For the decade plus, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that I felt Batman & Robin was the worst movie of all time. And that’s not a passing remark. This is something I’ve really thought a lot about. I spent over 5 years working behind video store counters in my youth, getting paid to talk movies with costumers, so this is a conversation that’s happened hundreds of times. A lot of people think I’m picking something at random when they ask me because I answer so quickly. People laugh and agree it sucked, but the worst ever? Often times they doubt me, but they haven’t put the thought I have into it. This is a movie with a $110 million dollar budget (back when that meant something), an established Director, great cast and most importantly, an icon that has endured for the better part of a century. Bat Nipples…
Let’s start at the head: Director Joel Schumacher. Prior to 1997, Schumacher had a mostly stellar reputation. Aside from the obvious The Lost Boys, he also put out A Time to Kill, Flatliners, and Falling Down. All of which were pretty well received. I know I was a fan. But in 1997, he spent $110 million (which is more than it took to make all 4 of the aforementioned films) on a mockery of everything DC and Tim Burton had spent so much time shaping.
The Dark Knight got dark again in the 1970s and 1980s, thanks largely to Frank Miller, and the guys at DC wanted a movie to reflect that. They spent most of the 80s trying to get one made, and finally, in 1989 we got Tim Burton’s Batman. It was as far from the hokey 60’s television show as you could have gotten, and it redefined Batman for a new generation. No “BAM! KAPOW!”, but instead a seriously darker look at Gotham City and the Caped Crusader.
The TV show in the 1960’s was a necessary step to keeping ‘Batman’, who was on the verge of his comic getting canceled, alive. And the show achieved that goal. It made Batman relevant again, or at least popular enough to keep his comic going. And while the 1970’s brought the seriousness back to the book, and reintroduced The Joker as a legitimate threat, Batman’s rep was already tarnished by the very show that saved him.
So there we were, 20 years after the end of the TV show and Burton’s Batman comes out and crushes everything at the box office. Batman was reborn.
After 20 years of fighting to rebuild Batman’s image, it was finally a success. The ‘Dark Knight’ was dark once more. Burton pumped out a sequel that saw more of the Gotham built-in the first movie, and shortly after that we got one of the greatest cartoons of all time.
Then, in 1995, Joel Schumacher was handed the franchise and it took a turn.
At first glance Schumacher must’ve seemed like a perfect fit. Flatliners was dark as Hell and Falling Down was as hardcore a vigilante movie as we’d seen since Charlie Bronson’s Death Wish.
But what we got was a lighter Batman then we’d seen in the previous 2 movies. Batman Forever wasn’t completely terrible, but it certainly didn’t hold a candle to its predecessors. Sure, Jim Carrey’s ‘Riddler’ was gonna lighten things up by nature.
And it’s not Schumacher’s fault that the writers destroyed Two-Face, turning him in a joke. And let’s face it, Robin was forced on him.
All these factors, along with Keaton leaving the title role were going to handicap Schumacher, so in large, he got a pass.
2 years later we get Batman & Robin. Surely Schumacher has ironed out the kinks from the last film, right? WRONG. He took everything wrong with the 3rd movie, and expanded on it. He made it Cheesier. He introduced a Bat-Credit Card. Brought in Batgirl in the dumbest way imaginable, and put nipples on the Bat-Suit. Because nothing strikes fear in the hearts of villainy like erect male nipples. Schumacher ignored the very purpose of the first movie and reverted back to the exact garbage they were trying to escape.
Next, the cast:
[quote] “[The cast] is quite a line-up, boasting a broad choice of dramatic styles, and what lends the movie cohesion and integrity is the fact that all those involved have come up with their worst imaginable performances…You sit there feeling brain-damaged and praying for the mayhem to cease.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker. [/quote]
Like him or not, George Clooney is a good actor. I loved Out of Sight and I thought he was perfect in From Dusk Till Dawn. Then the Academy also liked him in all those Oscar type movies for which he was nominated. I really don’t think you can blame Clooney for ruining this. If I were asked to play Batman I’d of said yes too, regardless of the script.
So then, next to Clooney we bring in Alicia Silverstone, still hot coming off of Clueless and it kills her career. Silverstone was another actress I liked, but she never really recovered from her inclusion in here to reach the heights previously expected of her.
I mean look at that, what the F? Polar Bear slippers? This man is dead inside, he wouldn’t wear Polar Bear slippers to keep his feet warm. I love Schwarzenegger, but this might be his low point, and yes, I’m including Hercules in New York.
As far as Uma, there is no doubt this is her lowest point. What’s sad is these are 2 of my favorite villains and seeing them misused here…well, as Charles Barkley would say: Turrible. And let’s not forget, they took Bane. The man who broke the bat, and turned him into a brainless joke of a henchmen.
So you have a huge budget for the time, a strong cast, a respected Director, and a cultural Icon. You take all that and give us what amounts to Sub-B movie. Schumacher had a responsibility to the character and he failed. It was because of this colossal failure that a lot of planned comic movies got shelved, and it wasn’t till Singer did X-Men 3 years later that people started to forget how Schumacher had undone all of Burton’s work.
Well EMPIRE a while back conducted a poll and released a list of the 50 WORST MOVIES EVER MADE. And guess who feels vindicated? Booyah. #1 with a bullet on that list: BATMAN & ROBIN. Not only did it win this dubious honor, but it racked up more than three times as many votes as the second place flop BATTLEFIELD EARTH.
Other notables making the list:
#50 – Spiderman 3
#46 – Howard the Duck
#45 – Blade Trinity
#44 – Matrix Revolutions
#41 – Van Helsing (Screw You Wolverine)
#40 – Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
#39 – Dungeons and Dragons
#37 – Max Payne
#36 – Eragon
#35 – House of the Dead
#32 – The Spirit (Should’ve been higher)
#27 – Street Fighter
#25 – Transformers 2
#15 – Catwoman (Just edging out PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE)
#13 – The Avengers (Uma, NOOOOO!)
#9 – Highlander 2
So there you have it. the WORST. MOVIE. EVER.