Movie review: Batman & Robin (1997)

With Batman & Robin, the Burton-Shumacher version of the comic book story continues to painfully devolve. The previous installment, Batman Forever, took on a juvenile feel with the dialogue. In Batman & Robin, the dialogue takes this to the extreme, consisting almost entirely of ridiculous one-liners.

The opening lines set the tone (or the low bar) for the dialogue. Robin laments that he doesn’t have a car. “I want a car. Chicks dig cars.” Alfred watches Batman and Robin leave on an adventure. “I’ll cancel the pizza.” Banter throughout the movie continues in this fashion.

The villains this time around are Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a former scientist seeking for a cure for his wife whom he has frozen until he can revive her to cure her, and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), a scientist of fauna seeking ways to arm plants to protect themselves from the likes of us mammals who are destroying the earth.

The role of women in this movie is another interesting glimpse into the times. Rather than sporting a noticeable feminist slant like the first two movies in this series (Batman and Batman Returns), Batman & Robin assumes that women operate in the male arena.

Alicia Silverstone portrays a very independent modern woman, involved in motorcycle races for money in the wee hours of the night. After learning of the supermen and their lair, she jumps headfirst into taking on her own superwoman role.

Poison Ivy is a bit more mixed image of the woman from the late 1990s. She evolves from a mousey, un-self-assured scientist to a stronger, confident woman figure. Unfortunately, in this movie the latter means using feminine wiles to entice and kill men with her sexuality. She literally pits Batman and Robin against one another in a fight to possess her. And she removes any female competition, even explicitly claiming that there is no room for another woman.

George Clooney does a decent job in his role as Bruce Wayne, a more personable, engaged version of the rich businessman. Chris O’Donnell reprises his role of Dick/Robin. Alicia Silverstone shows up as an orphaned niece of Alfred’s, stumbles onto the supermen’s secret, and at the very end becomes Batgirl.

This could have been a decent story and superhero movie. Unfortunately, the dialogue, which basically consisted of one-liners, was horrific and juvenilized the movie, relegating it to the dustbin of B-rated movies. Batman & Robin is by far my least favorite in the series. My preference is for the darker yet more adult depictions in the first two movies: Batman and Batman Returns.

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