readers. How many people do you know have seen Catwoman? Now how many do you know have seen Batman and Robin? Exactly. Yes, it wasn't great, but worst ever is a heavy indictment, and this film didn't deserve it.

I loved Uma Thurman's take on Poison Ivy. On Empire.com's blurb about the film, they quoted critic Anthony Lane's comment that all the stars put in "their worst imaginable performances." Again, that's very harsh, but in Thurman's case, incorrect as well. It's a damn comic book movie, and she was having fun with it. Unlike Schwarzenegger who was out of his league, Thurman stole every scene she was in. Yes, it was very 1970s Sonny and Cher guest appearance-y, but it worked for me. Silverstone, though nowhere near as good, was just so hot I'm not sure it mattered. One thing I didn't like, and it wasn't her fault, but the writers', was how instead of being Commissioner Gordon's daughter, she was Alfred's niece. Had they gone with the comic book version of her origin, it would've made for at least a more believable character. Supergirl with Helen Slater suddenly emerging from the water in her Supergirl outfit thinks the way this film turned Silverstone into Batgirl was contrived and nonsensical.

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Films like these are usually chick full of celebrity cameos, and this was no exception. You had Vivica A. Fox in one brief scene as a throwback to the chicks that used to hangout with the villains on the old TV show, for instance. Probably best for me was Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Rolf Moeller as Arkham guards. That means that, in addition to Predator and Running Man, this film has the distinction of producing two US governors. Who's with me on starting the campaign for Moeller as governor of Maine?

Worst movie ever? No, not even close. Great movie? No, not even close. It has it moments, both good and bad, but I think more than anything, it signalled to its audience just how spent we were with the whole Batman franchise started by Tim Burton. It'll be interesting to see what the new series of films does for its third and fourth installments. The third one will sell well no matter what, just based on the first two, but if it sucks, it'll be up to the fourth one to revive it. If they fall into the trap this one did, of just throwing as many Hollywood celebs at it as possible, we could see a similar result.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000235/

10 comments:

  1. Actually Arnold could've worked in a superhero movie. For instance Dolph Lundgren worked as The Punisher. However Arnold as a bad guy would've been perfect as Killer Croc (The villain who was a wrestler turned mutant who fought Batman) or indeed Bane who was a big war hero who fought Batman for kicks. Mr.Freeze for one was a scientist and Arnold isn't exactly the first person you think of. Actually I thought Arnold was best in his flashback scenes as well as when Clooney asks him for the cure he has, but actual menace no way. It's bizarre how he could pull of The Terminator so well but struggled to come off menacing.

    That said O'Donnell annoyed the crap out of me. I mean endless complaining about how Batman is overshadowing how Poison Ivy likes him more and just ugh. Alicia Silverstone was even worse as well. What they should've done was cut out Batgirl and Bane (since he wasn't nearly as cool as he was in the comics) and just went ahead with the action. Also Schwarzenegger's take was more based on the Freeze on the TV show and he was just as campy as that show, indeed Freeze was hilarious on the 60s show because he was painted light blue and sported a beard. It was pretty goofy.

    Batman and Robin was pretty terrible, Just a boring movie with ugly sets, slow pacing and terrible acting. Thurman was okay I guess but that red hair dye looked goofy, she was definitely hotter in Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Johnny Be Good. Of course she became somewhat of an action presence. You would think that the film that combined The Terminator, with The Bride, with George Clooney (From Dusk Til Dawn for goodness sake) would be the recipe of something great and you would be wrong. What makes the movie that much more disappointing was that they had this cast (Silverstone can act.) a 100 million dollar budget, the director who gave us The Lost Boys and all they could come up with was this hunk of crap.

    Not the worst movie then but even worse because it was such a waste of potential.

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  2. I'll admit I actually enjoyed Bat man And Robin for alot of the reasons people hated it-the over-the-top campiness, and maybe italso that I honestly always found Burton to be a somewhat overrated director(that Sweeney Todd film was just godawful, and frnakly the new Alice In Wonderland dosen't look much better, i'm beginning to think Burton should just retire from directing now since he pretty much hit his peak with Batman Returns)not saying I didn't like that first 2 Batman's, jsut didn't think they were masterpieces, so unlike most Schumacher's entries in the series didn't really bother me so much. Oh and Matt, you're actually going to watch April Fool's Day 2008? I know you're doing it for the occasion and eveything but damn! Have you read the reviews that film got? I don't think it got a single positive review, and I can see why, it looks one of the abolsute WORST horror films EVER, i'm avoiding that film for as long as I live! Good luck on getting through that film, it loks like you're REALLY gonna need it!

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  3. Sweeney Todd was horrid. One of the very dumbest movies i've seen and yet it's somehow a prized darling among the arthouse. I don't get it. Terrible movie.

    I think Burton peaked with Ed Wood. But he was a man of great works such as Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice. Batman, Batman Returns and Mars Attacks were good as well but after Sleepy Hollow, boy did he cheese out.

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  4. Yeah, I agree that Arnold would make a great comic book villain, just not the quick talking/bantering variety. That's why he worked as the Terminator, but not as Mr. Freeze.

    I really liked the city from the outside, but I agree the sets themselves were too covered in neon green to work. That wasted potential comment seems to be a running theme though, because I think I said that for like five or six other comic book movies I reviewed too.

    I can see why you enjoyed this one Michael, as much as I can see why Kenner didn't. I think that, more than any other reason, is why it shouldn't have been given the title as worst ever. No comment on Tim Burton...

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  5. Yeah, and one interesting bit of trivia-Batman and Robin was actually the very first film to be released on DVD believe it or not.

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  6. How can this be the worst film ever when there's crap like LEONARD PART 6 or GHOST DAD out there?

    There is so much wrong with BATMAN AND ROBIN where does one even begin? Like you, I like Alicia Silverstone and she did the best with what she had to work with which wasn't much. What disgusted me was all the criticisms that she was too fat when she did this role. WTF?! I thought she looked pretty hot and I much prefer her curves over the emaciated types that seem to populate so many films nowadays.

    What did you think of the previous film, BATMAN FOREVER? I just watched it a few weeks ago and had forgotten how gorgeous Nicole Kidman looked in that one. Wow!

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  7. I really think it was because more people saw this than those ones, but I agree, there's been a lot worse than Batman and Robin. I forgot about the criticism of Silverstone. I think looking back, I was probably as exhausted by seeing so much of her as I was with big budget Bat films, so seeing it now, I have a new appreciation both, if you know what I mean.

    I should see Batman Forever again. A buddy was telling me he really liked Carey as the Riddler, so I'd like to see if he has a point, or is just full of it. It's interesting how I see these films when they come out in the theater, and suddenly it's been 14 or 15 years and I haven't seen them since. Does that make me sound old?

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  8. I'll throw in to add that I actually really dig Batman Forever. I watched all of these recently (for the first time in 10 to 15 also) as I picked up the Blu Ray Anthology, and Forever was the real surprise as I thoroughly enjoyed it. Carrey is pretty good and Tommy Lee Jones had a pretty good turn. The movie is super camp, but I feel works in all the ways Batman and Robin fails.

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  9. Plus, I kinda dig the U2 song (and video) for that BATMAN film. Kilmer wasn't all that bad as Wayne/Batman truth be told. I think that again, there are just too many damn villains in this one.

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  10. You guys have definitely sold me, I need to check out Batman Forever again, at the very least so I can compare it with the others.

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