We Defend the Indefensible
Everyone one is familiar with Gotham’s leather-clad crime fighter, and Batman & Robin (1997) is a standout in the franchises 70+ year history. Yet, this is usually for all the wrong reasons. Director Joel Schumacher’s mid-nineties effort remains an unpopular adventure with the caped crusader. It’s universally panned by both the fandom and critics. This is unfair. Batman and Robin is the best Batman movie made.
With the new ‘The Batman’ Robert Pattinson film coming soon, has enough time passed to reassess this offering, maybe we can all come to our senses? Admittedly, this was the first film I saw in the cinema as a child, so forgive my soft spot for what is often regarded as a dumpster fire of a superhero movie. But is it actually that bad? Is it actually better than every other? Join me as explain why Batman and Robin is the best Batman movie of all time.
Cursed from the start
The year is 1997, the world is rapidly changing and Warner Brothers are fresh off the success of Batman Forever (1995). Eager to capitalise on this momentum, Warner set the release date of summer 1997 in stone, to ensure they had prime box office real estate.
Composer Elliot Goldenthal recalled to the Hollywood Reporter: “Suddenly you’re carrying what’s called the tentpole movie of the year. Which means that’s going to carry all the other movies, so you are going to open whether you have something or not. Those spots in the summer are so sought-after, it’s like, “Oh my God, I’m opening. But now I have to make something to open with… “It seems like you never have enough time, and seeing the posters all over Ventura Boulevard or Sunset Boulevard or the subways in New York, you are reminded how few days you have left to complete the project.”
Under these conditions, it becomes a bit clearer why the Batman and Robin movie currently has a score of 3.8/10 on IMDB and a dismal 11% on Rotten Tomatoes. With that caveat in place, it’s a miracle a film was even completed in this time, never mind one as iconic as this.
A return to the camp origins
Given the waters were muddy from the start, this bombastic version of Batman was a bold adaptation. Gone was Val Kilmer’s angsty Bruce Wayne and in was 90s TV Heartthrob George Colony. This immediately changed the tone of the character and introduces a softer Master Wayne. A Wayne more akin to the 1960s adaptation played by Adam West.
Whilst unaware as a child, obsessed with this movie, the flamboyant and homoerotic expects of this film are obvious now. Joel Schumacher, as an openly gay director, unapologetically rebuilt Batman with a queer gaze. From the infamous leather nipples on the bat suit and the chiselled leather muscles of the male protagonists to the nod to androgyny and drag culture. Both men and women are transformed into fantastical characters. Featuring sequined bodysuits, extreme hair dye and makeup.
Joel Schumacher had a budget of $125 million and people act like he turned Gotham into a fetish bar. What he actually did was proudly reimagine Gotham and its characters in an image that he sore fit.
Flamboyance is at the heart of the Batman and Robin movie. Even the frantic soundtrack of strings and trumpets used during the fight scenes almost resemble du nu nu nu nu BATMAN’… Ask yourself, is Mr freeze cascading over Gotham with huge icy butterfly wings, really that much different than the 1960s BATUSI’ dance numbers? I think not.
Joel Schumacher also introduced some iconic villains to the cinematic universe. There is no reliance on the Joker or Two-Face here, instead, we have some of the biggest stars of a generation reborn into pure comic book evil. This rogues gallery goes a long way to making Batman and Robin the best movie for the Dark Knight so far.
Fresh from the fame of Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman becomes the toxic environmentalist, Poison Ivy. Whilst only a few years after being the lead in the most expensive film of all time, James Cameron’s Terminator 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger became the frozen pun-lover, Mr Freeze.
For context, Schwarzenegger was so in vogue that celebrities would come to the set just to give him gifts. Stogie Kenyatta, who played one of Mr. Freeze’s henchmen recalled, “Jon Bon Jovi came by and he brought Cuban cigars for Arnold. So Arnold had them colour it white so he could smoke it in the scenes.”
You could call the casting daring, but daring was nipples on the bat suit… this was revolutionary. Let’s not forget the fresh-faced Alicia Silverstone, plucked straight from the set of Clueless and into the Batgirl costume. Along with the introduction to Bane, yes BANE to this cinematic universe.
Ok, Bane is played as a meat-headed Frankenstein goon, that practically unrecognisable to Tom Hardy’s’ smooth-talking, dynamite enthusiast. But, in this cartoonish world, it actually makes sense. Bane is set up to be Ivys’ loyal monster as they are both unholy, accidental creations. Whilst accomplished Cryogenicist Dr Victor Fries and his band of outcasts, are simply searching for a cure for his wife’s fatal degenerative disease.
