Batman & Robin (film)
|Batman & Robin|
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Written by||Akiva Goldsman|
|Produced by||Peter MacGregor-Scott|
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$238.2 million|
Batman & Robin is a 1997 American superhero film based on the DC Comics characters Batman and Robin. It is the fourth and final installment of Warner Bros.'s initial Batman film series, a sequel to Batman Forever and the only film in the series made without the involvement of Tim Burton in any capacity. Directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Akiva Goldsman, it stars George Clooney replacing Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze, and Chris O'Donnell reprising his role as Dick Grayson / Robin, alongside Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, and Elle Macpherson. The film follows the titular characters as they attempt to prevent Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy from taking over the world, while at the same time struggling to keep their partnership together. It is also to date the only live-action film appearance of Batgirl, portrayed by Silverstone, who helps the title characters fight the villains.
Warner Bros. fast-tracked development for Batman & Robin following the box office success of Batman Forever. Schumacher and Goldsman conceived the storyline during pre-production on A Time to Kill, while Val Kilmer decided not to reprise the role over scheduling conflicts with The Saint. Schumacher had a strong interest in casting William Baldwin in Kilmer's place before George Clooney won the role. Principal photography began in September 1996 and wrapped in January 1997, two weeks ahead of the shooting schedule.
Batman & Robin premiered in Los Angeles on June 12, 1997, and went into general release on June 20. Making $238.2 million worldwide against a production budget of $160 million, the film was a critical failure, receiving largely unfavorable reviews and is often considered to be one of the worst films ever made. It is also the lowest-grossing live-action Batman film to date. Due to the film's poor reception, Warner Bros. cancelled a sequel, Batman Unchained, and rebooted the film series with Batman Begins in 2005. One of the songs recorded for the film, "The End Is the Beginning Is the End" by The Smashing Pumpkins, won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards.
Batman and his partner, Robin, encounter a new foe, Mr. Freeze, who has left a string of diamond robberies in his wake. During a confrontation in the natural history museum, Freeze steals a bigger diamond and flees, freezing Robin and leaving Batman unable to pursue him. Later, Batman and Robin learn that Freeze was originally Dr. Victor Fries, a scientist working to develop a cure for MacGregor's Syndrome, hoping to heal his terminally ill wife. After a lab accident, Fries was rendered unable to live at average temperatures and forced to wear a cryogenic suit powered by diamonds for survival.
At a Wayne Enterprises lab in Brazil, botanist Dr. Pamela Isley is working under the deranged Dr. Jason Woodrue, experimenting with a drug called Venom. She witnesses Woodrue use the formula to turn serial killer Antonio Diego into a hulking monstrosity, whom he dubs "Bane." When Isley threatens to expose Woodrue's experiments, he attempts to kill her by overturning a shelf of various toxins. Isley transforms into the beautiful and seductive Poison Ivy before killing Woodrue with her poisonous kiss, setting fire to the lab, and escaping with Bane. She finds that Wayne Enterprises funded Woodrue, though they eventually cut Woodrue's funding. Poison Ivy concocts a plan to use Wayne's money to support her research, and goes to Gotham City with Bane. Meanwhile, Alfred Pennyworth's niece, Barbara Wilson, makes a surprise visit and is invited by Bruce to stay at Wayne Manor until she goes back to school.
Wayne Enterprises presents a new telescope for Gotham Observatory at a press conference interrupted by Isley. She proposes a project that could help the environment, but Bruce declines her offer, which would kill millions of people. That night, Wayne Enterprises holds a charity event with special guests, Batman and Robin, and she decides to use her abilities to seduce them. Freeze crashes the party and steals a diamond from the event. Although he is captured by Batman and detained in Arkham Asylum, he eventually escapes with the help of Ivy, who kills two security guards with her kiss in the process. Meanwhile, Dick discovers that Barbara has participated in drag races to raise money for Alfred, who is dying of MacGregor's Syndrome.
