After the box-office success of Joel Schumacher's lighter and funnier Batman Forever, another installment was in order for the live action Batman film franchise. In 1997, fans would be treated to Batman & Robin, which included yet another new actor portraying billionaire-viglante Bruce/Wayne Batman, a returning Chris O' Donnell as Dick Grayson/Robin, and cast additions of megastar Arnold Scwharzenegger as Mister Freeze, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. What we would get is not only the worst Batman film ever made, but one of the worst movies ever made.
Batman & Robin follows the dynamic duo of crime-fighting vigilantes as they try to prevent Mister Freeze from stealing a cache of diamonds. Ultimately, the two fail, which creates a rift in their partnership because of Robin's disdain towards Batman's lack of trust in him. Meanwhile, Dr. Pamela Isley experiments with a serum known as "Venom," in order to create plants that would be capable to fight back against mankind. A fellow doctor attempts to kill Isley by utilizing animal-plant toxins so that he can use the venom to create a super soldier, Bane. After he fails, Isley kills him, takes Bane for herself, and vows supremacy over the world. Eventually, in Gotham, Poison Ivy, Bane and Mister Freeze form a partnership to freeze all of mankind to death, and repopulate the earth with plants. Batman and Robin are joined by Batgirl to fend off the villainous trio.
Wow, this is a hard film to talk about. To put it bluntly, Batman & Robin is one of the most terrible movies I've personally witnessed, which ultimately means I won't have much to say about it. Chris O' Donnell stated "It just felt like everything got a little soft the second time. On Batman Forever, I felt like I was making a movie. The second time, I felt like I was making a kid's toy commercial." That couldn't be more true. Batman & Robin is one big, ridiculous toy commercial. Think I'm exaggerating? Well, Warner Bros. brought in toy companies to be involved with the pre-production of the film. Additionally, an abundance of Six Flags theme parks across the country debuted theme coasters to coincide with the film's release. Batman & Robin is nothing more than a 2-hour commercial that airs during your favorite Saturday morning cartoon in order to get you to buy merchandise. While Tim Burton's Batman was the first film to utilize the promotion of merchandise in an intelligent way to market the film, Batman & Robin went straight into sellout territory by compromising the integrity of a beloved character and franchise.
Not only is the film a long-form toy commercial, there's an endless supply of unbearable one-liners and puns, particular from Schwarzenegger as Mister Freeze. The script was so lazily written by Schumacher and co-writer, Akiva Goldsman. In addition, Alicia Silverstone is a bland addition to the franchise and George Clooney as Bruce Wayne/Batman is one of the worst casting decisions ever made. Beyond terrible script-writing, mindless action and goofy character depictions and costumes, Batman & Robin was a complete waste of money that nearly killed the franchise. Seriously. Batman as a multimedia franchise was in a terrible position after this piece of crap. That's a tall statement for one of entertainment's most popular fictitious characters.
It would be eight years before another live action Batman film would hit theaters. Thankfully, director Christopher Nolan ignited new life into the franchise and returned the character to glory. Batman & Robin is the reason why so much criticism existed for comic book films. Initially, critics didn't see live adaptations of comic book characters as a worthwhile form of entertainment. Luckily, talented directors, gifted writers and knowledgable producers have handled most character iterations correctly over the past 15 years. Batman & Robin is one of those dark corners of Batman mythology no one should ever have to visit. The only redeemable quality of the movie is the production design. But even great design elements can't save this waste. If you've been unfortunate enough to witness this film, then you know what I mean. If you haven't see it, watch it. Not because it's worth it, but because it'll make you appreciate every other adaptation that much more.