Batman & Robin (film)
|Batman & Robin|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Produced by||Peter MacGregor-Scott|
|Written by||Akiva Goldsman|
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|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.' initial Batman film series, a sequel to Batman Forever and the only film in the series made without the involvement of Tim Burton. 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 titular 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 finished 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 received negative reviews and often ranks among the worst films ever. 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.
As a result of the overwhelmingly negative reception to Batman & Robin, the cast & crew most notably George Clooney & Joel Schumacher himself up until his death in 2020 would occasionally disown and apologise for the film in the years after its release. 
Two years after defeating Two-Face and the Riddler, Batman and his new partner, Robin, come into conflict in the form of a new foe, Mr. Freeze, who has left a string of diamond robberies in his wake. During a confrontation in the natural history museum, Mr. Freeze steals a bigger diamond and flees, freezing Robin and leaving Batman unable to pursue him. Later, Batman and Robin learn that Mr. Freeze was originally Dr. Victor Fries, a doctor working to develop a cure for MacGregor's syndrome to heal his terminally ill wife. After a lab accident, however, Fries was rendered unable to live at normal temperatures and forced to wear a cryogenic suit powered by diamonds in order to survive.
At a Wayne Enterprises lab in Brazil, botanist Dr. Pamela Isley is working under the deranged Dr. Jason Woodrue, experimenting with a drug named Venom. She witnesses Woodrue use the formula to turn the violent, but diminutive, convicted serial murderer Antonio Diego into a hulking monstrosity, who he dubs "Bane". When Isley threatens to expose Woodrue's experiments, he attempts to kill her by overturning a shelf of various toxins. Despite Woodrue's efforts, Isley is resurrected, transforming into the beautiful and seductive Poison Ivy before exacting revenge; she kills Woodrue with her poisonous kiss, and sets fire to the lab, leaving it to burn down while she escapes with Bane. She finds that Wayne Enterprises funded Woodrue, though they cut Woodrue's funding when he intended to weaponize the Venom drug, thus she appropriates Bane as a muscle-bound thug, taking him with her to Gotham City. Meanwhile, Alfred Pennyworth's niece, Barbara Wilson, makes a surprise visit and is invited by Bruce Wayne 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. Batman says that this project is in conflict with the main goals of the Wayne Corporation. That night, a charity event is held by Wayne Enterprises with special guests, Batman and Robin, and she decides to use her abilities to seduce them. Mr. 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 Poison Ivy, who killed 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.
Batman and Robin begin to have crime fighting relationship problems because of Ivy's seductive ability with Robin, but Bruce eventually convinces Dick to trust him. Poison Ivy is then able to contact Robin once more; she kisses him but fails to kill him due to Robin wearing rubber lips. Robin says that the rubber lips are immune to her charms. 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, but he gets rescued by Batman, and Batgirl arrives and subdues Ivy to get eaten by her throne plant, before revealing her identity to the pair.
Batman, Robin and Batgirl decide to go after Mr. Freeze together. By the time they get to the observatory where Mr. Freeze and Bane are, Gotham is completely frozen. Batgirl and Robin are attacked by Bane, but they eventually defeat him by kicking apart his venom tubes, stopping the flow of venom to his body. Bane collapses before reverting to his original form and is left helpless on the ground.
Meanwhile Batman and Mr. Freeze begin to fight each other, with Batman defeating Mr. Freeze. Batgirl and Robin manage to thaw the city, and Batman shows Freeze a recording of Poison Ivy during her fight with Batgirl, who had informed the latter that she killed Mr. Freeze's wife. However, Batman informs Mr. Freeze that she is still alive, in cryogenic slumber before being moved to Arkham Asylum, waiting for Mr. Freeze to finish his research. Batman proceeds to ask Mr. Freeze for the cure Mr. Freeze has created for the first stage of MacGregor's Syndrome to administer to Alfred, and Mr. Freeze atones for his misunderstanding by giving him the medicine he had developed.
Mr. Freeze is then detained in Arkham Asylum. Poison Ivy is also imprisoned in Arkham Asylum with a vengeful Mr. Freeze as her cellmate (due to his own cell is in the process of being modified for his laboratory needs) and he plans to make Poison Ivy's life a living hell while staying for the attempted murder of his wife. After Alfred is cured, everyone agrees to let Barbara stay at Wayne Manor and fight crime with them.
- George Clooney as Bruce Wayne / Batman:
A billionaire industrialist who witnessed his parents' murder as a young boy. At night, Bruce becomes Batman, Gotham City's vigilante protector. Val Kilmer, who played the role in Batman Forever, was originally intended to return, but was recast after signing on to The Saint.
- Eric Lloyd as Young Bruce Wayne
- 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 transformed into a criminal forced to live in a sub-zero suit powered by diamonds. Patrick Stewart was 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.
- 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. Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, 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:
Her parents died in a car accident and Alfred, her uncle, was very close to her mother, Margaret. Silverstone was the first and only choice for the role. Unlike the comics, this Batgirl does not share the same surname as 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.
- 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.
- Michael Paul Chan as Dr. Lee:
The research scientist who Mr. Freeze kidnaps.
- Kimberly Scott as Observatory Associate
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 Island of Doctor 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.
Patrick Stewart was 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. 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, however, didn't make it 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, a month before 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.
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.
Various Six Flags parks (Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Over Texas, and Six Flags St. Louis) all debuted coasters themed to the film. Six Flags Great Adventure opened Batman & Robin: The Chiller in 1997, and both Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags St. Louis received Mr. Freeze 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 overseas.
—Joel Schumacher's apology for his work on the film
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 11%, based on 89 reviews, with an average rating of 3.69/10. 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." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized the toyetic approach and Mr. Freeze's one-liner jokes in his two-star review of the film. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times believed the film "killed" the Batman film series, and felt Batman & Robin depended too much on visual effects. Desson Howe of The Washington Post largely disapproved of Schumacher's direction and Akiva Goldsman's script. 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 positive review, and praised Uma Thurman's acting, as well as the production and costume design. 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. As Mr. Freeze would say, it's sure to leave audiences cold."
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.
Some observers thought Schumacher, a gay man, added possible homoerotic innuendo in the storyline. James Berardinelli questioned the "random amount [sic] of rubber nipples and camera angle close-ups of the Dynamic Duo's butts and Bat-crotches." Los Angeles Times wrote that "The addition of nipples and a codpiece to Batman’s costume may be the film’s lasting legacy". Schumacher stated, "I had no idea that putting nipples on the Batsuit and Robin suit were going to spark international headlines. The bodies of the suits come from Ancient Greek statues, which display perfect bodies. They are anatomically correct." O'Donnell felt "it wasn't so much the nipples that bothered me. It was the codpiece. The press obviously played it up and made it a big deal, especially with Joel directing. I didn't think twice about the controversy, but going back and looking and seeing some of the pictures, it was very unusual." Clooney, who admitted to purposely taking a subtle gay approach to his portrayal, later said "Joel Schumacher told me Batman was gay". Clooney himself has spoken critically of the film, saying in 2005, "I think we might have killed the franchise", and called it "a waste of money".
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 also hoped that Jack Nicholson would reprise the role of the Joker. However, following the poor critical 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. However, 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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- Fleming, Michael (February 21, 1997). "Helmer's 3rd At Bat". Variety. Archived from the original on February 12, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2008.
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- Official website (Warner Bros.)
- Official website (DC Comics)
- Batman & Robin at the Wayback Machine (archive index)
- Batman & Robin on IMDb
- Batman & Robin at the TCM Movie Database
- Batman & Robin at AllMovie