Friction arises between Batman and Robin because Ivy seduces Robin, but Bruce eventually convinces Dick to trust him. Ivy is able to contact Robin once more, kissing him but failing to kill him, as Robin is wearing rubber lips. Meanwhile, Barbara discovers the Batcave, where an AI version of Alfred reveals he has made Barbara her own suit. Barbara dons the suit and becomes Batgirl. Ivy captures Robin, Batman rescues him, and Batgirl arrives to subdue Ivy before revealing her identity to the pair.
Batman, Robin, and Batgirl decide to go after Freeze together. By the time they find Freeze and Bane, however, Gotham is completely frozen. Bane attacks Batgirl and Robin, but they eventually defeat him by detaching his Venom tubes, halting the flow of Venom to his body.
Batman defeats Freeze in combat, while Batgirl and Robin manage to thaw the city. Batman shows Freeze a recording of Ivy during her fight with Batgirl, who had informed the latter that she killed Freeze's wife. However, Batman tells Freeze that his wife is still alive, in cryogenic slumber, before moving to Arkham Asylum, waiting for Freeze to finish his research. Batman then asks Freeze for the cure he has created for MacGregor's Syndrome to administer to Alfred. Freeze atones for his crimes by giving him the medicine.
Ivy is imprisoned in Arkham Asylum, with a vengeful Freeze as her cellmate. Alfred is cured, and everyone agrees to let Barbara stay at Wayne Manor and fight crime with them.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze:
A molecular biologist who suffers a terrible accident while trying to cryogenically preserve his terminally ill wife. As a result, he is forced to live in a sub-zero suit powered by diamonds. Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, and Patrick Stewart were considered for the role, before the script was rewritten to accommodate Schwarzenegger's casting. Schumacher decided that Mr. Freeze must be "big and strong like he was chiseled out of a glacier". Schwarzenegger was paid a $25 million salary for the role, while his prosthetic makeup and wardrobe took six hours to apply each day.
- George Clooney as Bruce Wayne / Batman:
A billionaire industrialist who fights crime as Batman, Gotham City's vigilante protector. Val Kilmer who played the role in Batman Forever was originally planned to reprise the role but was recast after signing on to The Saint (1997).
- Eric Lloyd as Young Bruce Wayne.
- Chris O'Donnell as Dick Grayson / Robin:
The crime-fighting partner to Batman and legal ward to Bruce Wayne. He has begun to chafe against Batman's authority.
- Uma Thurman as Dr. Pamela Isley / Poison Ivy:
A crazed botanist who becomes an ecoterrorist after being pushed into vials of chemicals, poisons, and toxins. This event replaced her blood with aloe, her skin with chlorophyll, and filled her lips with venom, thus making her kiss deadly. She also uses pheromone spores to make men fall for her. She has a powerful influence over Robin, and seeks opportunities to get close to him in order to kill him with her poisonous kiss. Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, and Julia Roberts were considered for the role. Thurman took the role because she liked the femme fatale characterization of Poison Ivy.
- Alicia Silverstone as Barbara Wilson / Batgirl:
After her parents die in a car accident, she goes to live with her uncle Alfred, who was very close to her mother, Margaret. Silverstone was the first and only choice for the role. Unlike the comics, this Batgirl is not related to Commissioner Gordon.
- Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth:
The trusted butler for Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Alfred is dying of a rare disease from which Mr. Freeze's wife also suffers.
- Jon Simmons as Young Alfred Pennyworth.
- Pat Hingle as Commissioner James Gordon:
The police commissioner of Gotham City. He is close to Batman and informs him of numerous crimes.
- John Glover as Dr. Jason Woodrue:
A deranged scientist with a desire for world domination via his Venom-powered "supersoldiers". He is responsible for the creation of both Bane and Poison Ivy, the latter of whom kills him with a kiss from her toxic lips. Glover previously appeared in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures as The Riddler, and later appeared as Mr. Sivana in Shazam!, set in the DC Extended Universe.
- Elle Macpherson as Julie Madison:
Bruce Wayne's girlfriend. She proposes to Bruce, but he does not respond, fearing for her safety.
- Vivica A. Fox as Ms. B. Haven:
Mr. Freeze's sexy assistant who flirts with him constantly. He is unresponsive, as he is still in love with his wife.
