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Lost in a world of confusion, Batman & Robin flops

Batman & Robin

Before I went to the opening night of Batman & Robin, I decided to watch Mars Attacks!. There really is no reason that I watched it (other than it was at my house) and there is no reason to mention it in this review, except for the main purpose of bringing up the director of that film, and the first two Batman movies, Tim Burton. It amazes me at how good of a director Burton is. He can change styles between films, such as his Batman Returns and Mars Attacks! alteration. They are two very different types of filmmaking. Yet, both are in a world of their own. One is dark and gloomy, the other, bright and cheerfully funny.

I mention this because Burton gave up his throne to Joel Schumacher, a director who gave the famous series an unneeded and unwanted twist. Schumacher made Batman Forever with bright sets, colorful costumes, and turned it into an action-comedy (which is exactly what Batman isn't). I forgave Schumacher because he had sense enough of casting two excellent actors as the villains. However, this time around, there isn't even star power to give it momentum to interest the audience. Sure, the stars are usually top-notch and they have big names, but when they are all put together, it just becomes a jumbled mess. I'm not blaming the actors, because they try their hardest to make any sense out of this film. There is only one sole person who the blame should be put on: the director.

Schumacher has created a horrible and shockingly bad film, which actually were below my expectations for the film (hard to do, trust me). His choice of camera angles and shooting techniques are almost completely wrong for this film. And I have never liked those bright and colorful lights which come from barely off the screen (what do they do except enhance the mood?). I'm a big fan of Batman and Batman Returns (the best of the series in my opinion), and there are several reasons that I like them. One is that the mood is just right and recreates the dark comic book feel. Another is that Michael Keaton was Batman (the only real Batman). Another, the music was by Danny Elfman, which again, enhances the mood of the film. I could give more, but I'm not going to.

But as the film is now, Batman & Robin only has a couple good elements about it. The film begins with the obligatory "nipple" (and other body parts) shots. This actually provides some humor, which is one of the good elements of the film. The other good element is one of the stars, which I will reveal later. Batman and Robin (George Clooney from "ER" and Chris O'Donnell) are immediately told about Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), which leaves no time for character development (something all of the predecessors were able to do). My guess is that Schumacher just decided to get rid of all character development and just go for plain, dumb action. We learn a little bit of Freeze's history, and it is very interesting, but it is cut extremely short to show another action scene. In fact, some of the action scenes aren't even necessary, such as the Barbara Wilson (Alicia Silverstone) racing scenes.

And to top it all, the action scenes are horribly directed. Schumacher wanted to go for cameras which moved around and cut rapidly between shots. The result of this decision is very messy and confusing scenes. Most of the time I couldn't tell what happened until the final shot, showing the winner and loser. My advice to Schumacher is to not have so many people on the screen at one time, and at least try to take one shot without the camera moving in weird angles. In fact, my advice is to just give up the directing job (of this series, anyway) and go back to producing, and get Burton back... please!

There is one thing that really sticks out in this film, despite the chaos. Uma Thurman is above the rest, and it almost seems that she should be in a different film. Her performance is very good and she provides a lot of the zany one-liners (which are actually funny). Her sexy performance shows how good Thurman is in almost anything. It reminded me of Michelle Pfeiffer's performance in the second film (but, of course, it's not quite as good as that). The rest of the cast is left to say stupid lines and be overpowered by the huge action pieces. George Clooney is an okay Batman. Val Kilmer was probably worse, but no one compares to Keaton. In fact, Clooney gives my favorite line in the film ("That's awfully PC of you. How 'bout Batperson, or Batwoman?"). Chris O'Donnell is actually pretty good and it is fun to watch him and Clooney bicker about who Thurman likes more. Arnold Schwarzenegger was my least favorite of the film (which is supposed to be the exact opposite). He said lines with emotion and wit, which is a paradox for Mr. Freeze, considering he doesn't have emotions. My favorite rendition of Mr. Freeze is the Batman cartoons on TV. In fact, the Batman cartoons are the best Batman renditions I have ever seen.

Alicia Silverstone does as much with her character as allowed, but she comes out as a foolish girl and her character is very uninteresting. Michael Gough is very good, again, as Alfred (still the most interesting character throughout the series). Then there's Elle Macpherson who has absolutely no character and almost as little dialogue. Jeep Swenson plays Bane who is quite an intriguing character. He has almost no dialogue with the sporatic word here and there. And if you remember Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, there appears to be a hommage to him during the motorcycle racing scene.

Batman & Robin is rated PG-13 for strong, stylized action and some innuendos. While I normally love Schumacher's directing (A Time To Kill), he is clearly not right for this type of film. There is really only one other thing to say: GET BURTON BACK! GET BURTON BACK! I can not emphasize it enough. If Tim Burton, or anyone involved in the Batman films, see this, please: GET BURTON BACK!

*1/2 out of ****

Reviews by Boyd Petrie
Movie Reviews