The worst thing about not being a professional movie critic is that it doesn’t matter how much time you spend working a review—you could write your little heart and soul out, bleed yourself dry, and you’re still not getting paid. On the other hand, the very best thing about not being a professional movie critic is that when you stumble upon a film that you’ve told yourself to review—even though you know full well that it is the kind of cinematic trash that will make you weep blood, the very sort of abject horror that you can’t possibly stomach without vast quantities of alcohol in your system—well, you don’t have to watch it without vast quantities of alcohol in your system.
Thus, may I present . . .
. . . The Batman & Robin Drinking Game!
(Please drink responsibly. AKA, don’t use vodka. You won’t make it four minutes.)
Spoilers, but honestly, just read the review. I can’t ruin this movie for you. Trust me.
Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O’Donnell) are up against possibly the weirdest pairing of all time: Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Also, Alfred is dying, and Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), who inexplicably is his very American niece that no one’s heard of until today, shows up at the mansion and becomes Batgirl. It’s all fairly horrifying.
1. First, I feel the need to be honest: I didn’t really drink vast quantities of alcohol. Maybe if we had tequila. I kind of like tequila. But, oddly, we have like three different types of vodka in this house, and I’ve done vodka shots before. It’s not my thing. So, instead, my friends, my sister, and I subsisted on wine coolers and adorable tiny bottles of pre-made margaritas. It wasn’t even enough to get us buzzed, but it still made the experience so much more enjoyable.
As to the rules of the drinking game, well, it goes like so:
If you see one of the following things and call out first, everyone else takes a drink:
Mr. Freeze makes an ice-related pun.
Poison Ivy blows her magic love dust.
Someone uses obviously ridiculous Bat Equipment. (For example, The Bat Credit Card.)
Poison Ivy makes a costume change.
George Clooney bobbles his head.
The shadow of death is upon Alfred. (Like he turns away and winces dramatically.)
We had some other rules, but these were easily the best ones. Although if you’re interested in playing yourself, you might want to consider adding a few more that we thought of during the movie:
Bruce has a flashback.
Robin yells something angrily.
There is a massive face sculpture.
It’s ridiculous how many massive face sculptures there apparently are in Gotham. More on that later.
2. Of course, it’d be hard to say what isn’t ridiculous about this movie. I’m not even entirely sure where to start. I’ve seen a lot of total crap movies in my life, but Batman & Robin, man. I know I’ve said this before, but’s a little amazing just how awful this movie is.
Let’s go ahead and start with the Bat Nipples.
The funny thing is, before we turned on the movie, I started thinking to myself, Maybe the Bat Nipples weren’t really so horrible. I mean, they’re stupid, sure, but maybe it’s just one of those things that people latch onto to bitch about, you know, almost like a mass hysteria where people who haven’t even seen the movie are like, “Jesus, did you see the Bat Nipples?” Maybe everyone made a really huge deal out of, like, one stupid nipple shot.
Of course, then we started to watch the movie, and I was like, No, no, you remembered correctly. The Bat Nipples are atrocious.
Because they are. It’s not just one nipple shot—they are always there, staring at you. No matter your sexual proclivities, no matter if you want to pay attention to the story or not, your eye just can’t help but be drawn to the Bat Nipples. They’re so ridiculous. Also, the Bat Groin (or the Bat Crotch). You just can’t . . . look . . . away.
3. But that’s kind of this whole movie, isn’t it? It’s like a trainwreck on crack. And acid. And any other drug you can probably think of. I cannot list every single ridiculous thing that happens in this movie—I will be here until next Tuesday—so let me pick a few more of the WTF things I can think offhand to honor here:
3A. Sky Surfing
First, Batman and Robin have a hockey match with Mr. Freeze and his cronies in the natural history museum. Awesomely, the evil hockey-playing henchmen appear to burst out of nowhere—and yes, as my friend Chris pointed out, it totally makes sense to go after Batman with a hockey stick instead of, I don’t know, a gun. These are the least threatening hockey players alive. Batman and Robin soundly kick their asses with their Bat Skates (take a drink) while exchanging horrible puns with Mr. Freeze (drink, drink, keep drinking). Then Mr. Freeze escapes in a . . . rocket? There’s a rocket. Okay.