- Vendela Kirsebom as Nora Fries:
Mr. Freeze's cryogenically frozen wife.
- Elizabeth Sanders as Gossip Gerty:
Gotham's top gossip columnist. Sanders was Batman's creator Bob Kane's wife.
- Robert Swenson as Bane:
Poison Ivy's bodyguard and muscle, who was originally a diminutive criminal named Antonio Diego. Transformed into a hugely powerful "Super-soldier" by the strength-enhancing drug "Venom", he was seen assisting the main villains in several ways, including getting Mr. Freeze's suit back from Arkham Asylum, and fighting against the main heroes several times, eventually being defeated by Robin and Batgirl after they found a way to stop the venom flow to his brain. On August 18, 1997, two months after the film's release, Swenson died of heart failure in Los Angeles.
- Michael Paul Chan as Dr. Lee:
A research scientist whom Mr. Freeze kidnaps.
- Kimberly Scott as Observatory Associate.
- Christian Boeving as Snowy Cones Thug.
With the box office success of Batman Forever in June 1995, Warner Bros. immediately commissioned a sequel. They hired director Joel Schumacher and writer Akiva Goldsman to reprise their duties the following August, and decided it was best to fast-track production for a June 1997 target release date, which is a break from the usual 3-year gap between films. Schumacher wanted to homage both the broad camp style of the 1960s television series and the work of Dick Sprang. The storyline of Batman & Robin was conceived by Schumacher and Goldsman during pre-production on A Time to Kill. Portions of Mr. Freeze's backstory were based on the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Heart of Ice", written by Paul Dini. Goldsman, however, expressed concerns about the script during pre-production discussions with Schumacher.
While Chris O'Donnell reprises the role of Robin, Val Kilmer decided not to reprise the role of Batman from Batman Forever. Schumacher admitted he had difficulty working with Kilmer on Forever. "He sort of quit," Schumacher said, "and we sort of fired him." Schumacher would later go on to say that Kilmer wanted to work on The Island of Dr. Moreau because Marlon Brando was cast in the film. Kilmer said he was not aware of the fast-track production and was already committed to The Saint (1997). Schumacher originally had a strong interest in casting William Baldwin in Kilmer's place, but George Clooney was cast instead. Schumacher believed Clooney could provide a lighter interpretation of the character than Michael Keaton (in Batman and Batman Returns) and Kilmer. The shooting schedule allowed Clooney to simultaneously work on ER without any scheduling conflicts.
Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, and Patrick Stewart were considered for the role of Mr. Freeze, before the script was rewritten to accommodate Arnold Schwarzenegger's casting. Schumacher decided that Mr. Freeze must be "big and strong like he was chiseled out of a glacier". Schwarzenegger was paid a $25 million salary for the role. Mr. Freeze's armor was made by armorer Terry English, who estimated the costume cost some $1.5 million to develop and make. To prepare for the role, Schwarzenegger wore a bald cap after declining to shave his head and wore a blue LED in his mouth. His prosthetic makeup and wardrobe took six hours to apply each day. Thurman took the role of Poison Ivy because she liked the femme fatale characterization of the character. Alicia Silverstone was the only choice for the role of Batgirl.
According to Schumacher, during the scene in which the costumes of the Riddler and Two-Face are seen, he originally planned to put Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze escaping from Arkham Asylum while many other villains saw them from their cells. The scene was not included in the final film.
The original start date was August 1996, but principal photography did not begin until September 12, 1996. Batman & Robin finished filming in late January 1997, two weeks ahead of the shooting schedule. The film was mostly shot at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.
When comparing work on Batman Forever, O'Donnell explained, "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." He also complained of the Robin costume, saying it was more involved and uncomfortable than the one he wore in Batman Forever, with a glued-on mask which caused sweat to pool on his face. According to John Glover, who played Dr. Jason Woodrue, "Joel [Schumacher] would sit on a crane with a megaphone and yell before each take, 'Remember, everyone, this is a cartoon'. It was hard to act because that kind of set the tone for the film." Production designer Barbara Ling admitted her influences for the Gotham City design came from "neon-ridden Tokyo and the Machine Age. Gotham is like a World's fair on ecstasy." Rhythm and Hues and Pacific Data Images created the visual effects sequences, with John Dykstra and Andrew Adamson credited as the visual effects supervisors.