These are silly characters, but they are played by icons of a generation and given half-decent backstories as to why they are in the film. If nothing else, dastardly villains accompanied by goons are classic Batman tropes. The Batman and Robin movie does ‘comic book’ better than any of the other outings. This is the finest recreation of the outlandish energy that made this franchise famous.
This is why we CAN have nice things
Whilst my love for this film is true, I can’t deny that Nolan’s trilogy isn’t fantastic in their own right. But, if we didn’t get this fever dream of a Batman film, then the franchise wouldn’t have served an 8-year sentence in film jail’ before experiencing a full-on reboot and origin story. You have to thank this movie for The Dark Knight Trilogy.
This was the last hurrah for the world’s best detective. Eating itself alive as the cinematic capitalist machine washes it down with another happy meal toy. Since Tim Burtons two flicks, to Batman Forever and finally Batman & Robin, every incarnation was individual, inconsistent, yet an enjoyable outing. Each revelling in pure comic book fancy before the era of gritty, horror-inspired realism sunk its claws into every hero of the 2000s.
In a lot of ways, the Batman and Robin movie walked so The Dark Knight could run. It’s unfair to call it the worst of the Batman movies.
Who knew there were so many ice-related puns to be shoehorned into a comic film? Was it ridiculous? Yes. Was it memorable? Yes. If your still angry about this silly film doing silly things, then I’m afraid that might be a you problem.
Batman & Robin is a bazaar ride, but don’t mistake silly for stupid. The film is self-aware to the point of parody. It’s an old fashioned comic book tale. From the bat card’ to Robins rubber lips, but the dialogue throughout indicated that the tongue is firmly in the cheek.
The film manages to poke fun at itself for the older audiences whilst remaining an action-packed adventure for the younger. The film isn’t oblivious to its ridiculousness, it’s offering it up on the surface level. It’s laughing with you, not at you, something that has been forgotten when it comes to Batman.
Without humour and pomp, we will be left with continuous bland interpretations of this character. I fear for the upcoming ‘The Batman’ film.
Whether it’s the MCU or Deadpool, every modern comic book film has an element of humour woven into it. Yet people turn their nose up at the Batman and Robin movie because they have a preconceived idea that Batman must be the same endless gloomy cliches.
Why can’t we laugh with Batman? He’s a wealthy aristocrat detective’ that dresses like a bat to fight crime… so, why so serious?
A psychedelic Gotham
Before every superhero was based in New York, LA or sometimes a ranch, there was Gotham. A spooky, fantastical city that resembled a corrupt American setting, yet reflected the zestiest in a nightmarish underworld.
“Toyetic” was a term often used by Schumacher to describe his Gotham. A term that takes his situation of Warner Brothers demanding an easy to consume, merchandisable product. He uses it to create an empowered, glamorous setting.
The whole film is brimming with generously coloured set designs, miniatures, costumes and more. Batman & Robin is a film that deserves more recondition as a major box office comic book film. It created its fantasy set, without the reliance on digital technology.
From the camera choices to the extreme, saturated effects, the whole film is a vibrant experience. It’s oozing with colour and a fitting adaptation from a comic book. Compared to the bland colour pallets of the MCU and that the Dark Knight Trilogy and the DCEU rendered Gotham to any old U.S city. Schumacher’s Gotham was the last one loyal to the comic book fantasyland it should be.
Batman & Robin is not a perfect film and was never trying to be. It’s a cartoonish anomaly that successfully got a new generation of children into Batman. A play on the franchises past whilst blossoming in the midst of a box office cash grab.
This film took its genre to the limits and saw consumerism eat itself alive; paving the way for the golden era of comic book movies that were to follow. For that reason it’s the best Batman film there is and something that for better or worse, can never be replicated.
And that’s why Batman and Robin is the best Batman movie ever. Is there anything we missed out that you think could’ve been on this list? Or are we way out of our depth with this argument? If so, leave us a comment below.
We defend more of the indefensible HERE.
Read IMDB information about Batman and Robin HERE.
No Time To Die – Review
No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.
I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.
A step up?
This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.
That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.
The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.
Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.
There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.
Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.
The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.
Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.
It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.
I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.
Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.
It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10
Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.
Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.
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