Mr. Freeze traps Batman in the rocket by freezing his wrists to the wall and sets the rocket to explode before hightailing it out of there. Why he doesn’t just decapitate Batman while he’s stuck there or, at the very least, freeze him entirely is beyond me. This movie doesn’t have nearly enough Demolition Man violence for me. Fucking family films.
Anyway, Robin saves Batman’s ass, and they escape the rocket by using pieces of the exploding ship as surfboards. And they just whip around like crazy on those things—at one point, Robin is even upside down, but he doesn’t, you know, immediately plummet to his death or anything. Why? Um . . . Bat Gravity? Maybe?
This may be the most ridiculous action sequence in the movie. It’s hard to know for sure. There are so many other scenes competing for the honor.
3B. Mr. Freeze’s Pajamas
On his off days, when Mr. Freeze just wants to watch home movies with his practically-dead wife and force his henchmen to sing Snow Miser songs for no reason, he apparently likes to dress up in his blue bathrobe, blue ascot, and his gigantic polar bear slippers. Meanwhile, anyone who actually remembers melancholic Mr. Freeze from the comics or Batman: The Animated Series abruptly bursts into tears at the complete mishandling of this character. Also, Bane, who they change from the super-smart, super-strong badass who breaks Batman’s back into this:
Well. At least we’ll get Tom Hardy in July.
3C. Batgirl keeps sneaking out of the mansion to go street racing. Now, I can see why she wouldn’t want Alfred to know about this—it’s dangerous, he might not approve, blah blah blah, but Barbara Gordon is a grown ass woman. She doesn’t have a curfew. She doesn’t need permission to leave the house at odd hours. She certainly doesn’t need to climb out the window like a fourteen year old girl visiting her boyfriend. All she has to do is say, “Hey, I’m hungry. I’m going to grab something to eat, maybe see a late night movie,” and then walk out the front door LIKE A GROWN ASS WOMAN. Honestly.
3D. Alfred makes his niece a Batgirl suit ahead of time, anticipating that she will ignore his dying wishes and hack into his database and want to join the crimefighting family. Mind you, there’s no indication that Batgirl’s been trained in any kind of basic self-defense, much less kung fu and sky-surfing, and even if she had been, Alfred knows that how, exactly? Even if he’s aware of her stupid, secret, midnight bike rides . . . knowing how to ride a motorcycle is not at all the same thing as knowing how to take down dangerous criminals who want to kill you.
I also love that Alfred, Alfred, is the one who designed this costume for his niece:
Nothing says familial affection like sculpting a Bat Bust. (Or Bat Boobs. Bat Tits. Whichever you prefer, honestly.)
4. Let’s talk about some of the awful dialogue.
Again, I could never list every single horrific pun in this movie. It would be easier to just link the whole script to you and point out what isn’t a horrific pun. But if I may list some of the more ridiculous movie lines?
“Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well, for it’s the chilling sound of your doom.” – Mr. Freeze
“Cowabunga!” – Robin
“I’m a lover, not a fighter! That’s why every Poison Ivy action figure comes complete with him!” – Poison Ivy, pointing to Bane
“If revenge is a dish best served cold, then put on your Sunday finest. It’s time to feast!” – Mr. Freeze
“You are not sending me to the cooler.” – Mr. Freeze
“You know what killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” – Mr. Freeze
“Dirty fighter, dirty fighter!” – Scientist (who’s taking the time to comment on Batman and Mr. Freeze’s fight while he’s hanging on the side of this telescope thing for dear life)
“My garden needs tending.” – Poison Ivy
“You’re about to become compost!” – Batgirl
“My rubber lips are immune to your charms.” – Robin
“Is your thumb the only part of you that’s green?” – Robin
“This is why Superman works alone.” – Batman
“No sign of the Snow Man.” – Robin
“Maybe he melted.” – Bat Girl
“No. He’s just hibernating.” – Batman
“Never leave the Cave without it.” – Batman (About his Bat Credit Card—oh yeah, that’s not something I made up, people who haven’t seen this movie. That’s an actual thing.)
