By Matt Fleming and Jarrod Jones. This is the ANTI-MONITOR podcast, where hey — cool party. This week, Jarrod & Birdy celebrate their fortieth episode by assessing the much-maligned Joel Schumacher debacle, ‘Batman & Robin’. They discuss the production of the film, how Uma Thurman rescued the whole damn thing single-handedly, and play a round of “Love That Gordon”.
As always, be wary of spoilers throughout, and please enjoy.
ANTI-MONITOR — MATT: DC has made some big mistakes when it comes to movies over the years, but its most criticized venture may have been Joel Schumacher’s 1997 dud, Batman & Robin. The movie had a lot going against it from the start: a rushed pre-production, a new, untested hero in George Clooney, and studio pressure to make a shit-ton of toys. Nonetheless, the team strove to make a Bat-movie that would appeal to a wide audience and satisfy Warner Bros. The end result was clearly a disappointment.
The problem is that it was pretty dang close to being a good Batman flick. Minus the unnecessary Bane, the movie had pretty great villains. In a perfect world, Arnold Schwarzenegger was Mr. Freeze, and Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy was a highlight reel of awesome. Add a trio of duds as the protagonists, and you got one of the more disappointing movies in the superhero genre. Trust me, it’s slightly better than you remember, but mostly Batman & Robin was an example of what happens when a movie studio wastes its own potential. It’s a sad trend that continues today.
ANTI-MONITOR — JARROD: Nothing could have prepared the teenage me for the utter disappointment that was Batman & Robin. I stepped into the air-conditioned theater that fateful summer afternoon expecting another amusing, neon-soaked installment from director Joel Schumacher. What I got instead was a humbling experience, not just as a burgeoning movie-goer, but as an ardent comic book reader.
Twenty years have passed since then. I’ve run the gauntlet of equally cynical and poorly executed superhero films, so when it came time to reevaluate Batman & Robin, it was vital that I employed some perspective. If you approach it as a big budget version of the ’66 TV show, Schumacher’s nightmarish Gotham City and its populace of colorful (and, at times, grating) characters are easy enough to swallow. If you approach the film as a Batman movie to be compared to the best examples of Batman movies, you’re only opening yourself up to frustration.
Objectively, it’s a mess. But there’s a beating heart underneath all this garish spectacle. You’ll find it in Uma Thurman’s scintillating turn as Poison Ivy and George Clooney’s lighthearted take on the Dark Knight Detective. You’ll find it in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infectiously game take on Mr. Freeze, puns and all. Michael Gough’s last performance as stalwart butler Alfred Pennyworth is one for the books. The veteran actor never had a more vital role in these Bat-films, and Batman & Robin is all the stronger because of it.
But yes. It’s a disaster. Somehow I’ve grown to love it.
CONSENSUS: Belligerent, overlong, and nightmarish in its phantasmagoria, Batman & Robin remains entertaining in spite of itself. 2.5 out of 10
The Anti-Monitor podcast is co-written and produced by M. Fleming and J. Jones, edited by J. Jones.
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