Batman & Robin (1997) Review

Rating: 1 Star

The following review contains spoilers.


Adam West’s version of Batman is a legitimately great take on the character. If someone wants to do a modern version of that, I’m all for it. That’s what Batman & Robin wants to be, but the execution is way off.

Commission Gordon calls up Batman on his steering wheel to tell him there’s a new villain in town: Mr. Freeze! He’s freezing people down at the art museum so he can steal a giant diamond. Despite turning their bat-boots into bat-ice-skates, the dynamic duo is unable to stop Freeze from escaping in the rocket ship he brought with him for some reason, that he apparently always planned on blowing up for some reason. The heroes follow him, so he flies away on a wingsuit (which, again, was apparently always his intention) and Batman and Robin sky-surf after him, with the entire trio landing in a giant chimney of what appears to be a gym or something. After Robin gets frozen, Freeze escapes.

Meanwhile, Dr. Pamela Isley is working out of a greenhouse/mad scientist castle in South America, trying to mate plants with snakes (which she successfully does much later in the movie after which no one brings it up again, and there is no scene of any of our heroes fighting a giant snake plant, so whatever I guess). Her lab partner is secretly developing a “super-soldier serum” to sell to evil dictators in the next room, behind a well-marked and completely unlocked vault door. Also, every room in this movie has a vault door. When she confronts him about his evil plans, after seeing him turn a “volunteer” into the man-mountain known as Bane, he throws her into a table of poison and she is consumed by the earth, where she is given plant powers and a sexier outfit.

Yes, this is almost exactly what happens to Catwoman in Batman Returns. A stammering and disheveled woman discovers her big-haired boss is up to no good, tells him she’s made the discovery, he kills her, and she is brought back to life mysteriously, including super powers and a notebook full of sexual innuendos. It’s basically the same sequence of events.

Anyway, she kills the guy with her newly poison lips, and decides to go to Gotham after seeing a beaker that says WAYNE ENTERPRISES on it. Good enough for me!

Eventually these two nefarious villains meet and decide to work together to bring about a new ice age, which is all Poison Ivy’s idea, despite the fact that all of her beloved (clearly tropical) plants would also die out if the world were frozen over. And it’s not clear why she thinks every person on the planet would die but she wouldn’t.

Also, Alicia Silverstone is there to introduce Batgirl. She’s Alfred’s niece, visiting from England, and we know she’s a little wild when sneaks out of her bedroom (despite being an adult woman who is unsupervised and could easily use the front door) to steal one of Robin’s motorcycles and run street races. The editing in this movie is so careless that an entire day and night passes in the story between her leaving and coming back. In her second street race she almost dies but Dick is there to save her in a sequence that does nothing to advance plot or character except to show that she has the skills to be Batgirl, except she almost dies, like I said, so maybe she doesn’t?

Alfred later entrusts her with a CD full of bat-secrets he made to give to his brother, and she immediately tries to break into the CD with the amazing password guesses of “Alfred” and “England” (“What do I know about my beloved Uncle Alfred? Well, I know his name is Alfred, and he’s from England, so…”), before figuring out that it’s her mom’s name, which is written on a nearby love photo. In the movie it just seems creepy that Alfred has a love photo from his sister that he’s treasured for years, but a deleted scene reveals she’s actually an ex-girlfriend and Batgirl is not his biological niece. So yes, they edited this tiny scene out just so the movie could make even less sense. It’s the only deleted scene on the DVD and it’s like 30-seconds long. Anyway, Batgirl is the worst.

Also, Alfred created a computer program of his brain waves and designed a Batgirl costume for his “niece” just in case she ever came for a surprise visit and just in case she broke into his secret bat-CD and found the Bat Cave. Always be prepared!

I don’t want to just type out every scene in the movie but every scene is so insane and worthy of a spotlight and I don’t know where to stop.

One the barrels that gets crashed into during the motorcycle race is full of Styrofoam peanuts and glitter.

Batman uses Bruce Wayne’s diamond collection to lure Mr. Freeze out of hiding, apparently not caring that the place he’s luring him to is a huge party full of people who are subsequently frozen and possibly killed.

Arkham Asylum is clearly just a prison, despite having “asylum” in the name. When Ivy goes to break Mr. Freeze out of jail she both opens and then locks his door from inside the cell and the guards are unable to come in after her.

Poison Ivy is defeated by knocking her into the same giant plant that she was sitting in only a few moments earlier.

The entire crew changes costume between defeating Poison Ivy and going to fight Mr. Freeze. The new costumes are somehow even uglier.

Best Parts:

The special effects actually hold up really well. I love the use of miniatures. I miss miniatures! The big chase down the side of a statue arm looks really cool.

Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwazenegger are much less painful to watch than Jim Carrey or Tommy Lee Jones were in Batman Forever. Thurman is arguably the best performance in the movie, though I still prefer Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Sure Mr. Freeze speaks entirely in ice-puns, but at least he’s not jumping up and down and cackling in every scene, and that’s a big plus.

If this were the same movie but filmed in the style of (and, vitally, starring the actors of) the 1966 Batman series it would probably be pretty good.

“Some lucky boy’s about to hit the honey pot. I’ll include an evening of my company for the winner. I’ll bring everything you see here, plus everything you don’t.”

“I need a sign.”
“How about ‘Slippery when Wet’?”

“She knows who we are.”
“I guess we’ll just have to kill her.”
“Yup! We’ll kill her later.”

Worst Parts:

George Clooney is sleepwalking through most of this movie. Chris O’Donnell is a mess. Alicia Silverstone is unbearably bad. Silverstone is really great at two things: playing Cher in Clueless and being attractive in music videos, and is terrible at absolutely everything else. 100% of her line readings in this movie delivered in the same offputting pseudo-baby voice, and there is not a single thing she says or does that works. And why isn’t her character British? Both of her parents apparently are, and she goes to school in England.

They brought back all of the repulsive neon paint and weird lighting from Batman Forever. The fire is green. The headlights of a truck are purple. The condemned sign on the Turkish Baths is glow-in-the-dark. Everything is just hideous. Also, the costumes are still ugly. Maybe even uglier?

“I can’t believe we were fighting over a bad guy!”
“Bad: Yes. Guy? No.”

“Suit me up, Uncle Alfred!”

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