*. And so, at last, the initial tetralogy of Batman films (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin) comes to an ignominious end. I think the near universal critical consensus is that the series went downhill all the way, winding up with one of the worst movies ever made. Personally, I don’t rate Batman very highly, think Batman Returns is probably the best of the bunch, and find this entry maybe slightly more enjoyable (or less annoying) than Batman Forever. But, taking a step back, there’s little to choose between them. They’re all pretty bad, with the last two being terrible.
*. The opening close-up shots of bums and codpieces in rubber set the tone. Batman is out of the closet and the camp is being played up almost to 1966 levels. Apparently Joel Schumacher had told George Clooney to play Batman as gay and he went along with it. Which may in turn explain the otherwise mystifying presence of Elle Macpherson here as Bruce Wayne’s love interest. He’s only interested in her as a beard, get it?
*. Then we get the opening fight scene. This is introduced by Robin calling out “Cowabunga!”, which is the rallying cry of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That’s how far Batman has fallen. Then Mr. Freeze’s gang come out to do battle dressed up as hockey goons. Just how low can we go?
*. Very low indeed. And the sad thing is that there was some potential here. I actually think George Clooney might have made a good Batman, in a good Batman movie. I’ve always thought Alicia Silverstone an underrated actress. Arnold Schwarzenegger is no worse as a hammy villain than Tommy Lee Jones or Jim Carrey. At least he seems to be having fun. They had some of the elements in place. Unfortunately they don’t even succeed at making a good bad movie.
*. The script is garbage. Most of the dialogue just takes the form of quips or filler. None of it is any good. Mr. Freeze says things like “Everybody chill!” and “Let’s kick some ice!” Uma Thurman can’t even do a decent Mae West imitation and Poison Ivy is a bore. You could call her an eco-warrior before such figures became mainstream in the twenty-first century. Her attraction to Mr. Freeze is inexplicable, as is her partnership with him. How will turning Earth into a ball of ice be good for the environment? I get killing off all the people, but the plants will all die too. Shouldn’t this bother her?
*. Pity poor Bane. In the comic books (beginning with the Knightfall saga) he’s an evil genius with an eidetic memory and the ability to speak in over a dozen different languages. Here he’s an inarticulate gorilla. Why even bother?
*. So instead of being campy fun most of it is just dull. It cost a lot of money to make but still looks cheap. There’s the usual bickering between Batman and Robin about them having to learn to trust one another. There are seemingly endless shots of people crashing through windows and walls. I’m not sure if anyone enters or exits a scene by a door. There’s a downer of a subplot involving Alfred. It would have been better if it had been 30 minutes shorter, but it still wouldn’t have been any good.
*. On the plus side, when you hit rock bottom there’s nothing left but to hit the reset button. It was time for Batman to begin, again.