O'Donnell said that despite hanging out with Schwarzenegger a lot off set and during promotion for the film, they never worked a single day together; this was achieved with stand-ins when one of the actors was not available. Stunt coordinator Alex Field taught Silverstone to ride a motorcycle so that she could play Batgirl.
Like Batman Forever, the original score for the film was written by Elliot Goldenthal. The soundtrack featured a variety of genres by various bands and performers, showcasing alternative rock on the lead single "The End Is the Beginning Is the End" by The Smashing Pumpkins, on the Goo Goo Dolls' contribution, "Lazy Eye" and with R.E.M.'s song "Revolution". R&B singer R. Kelly also wrote "Gotham City" for the soundtrack, which became the other song featured in the end credits, as well as one of the singles, reaching the top 10 in the United States and in the UK. Eric Benét and Meshell Ndegeocello also contributed R&B songs. Also included was the top 5-second single, "Look into My Eyes" by the hip hop group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Other songs featured included electronic dance elements, including those by Moloko and Arkarna. The soundtrack was released on May 27, 1997, more than two weeks before the film's American premiere. "The End Is the Beginning Is the End" by The Smashing Pumpkins, won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards.
The Batman & Robin film trailer debuted on the February 19, 1997 episode of Entertainment Tonight. Warner Bros. spent $125 million to market and promote the film, in addition to its $160 million production budget. The studio also reportedly included toy companies in pre-production meetings, including the design of concept art and character illustrations. Director Joel Schumacher criticized Warner Bros.' strategy for Batman & Robin as being overtly "toyetic".
Several Six Flags amusement parks introduced new roller coasters themed to the film. Batman & Robin: The Chiller opened at Six Flags Great Adventure in 1997, and Mr. Freeze opened at both Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags St. Louis in 1998. Taco Bell featured a promotional campaign including collectible cups and a contest with a replica of the film's Batmobile as a grand prize. A junior novelization of the screenplay, written by Alan Grant, was published along with the release of the film in 1997.
Batman & Robin was released on June 20, 1997 in North America, earning $42,872,605 in its opening weekend, making it the third-highest opening weekend of 1997. The film declined by 63% in its second week. Batman & Robin faced early competition with Face/Off, Hercules, and Men in Black. Schumacher blamed it on yellow journalism started by Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News and other film websites such as Dark Horizons. The film went on to gross $107.3 million in North America and $130.9 million internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $238.2 million. Warner Bros. acknowledged Batman & Robin's shortcomings in the domestic market but pointed out success in other markets.
If there's anybody watching this, that... let's say, loved Batman Forever, and went into Batman & Robin with great anticipation, if I've disappointed them in any way, then I really want to apologize. Because it wasn't my intention. My intention was just to entertain them.
—Joel Schumacher's apology for his work on the film
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 12%, based on 93 reviews, with an average rating of 3.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Joel Schumacher's tongue-in-cheek attitude hits an unbearable limit in Batman & Robin, resulting in a frantic and mindless movie that's too jokey to care much for." On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 28 out of 100, based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
Schumacher and producer Peter MacGregor-Scott blamed the negative reception of Batman & Robin on Warner Bros.' decision to fast track production. "There was a lot of pressure from Warner Bros. to make Batman & Robin more family-friendly," Schumacher explained. "We decided to do a less depressing Batman movie, and less torture and more heroic. I know I have been criticized a lot for this, but I didn't see the harm in that approach at all."