Also, I wasn’t aware of this until approximately two minutes ago, but do you know who apparently wrote these puns? Akiva Goldsman. Admittedly, not every movie on his resume is exactly impressive—Lost in Space, anyone—but some of his films are very enjoyable (The Client, Practical Magic) and some of his them have won or been nominated for the OSCARS (A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man). An Academy Award winner wrote this screenplay, people. WHAT THE HELL?
5. Actually, the worst line in the whole movie might be Batgirl saying, “Bruce, it’s me!” Because, apparently, Batman and Robin can’t recognize the fact that this girl . . .
. . . is also this girl . . .
I mean, I know Robin’s pretty obviously Dick Grayson too, but there’s something about all that blonde hair that makes this even more ridiculous. Plus, there’s really something about how Alicia Silverstone delivers this line that actually makes it more awful than I can possibly describe. She says it in this little girl voice that, on a grown woman, makes her sound—at very best—moronic. At worst? She sounds brain-damaged.
I think she might even giggle. It’s horrifying.
6. As far as who does the worst acting job . . . it’s just so hard to say.
I honestly think the best acting job goes to Uma Thurman. I mean, yeah, she’s pretty awful. There’s no denying that. But out of everyone, I think she does the best job she can with those hideous, hideous lines. She actually seems to be trying to make her character fun and campy, unlike everyone else in the film, who either just can’t act at all or clearly gave up two minutes into the movie. George Clooney, for example . . . there are a few scenes where he’s just standing there in his Bat Suit, delivering some awful pun or another, and you can almost see him thinking about blowing his brains out.
Because unlike some of the other people in this film, George Clooney is a good actor. He just happens to be spectacularly miscast as Batman. Even in a better script than this—and pretty much any other script would have been—Clooney would have been a horrible choice for the Dark Knight, not because he has no talent, but because Bruce Wayne is not just any dude in a caped costume running around punching people. Bruce Wayne is a morose motherfucker. He’s not charming. Everything about him is heavy. Sure, he has a playboy persona to throw people off the trail, but that’s more of a mask than his actual mask is. And this is probably going to sound stupid, but George Clooney just smiles too much to be Batman.
Smiling doen’t always equate happiness, of course. There is the bitter smile, the angry grin, the sad chuckle. In easily the best scene of the movie, Bruce is sitting beside a dying Alfred, and he’s smiling almost reflexively, like he’s trying to hold back tears. And normally, with almost any other character, this would be fine—great, even, I actually really like that kind of reaction—but here, for Bruce Wayne? It’s just all wrong. George Clooney has a natural sort of charisma that he brings to pretty much every role, but it’s not at all right for Batman, not any version of him.
7. But I was talking about the other actors too, wasn’t I? Well, Alicia Silverstone is just bad. I like her in Clueless and all, but the idea of her as a tough girl? Wow, it’s pretty awful. She’s supposed to be angry about Alfred being a servant, but her anger is less convincing when she pouts about the whole thing. Her fight with Uma Thurman? It’s just . . . it’s bad. It’s all, all bad.
(Also, is it really that hard to fake type? Barbara is supposed to be this computer hacker genius person, but she must type, like, seven words a minute. This is like watching Jonny Lee Miller in Hackers all over again. At least Hackers had the decency to call him on it.)
But still, I think LVP . . . at least for acting . . . would have to go to either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chris O’Donnell.
In defense of Ahnold, he probably gets the worst dialogue out of anyone in the whole movie, and there’s not a lot he can do with a character who forces his henchmen to sing Christmas songs whilst he orchestrates in a pair of polar bear slippers. (Except maybe Neal McDonough. Ohmygod. If I ever decide to recast this movie for the hell of it, I’m totally casting Neal McDonough. Sweet Jesus, the thought of that alone makes me so happy.)
That being said . . . Ahnold is still really, really bad. Even taking the script into consideration . . . the man can’t get one line to land, not one. (Even Chris O’Donnell manages to get one line.) I think his deliveries actually somehow make the lines worse, which honestly shouldn’t even be possible. Also, his supposed rage about his dead wife is laughable, and his sorrow? Kind of pathetic. Is it that hard to look at a woman floating in a huge vat of water and seem sad? Apparently, it is. Ahnold can’t emote in this movie worth shit.
