Saturday, February 02, 2019

A Kinder, Gentler Super-Hero Saga- George Clooney’s “Batman and Robin” (1997)-A Film Review

A Kinder, Gentler Super-Hero Saga- George Clooney’s “Batman and Robin” (1997)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sam Eaton

Batman and Robin, starring George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman,

I don’t care if I say it, say it right out loud at the beginning. WTF
I had been given the understanding that after several attempts to draw down this fetish with reviewing comic book characters thrown onto film that we were done with this foolishness. Several writers here have rebelled against the trend, at least in print, have rebelled against the idea that the way to reach a younger audience was to cater to this aspect of the American cultural landscape. Still, and here I will name names, site manager Greg Green, Max Steiner, Lenny Larkin, Jim Morris, Ralph Morse, not one of them under forty, still believe that this is the way to go. Hell, Greg Green refused to let any of the writers review a Batman film starring Chris Bale and the late Heath Leger who played the psychopathic Joker when the violence and inanity of the plotline was so over the top he wrote the scathing review himself. That is when some of us thought, foolishly it turned out, that we had turned a corner, that sanity had come back into vogue here as it had under the un-nameable previous regime when reviewing pop culture kids’ stuff was the exception, the great exception not the rule.

Then Greg Green lowered the boom, lowered it on me in the first instance when he assigned me to do this film, this Batman and Robin which he said he had previewed and while there was the usual amount of mandatory violence the bad guys were at least socially redeemable. Reason, reason for handing me this heap of ashes, this fucking crap if you want to know my real feelings. I had not done a super-hero flick review and it was high time I did so under the old chestnut rubric of “broadening my horizons.” Me, a guy who has reviewed Jean Renoir, Jean Cocteau, Truffaut, all the French New Wave, done a million reviews of film noir which I helped to revive in this country by getting half empty theater houses to put on retrospectives which filled up those empty seats in campus towns and decent-sized cities, done all the screw-ball comedy classics, done reviews of half the Oscar-winners over the past thirty years or so, reviewing comic book characters for what did Sandy Salmon call them, yeah, butter-drenched popcorn and sugar refill soda cup kids too lazy to even read the freaking comic books. I refused. Then Greg pulled the so-called democratic fast one on me. Asked me flat out with no way to avoid the meaning if I wanted to go before the Editorial Board, his handpicked toadies, stooges and hangers-on for a vote of no confidence, a vote to get canned by that rubber-stamp crew. Having just now three very nicely brought up kids to get through college I folded, tucked away my sword.              

Here is what you missed if you had avoided that comic book craze when you were a kid and need to get updated on what the kids are watching these days. Always, always, the health and safety of a major American city, Gotham, really New Jack City by the Hudson if you want the real life model is left in the hands of one Batman, wealthy scion Bruce Wayne in civilian life, who has been played by half the rugged Type A males of Hollywoodland, here played by cool and calm and collected George Clooney. In this one he is aided by his neophyte young partner Robin, and later by foxy Batgirl or something like that although I will be politically correct and call her Bat Woman hereafter. You know though this trio is not dealing with real New York City plagued by drugs, poor transportation, expensive housing, inadequate schools and social programs, and racial injustices. Batman, alone or with his newfound company, inevitably has to deal with a single nefarious villain who has the capacity to destroy the whole town without working up a sweat. This time it is a holy goof named Mr. Freeze, played by body-builder, former California Governor and Maria Shriver’s ex-hubby Arnold Schwarzenegger, who after diving in a vat of nasty chemical can only live where the air is, well, chilly. His big problem though is that  those chemicals made him a holy goof trying to take down the world into a new Ice Age all because he couldn’t find a cure for his wife’s ailments.          

No question the new version of the Iceman Cometh is a dastardly dude who wants to ransack dear sweet Gotham for diamonds that keep his funny bunny suit going and keep him, well, chilly. Batman and maybe Robin a little grab him and put him where he can’t harm a hair of honest citizens’ heads. The trouble with these comic book-derived plots is that there is plenty of room for holy goofs of all sorts. Enter Poison Ivy, an ex-scientist who went over to the wild side after stewing in her own vat of unhealthy chemicals, played by Amazon luscious Uma Thurman whose crusade is to wipe out the human race and let the fauna and flora run the earth on behalf of some old flea-bitten hag named Mother Earth. You would think that two holy goofs working at cross-purposes would not have any reason to become allies but so it came to pass. A regular holy goof united front to bring down sweet Batman and Robin and Bat Women protected Gotham first with deep freeze and then with plants not out of Home and Garden.  

Naturally after good old boy Freeze is captured and put away the first step in Ms. Ivy’s playbook is to free her fellow holy goof so he can put the big freeze on Gotham. Meanwhile the divine Ms. Ivy started turning Gotham into the second Garden of Eden. She too gets kicked out of Paradise, pushed east of Eden by none other than Bat Women in her first outing as a high profile crime stopper. Ivy behind bars leaving the Frig to menace the town and he does. Batman and friends make short work of him though since we are in the age of climate change on the hot side not cold side. Case closed.

Well, as Frank Jackman likes to say, not quite. This is where the kinder, gentler villain Greg Green tried to convince me was worth my reviewing this turkey for comes in. Seems Ice Cube was a real scientist before the fall, before he left his Eden. Had worked on a cure for his wife, or tried. Here is where that comes in handy, gets him a reprieve from the big step-off. See longtime Bruce Wayne indentured servant Alfred, an English dude from England is dying of the same kind of affliction that had the Freeze man’s wife in cold storage. Batman plays off of the guy’s human side to give Alfred a little more time on the orb. In exchange the good Doctor gets to work his lab stuff in the nut house they have set up for him. Jesus, I can’t believe that I reviewed this silly excuse for a film. Maybe, just maybe, if he has a lucid moment Greg will blue-pencil this one to death. 

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