Upon release, the film received near unanimous negative reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized the toyetic approach and Mr. Freeze's one-liner jokes in his "thumbs down" review of the film. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times believed the film "killed" the Batman film series. Desson Howe of The Washington Post disapproved of Schumacher's direction and Akiva Goldsman's script, as well as the returning costume design from the first film. Mick LaSalle, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, said, "George Clooney is the big zero of the film, and should go down in history as the George Lazenby of the series." However, Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave a more positive review, and praised Uma Thurman's performance. Andrew Johnston, writing in Time Out New York, remarked, "It's hard to tell who B&R is intended for. Anyone who knows the character from the comics or the superb animated show on Fox will be alienated. And though Schumacher treats the Adam West version as gospel, that show's campy humor is completely incompatible with these production values."
In his book Batman: the Complete History, Les Daniels analysed the film's relatively strong performance internationally: "nuances of languages or personality were likely to be lost in translation and admittedly eye-popping spectacle seemed sufficient."
Batman & Robin was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, as well as Best Make-up and Best Costume, but won none. Alicia Silverstone won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Other nominations at the Razzie Awards included Schumacher (Worst Director), George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell (Worst Screen Couple), Akiva Goldsman (Worst Screenplay), both Chris O'Donnell and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Worst Supporting Actor), Uma Thurman (Worst Supporting Actress), as well as Billy Corgan (Worst Song for "The End Is the Beginning Is the End"). Batman & Robin also received nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Remake or Sequel and Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property. Ultimately, out of 11 nominations, Batman & Robin garnered only one Razzie Award.
At the Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, the film garnered five nominations, of which it won four: Worst Picture, Worst Director (Joel Schumacher), Worst Supporting Actress (Alicia Silverstone), and Worst Screenplay for a Film Grossing More Than $100M Worldwide Using Hollywood Math. However, it lost Worst Sequel to Speed 2: Cruise Control. Later, the Stinkers Bad Movie Awards unveiled their "100 Years, 100 Stinkers" list which "honoured" the 100 worst films of the 20th century. Batman and Robin managed to rank as the #3 worst film of the century, behind Wild Wild West at #2 and Battlefield Earth at #1.
During the filming of Batman & Robin, Warner Bros. was impressed with the dailies, prompting them to immediately hire Joel Schumacher to return as director for a fifth film. However, writer Akiva Goldsman turned down an offer to write the script. In late 1996, Warner Bros. and Schumacher hired Mark Protosevich to write the script for a fifth Batman film. A projected mid-1999 release date was announced. Los Angeles Times described their film as "continuing in the same vein with multiple villains and more silliness". Titled Batman Unchained, Protosevich's script had the Scarecrow as the main villain. Through the use of his fear toxin, he resurrects the Joker as a hallucination in Batman's mind. Harley Quinn appeared as a supporting character, written as the Joker's daughter. Clooney, O'Donnell, Silverstone, and Coolio were set to reprise the roles of Batman, Robin, Batgirl, and Scarecrow. It was hoped that the villains from previous films would make cameo appearances in the hallucinations caused by Scarecrow, culminating with Jack Nicholson reprising the role of the Joker. Following the poor critical and financial reception of Batman & Robin, Clooney vowed never to reprise his role.
In "Legends of the Dark Knight", an episode of The New Batman Adventures, three teenagers discuss their ideas about what Batman is really like. They briefly meet a youth called Joel whose idea of Batman reflects characterizations and costumes portrayed within Schumacher's Batman & Robin. The teens treat Joel's ideas with utter disdain. In Watchmen, director Zack Snyder and comic book artist Dave Gibbons chose to parody the molded muscle and nipple Batsuit design from Batman & Robin for the Ozymandias costume. The film is referenced in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Legends of the Dark Mite!", when Bat-Mite briefly uses his powers to transform Batman's costume into the same suit shown in the Schumacher Batman films, before declaring it "Too icky".
Additionally, there were worries within Warner Bros. surrounding the negative critical reception of Batman & Robin and how it could come to harm the success of the subsequent direct-to-video animated film Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, which was originally planned for release at around the same time as Batman & Robin but was subsequently delayed. SubZero received a far stronger positive response from critics than Batman & Robin, with Mr. Freeze's role within it being seen in a much more positive light, returning his popularity as a Batman villain to a level comparable to that reached by him within the two Emmy-winning episodes the character featured in of Batman: The Animated Series.
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