Monday, December 7, 2009

The Worst Movie Ever: Batman and Robin

Students sometimes ask me what my favorite movie is. That's a pretty tough question. It doesn't account for genre, mood, or quotability, amongst myriad other factors, but gun to my head, I usually go with The Empire Strikes Back.

I have no idea how to quantify "The Best Movie of All Time." The AFI says it's Citizen Kane, but again there are just too many factors to consider.

I have no similar compunctions about naming what I consider to be the Worst Movie of All Time: It's 1997's catastrofuck Batman and Robin. Don't get me wrong: "Worse" films have assuredly been made in terms of plot, watchability, acting, etc. But Batman and Robin is the perfect storm of suck, for so many reasons. It fails miserably on every single level. It ruined or set back the career of everyone involved. It nearly killed a lucrative franchise.

Most of the blame lays at the feet of director Joel Schumacher. If you're given an unlimited budget to make a tentpole movie, then you have no excuses for making a big, steaming pile of feces. I've tried to imagine the production meeting where Schumacher discussed the look he wanted.

"I want everything to look like those glow stick thingees that teenagers take to raves," he demands.

"But, uh...Joel? Batman's supposed to be kind of a dark-themed story."


His action scenes are silly and nonsensical. I've never once left a film early in the theatre. But the opening sequence of this film, with its air-surfboards, made me want to. If I hadn't been reviewing it for my college newspaper, I just might've. As it was, I was tempted.

Consider that Schumacher was a fairly well thought-of director with a number of hits to his resume, including the best Grisham interpretation, A Time to Kill, only a year previous. He's been relegated to indies like Tigerland and Veronica Geurin and mid-budget shlock like The Number 23 ever since. No one trusts this guy with big projects, and I can't blame them.

The actors fared no better. Ah-nold basically went into semi-retirement after cashing a $25 million paycheck for hamming it up as Mr. Freeze. The only notable part he had after this disaster was his reprisal of his most iconic role in Terminator 3. The crazy thing: I thought his performance was probably the best one in the movie. At least he seemed to be having fun with how ludicrously bad his lines were. Everyone else looked upset and confused by having to show up on this dysfunctional set.

Chris O'Donnell's career went into hibernation. Uma Thurman had to wait until Kill Bill to resurrect hers. Only George Clooney emerged mostly unscathed, although he had a giant hit show (E.R.) to fall back on.

Then there's the sad tale of Alicia Silverstone. It's hard to remember now, but Clueless (along with some steamy Aerosmith videos) made her the biggest young female starlet in the world. Two years later, she moped her way through this abomination, and she's essentially never been heard from again. She could live next door to me for all I know.

The franchise itself imploded. Although another film, Batman Triumphant had already been written and greenlit, after Batman and Robin came out, Warner Brothers did the first smart thing they'd done with the series in years: They scrapped it.

Of course, all it took was for a Nolan to get involved and bring the franchise back from the dead. In retrospect, maybe we can thank the colossal awfulness of Batman and Robin for the complete reversal in tone and realism in the marvelous new Batman flicks.

If you've noticed I didn't write that much about the actual film, it's largely because I saw it exactly once, back when it came out and I reviewed it. Its overall crappiness is seared into my brain, and it's not one of those movies that's enjoyable to watch because of how amazingly bad it is. It's just bad, period. The worst ever.

Nolanometer Final Grade: F


Lance Christian Johnson said...

Of course, all it took was for a Nolan to get involved and bring the franchise back from the dead. In retrospect, maybe we can thank the colossal awfulness of Batman and Robin for the complete reversal in tone and realism in the marvelous new Batman flicks.

This is its only saving grace. I tried to watch it again when I bought the boxed set, and it was a tough slog. I actually enjoyed watching Batman Forever again though even though I can't really defend it on any level other than it's pretty darned entertaining. B&R is a frightful bore though.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Oh, and of course, this demands the following:

Chelsey Clay said...

I don't even care what you say about this film. It is AMAZING! I've had this conversation with many guys that I know and of course they all ridicule me for liking it, but I can't separate the waves of nostalgia I feel whenever I watch the movie. Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, George Clooney as Batman, Chris O'Donnel as Robin, and don't forget Vivica A. Fox as Mr' Freeze's honey on the side- GENIUS. However great this movie may seem to me, I know I'm the ONLY person (possible on the face of the planet) that does like it.

Nolan said...

Why is it when teenage or near-teenage girls see something and can't describe what's good about it, they use "AMAZING" to describe it?

Chelsey, you know I love you, but you just negated any opinion on film that you espouse from now on. Have you seen this movie since you were 10? That would be the only explanation.

Chelsey Clay said...

Yes, I just watched it this past summer, to be exact. And again, I know that everyone hates it and I'm alone in my positive opinion of the movie. However Batman and Robin aside, I do have good movie taste- I agree with you about The Hangover (shocked?), especially the part where Zach says, "He's a retard", putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable.

Nolan said...

Chelsey, I'm not sure what you're agreeing with re: "The Hangover," but I am shocked that you've seen it. BAD MORMON! What's the world coming to?

Michael Tucker said...

This movie is terrible, but I loved it as a kid. I too saw it in theaters, but I was 11. And it was awesome. And I had a desperate crush on Alicia Silverstone and Uma Thurman.

I still feel bad whenever I (rarely) see Chris O'Donnell in something.