On the other hand, there’s Robin . . .
. . . who, in his defense, at least manages to get anger across—since that’s pretty much the the big emotion he’s expected to express, other than lust. (He’s also amusingly a lot better than George Clooney when it comes to staring at Poison Ivy, transfixed, while under her spell. Clooney’s probably thinking about handguns and brain matter.)
On the other hand, O’Donnell’s line deliveries aren’t much better than Ahnold’s, and he probably has a bit more to work with than the Governator, at least where it comes to having an (admittedly extremely badly written) personal arc. Robin’s whole deal in this movie is that Batman doesn’t trust him, and he spends a ridiculous amount of time yelling at Batman because of it. And when I say yelling, I really mean whining. Because another (dangerous) drinking game rule you could add is drink anytime Robin whines about something. There’s actually some room to work here—some basic nuance that could be shown—but Chris O’Donnell doesn’t bother to sell hurt or betrayal. He just angrily bitches. A lot.
And the scene where Robin screams at the sky in inarticulate rage?
Well, that scene’s probably best left forgotten entirely.
8. Although . . . it’s worth pointing out that for as much as Batman is supposedly trying to keep Robin safe, he really does his best to get his partner killed. Sure, shutting Robin’s motorcycle down mid-ride so that he can’t attempt a big jump sounds like a good idea—actually, no, no it doesn’t, not even when you’re riding down a normal street. That kind of thing could get someone very seriously hurt. And when your motorcycle chase is taking place a thousand feet up on top of ludicrously large statues—yes, they’re doing a car chase over buildings and statues—that seems like an especially bad time to completely cut the power on your partner’s bike, forcing the whole thing to topple over and skid out of control for twenty feet.
Yeah. There’s no way that plan could end up with Robin’s brains on the pavement. Good thinking, Batman.
9. While I’m on the subject . . . Gotham as a city makes no sense of any kind.
Of course, Gotham changes its look for every new movie. I was prepared for this. What I wasn’t prepared for was how absolutely insane this city would look if it was a real place you could visit. At least half of the streets appear to not actually be at street level—or maybe it’s just one big elevated train track. I’ve never seen an elevated train myself, but you know, I’ve seen picture of Chicago. From everything I understand, though, there aren’t a lot of elevated streets or railways at the fiftieth story level.
And notice that giant face above? Yes, well, there are giant faces and hands all over Gotham City. For example, I believe this is the Observatory:
And then there is another statue that comes out of some random building and hangs right over a public street. It appears to be holding . . . eggs?
But never mind the architecture. Gotham also boasts crazy motorcycle races that are so much better than the illegal street racing that might happen in your city. Sure, maybe you live in New York or something, where things are wild and crazy. Who cares? Does Coolio run the races in your city? Do you have Day-Glo gangsters? A Clockwork Orange LARP-ers? Do you have bridges that appear to be level but are actually sloped and lead nowhere but to a hundred-foot fall to your doom? Then to hell with your city. This is Gotham, baby.
Honestly, if this were a real place . . . I would totally chance the supervillains and visit it. The postcards alone . . .
10. Adding to the crazy: Joel Schumacher, for no apparent reason, decided to film everything at a giant tilt. I enjoy weird camera angles now and again, but this is a little overkill, even for me. Of course, if the House of Schumacher had house words (I am constantly trying to come up with good house words—Game of Thrones has ruined me), I think they might be Overkill kill kill. Or maybe A pun is a terrible thing to waste.
11. All the Batman reviews I’ve done thus far have spent a goodly portion of time talking about Batman’s (usually shitty) love interests. Yet here I am on note eleven and haven’t talked about The Girlfriend once. Why?
Because she’s in it for approximately three scenes (or six minutes) and is so insignificant that I don’t understand why they bother having her at all. Admittedly, it’s sort of refreshing, not having to deal with this storyline again: Bruce meets Girl, Bruce and Girl fall in love in seven seconds, Bruce or Alfred tells Girl about Bruce’s altar ego because they’re both idiots, Bad Guy abducts Girl, Bruce saves Girl, etc, etc, etc. Still, if Julie Madison is going to be this unnecessary to both the plot and to Bruce’s character development, then why didn’t we just make Batman single? The idea of a guy who spends every night fighting crime while dressed like a giant bat isn’t exactly incompatible with singlehood.
