Abandon hope all ye who enter here. “Batman & Robin” is staggeringly bad, even in comparison to the amusingly bad “Batman Forever” (1995) that preceded it. That movie was at least occasionally entertaining, thanks to Jim Carrey rising above his poorly written Riddler character (by Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman, no less). The laughs in “Batman & Robin,” also written by Goldsman, are purely unintentional, and usually when Arnold Schwarzenegger is onscreen. Before the movie was released, George Clooney said, to anyone who would listen, that he would be to blame if this movie kills the “Batman” franchise. Very courageous, and not at all true. This movie was dead in the water before they started casting.
The intro is “Batman Forever” shot for shot; the opening credits and subsequent Batsuit shots, finishing with the Gratuitous Bat Butt Shot (director Joel Schumacher just couldn’t help himself), are nearly identical. They then begin a humorous exercise in character development; we see Victor Fries’ life-altering accident from a security video feed (it appears the filmmakers thought the way they handled Two Face’s “development” the last time around was effective), while Pamela Isley’s (Uma Thurman) decent into madness isn’t much of a leap, since she’s played as a crackpot from the beginning. Interspersed throughout are the obligatory party scene, a preposterous motorcycle chase sequence, and…hell, it’s been eight years since I’ve seen this. Whatever doesn’t spring to mind hopefully never will.
Schwarzenegger’s dialogue is nothing short of awful. “My name is Fries. Learn it well. For it is the chilling sound of your DOOOOOOOOOM” is like something out of a McBain movie on the “Simpsons.” (In fairness to “The Simpsons,” “Ice to see you” would have been an upgrade to what Schwarzenegger has thrust upon him here. Good thing he got $25 million to do it.) Clooney gets even less to work with as Bruce Wayne than Val Kilmer did in “Batman Forever,” but plays it better. Thurman and Silverstone are completely unnecessary, and what they did to the villain Bane (think Phil Hartman playing Frankenstein) is just unforgivable. Quite simply, they didn’t get anything right, and the Warner Brothers reps present at the screening knew it.
The makers of the “Spider-Man” movies have so far been very smart, but while their role model is clearly the first “Batman,” it would do them good to watch “Batman & Robin” again too, as painful as that may be. The most important lessons to learn are, know when to walk away, know the difference between good casting and stunt casting, and for God’s sake, don’t take Brett Ratner’s phone calls. The “X-Men” people will tell you about that one in a couple years.(1 / 5)