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.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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