12. Other tiny film parts?
John Glover—who played Lionel Luther in Smallville—plays Uber Mad Scientist Dr. Woodrue, who creates Bane and (unintentionally) Poison Ivy. He also gets the best line in the whole film, although he promptly ruins it by shrieking half a second later.
Vivica A. Fox, on the other hand, plays Miss B. Haven, and I think that’s all we need to say about that.
13. Other than the terrible dialogue, ridiculous action stunts, and lousy acting by pretty much all involved, there are two major problems with this movie. The first is that, as insane as this movie is, it’s also wholly uninspired. Batman and Robin is Batman and Forever on crack times infinity plus one. The parallels are all there. It’s practically the same movie, just a billion times worse. Here are a few examples:
Batman Forever: the movie opens in the Bat Cave with a bad joke between Alfred and Batman.
Batman & Robin: the movie opens in the Bat Cave with a few bad jokes between Alfred, Batman, and Robin.
Batman Forever: Two-Face holds a bank hostage. Batman fights some henchmen. Two-Face escapes in a helicopter. Batman confronts him. Two-Face jumps out, leaving Batman to crash in the helicopter. Batman escapes.
Batman & Robin: Mr. Freeze breaks into a museum. Batman and Robin fight some henchmen with hockey sticks. Mr. Freeze escapes into a rocket. Batman confronts him. Mr. Freeze jumps out, leaving Batman to crash in the rocket. Robin rescues him and they escape. By skysurfing. Oy.
Batman Forever: Colorful circus show that is broken up by Two-Face.
Batman & Robin: Colorful jungle-themed fundraiser that is broken up by Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. For added insanity: Poison Ivy sexy dancing in a gorilla suit. (This one is admittedly less similar in the details and more similar in vibe, colors, and atmosphere. This is a weird fucking fundraiser. It really looks more like a circus than any kind of auction.)
Batman Forever: Robin complains that Batman doesn’t trust him to make his own decisions (in this case, to kill Two Face).
Batman & Robin: Robin complains that Batman doesn’t trust him to make his own decisions (in this case, not to get himself killed).
Also, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin have extremely similar scores. I suppose that’s not so uncommon for sequels, but it just seemed to really stand out in this one—they often sounded like the exact same song to me. I found someone on youtube who actually compares a few of them side by side, which is kind of neat:
All in all, I’m not sure that duplicating the previous movie in the series and adding a seriously unhealthy dose of FUBAR—plus Arnold Schwarzenegger—was necessarily the way to go here.
14. The other major problem I have with this movie is that there is way too much going on for one film. If I were coming up with a list of ways to fix Batman & Robin . . . well, I’d probably say why bother, but if I was actually going to try, the first thing I’d do is take out Batgirl all together. Maybe introduce Barbara Gordon briefly—and keep her Barbara Gordon—but wait on the superheroine aspect until the fifth film. Why? Because the movie’s fucking called BATMAN & ROBIN. It wouldn’t hurt to focus on their relationship.
Of course, I would then completely rewrite their relationship because their dynamic in this movie is awful, but that’s beside the point. The point is this: less story lines and side characters means more time to develop the important stuff. Batman & Robin has two hours to introduce Barbara, give her hidden depths, get her into costume, have her flirt with Robin, show that Robin wants to have more say-so in the superhero gig, show that Batman is a pushy bastard because he has abandonment issues and wants to control death, show that Batman is unable to commit to his girlfriend, turn Batman and Robin against each other due to Poison Ivy’s pheromones, introduce Poison Ivy and her particular brand of environmentalist crazy, introduce Mr. Freeze and his frozen mermaid wife, introduce Bane and his serious linguistic problems, and—finally—have Alfred secretly dying of a made-up disease. And that’s just characters and basic themes and storylines—you then have to allow time for car chases and diamond heists and plots to freeze the entire city. Oh, and skysurfing. You really can’t forget the skysurfing.
Or, actually, you could. You could cut the skysurfing. Also, Batgirl, Bane, Julie Madison, and Poison Ivy turning our heroes against one another—seriously, the pheromone stuff is fine to a point, but it’s not the only thing the character can do—and focus primarily on Alfred dying, Bruce being scared of losing another person he loves, Bruce being overprotective of Robin, and Robin being hurt that Batman doesn’t trust him. Also, introduce the two main villains. But see how much simpler and effective that would be? Admittedly, it means nothing with all those puns still intact, but still. There are actually elements about this film that could be good . . . in someone else’s hands, clearly, because Schumacher and Goldsman appear to be out to incite mass suicidal ideation or something.
15. Also, this is a small thing, but Alfred is dying of Stage One of MacGregor’s Syndrome? Sweet Jesus, by the end of this film, it’s like he’s about to keel over at any given second. If this is Stage One, what the hell does Stage Four look like? (When you’re not in a giant water tank, I mean.)
16. I wanted to be proud of Commissioner Gordon for once.
He manages to pull a lever, which did—something. I can’t remember exactly what now, but I think it stopped him and a few fellow cops from freezing to death or something like that. I mean, it’s not Big Picture Plot stuff, but it’s a good thing, and it’s the closest thing to competent policework I’ve seen from this man in four movies.
But then he yells at Batman two second later, demanding to know how he let the bad guys escape, and far be it from to defend George Clooney and his Bat Nipples, but . . . seriously, man. You are the worst cop in the world. You can say nothing to no one. Ever.
17. Poison Ivy is defeated by being thrown back into the giant plant that she was totally lounging in a couple of minutes ago. I’m . . . confused. Is she trapped there? Did it suddenly turn on her for no reason? Doesn’t she control the plants? Can’t she just say open sesame or something?
Also, how exactly is this traumatic enough that she goes completely bonkers at the end, complete with Crazy Hair?
This all makes no sense to me. Except as another parallel to Batman Forever, of course. Because The Riddler is all bonkers in Arkham at the end of that one, and this movie just makes it one ridiculous step further by allowing Mr. Freeze—in his full costume, which takes giant diamonds to power—to be her cellmate. Er. Seriously?
18. Although I’m pretty sure it makes more sense than Batman, Batgirl, and Robin using satellites to redirect sunlight from the Congo to unthaw everybody in Gotham. I mean, science is not one of my better subjects, but I’m still relatively sure that you couldn’t just unthaw everyone instantaneously like that. I really don’t think that’s how thawing works.
Also, this eleven minute rule is bullshit. I’m not even bitching about how arbitrary the eleven minutes are—there is no way that it’s been less than eleven minutes since Mr. Freeze froze the city. None. Zippo. Everyone is dead right now.
Also—did Batman, Batgirl, and Robin really take the time to change outfits, or does the Batsuit actually have, like, mood ring tech installed somehow? Because when they’re fighting Poison Ivy, they’re in their usual gear. Robin particularly stands out in his black and red uniform. And yet, when they face Mr. Freeze five minutes later, they’re all inexplicably wearing these outfits:
Um . . . priorities?
19. The one—and probably only—good thing I will ever say about Joel Schumacher is that he defended Alicia Silverstone when she gained weight during this movie and was promptly attacked by
rabid vultures reporters. I actually remember how awful that media shitstorm was, and while I think there are some things that have to simply be accepted as a consequence for being in the public eye, that shit was just unnecessary. Schumacher standing behind Silverstone doesn’t excuse this movie even remotely, but it was classy, and that’s worth mentioning.
20. Finally, Batman wears hoodies? Seriously? Excellent.
Wow. This is, indeed, the movie that broke the franchise for almost a decade. It’s really not hard to understand why.
Akiva Goldsman. (As bad as the acting and directing was, nothing could excuse this screenplay. Nothing.)
You have to let the ones you love make their own decisions and take care of themselves. So if you’re friend/partner/adopted son/brother finds himself hanging over the side of an astronomy tower, holding on for dear life, and you can save him . . . don’t. If he falls to his doom, well. At least he knew you trusted him.