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Batman & Robin is a 1997 American superhero film directed by Joel Schumacher. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is a sequel to Batman Forever (1995), with George Clooney replacing Val Kilmer as Batman. Batman & Robin also stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, and Michael Gough. The film tells the story of Batman and Robin struggling to keep their relationship together. At the same time, they have to stop Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Bane from covering Gotham City with ice and vegetation.

Development for Batman & Robin started immediately after Batman Forever, and Warner Bros. commissioned the film for an adamant June 1997 release. Principal photography began in September 1996 and finished in January 1997, two weeks ahead of the shooting schedule. Batman & Robin was released on June 20, 1997, and was critically panned. Although the film was a financial success, observers criticized the film for its toyetic and camp approach, as well as possible homosexual innuendo added by Schumacher. Batman & Robin received numerous nominations at the Razzie Awards and frequently ranks among the worst superhero films of all time.[1][2] After Warner Bros. canceled the unproduced Batman Triumphant, the film series was eventually rebooted with Batman Begins (2005) by director Christopher Nolan.

PlotEdit

In Gotham City, Batman and Robin attempt to stop Mr. Freeze from a robbery attempt, but he escapes. In South America, Pamela Isley is working under Dr. Jason Woodrue, experimenting with the Venom drug. She witnesses Woodrue use the formula to turn a diminutive convict into a hulking monstrosity dubbed "Bane". Woodrue and Isley argue over the use of the drug and Woodrue overturns a shelf of various toxins on to her. She transforms into the beautiful and seductive Poison Ivy before killing Woodrue. She finds that Wayne Enterprises funded Woodrue, thus she takes Bane with her to Gotham. 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. Alfred is revealed to be suffering from the fictional MacGregor's Syndrome which will eventually kill him.

Wayne Enterprises presents a new telescope at a press conference interrupted by Isley. She proposes a project that could help the environment, but Bruce declines her offer, as it would kill millions of people. 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. Freeze crashes the party and steals a diamond from the event. However, he is captured and sent to a chamber prison in Arkham Asylum, but escapes with the help of Ivy and Bane. Batman and Robin begin to have crime fighting relationship problems because of the presence of Ivy's seductive ability with Robin. Ivy is then able to contact Robin once more, but fails to seduce him. Robin becomes trapped, but is rescued by Batman. Batgirl shows up, while Ivy, Freeze, and Bane flee. Batgirl reveals that she is Barbara and knows the location of the Batcave.

Batman, Robin, and Batgirl decide to go after Freeze together. By the time they get to the lab where Freeze and Bane are, Gotham is completely frozen. Robin confronts Bane and defeats him, while Batman and Freeze begin to fight each other, with Batman winning. Batgirl and Robin unfreeze Gotham and Batman shows Freeze a recording of Ivy during her fight with Batgirl. Freeze learns that Ivy has betrayed him over the death of his wife. Ivy blamed Batman for Nora's death, but she informs Batgirl that it was her idea. Freeze is angered by the betrayal and is informed by Batman that his wife is not dead; she is restored in cryogenic slumber and has been moved to Arkham waiting for him to finish his research. Batman proceeds to ask Freeze for the cure he has created for the first stage of MacGregor's Syndrome, the disease that Freeze's wife is suffering from, for Alfred. Freeze atones for his misunderstanding by giving him medicine he had developed. Ivy is shown imprisoned in Arkham with Freeze as her cellmate. Alfred is eventually healed and everyone agrees to let Barbara stay at the mansion.

CastEdit

  • George Clooney as Bruce Wayne / Batman: A billionaire industrialist whose parents were killed at a young age. At night, Bruce becomes Batman, Gotham City's vigilante protector. Eric Lloyd portrays him as a child in a flashback. Val Kilmer decided not to reprise the role from Batman Forever. Director Joel Schumacher admitted he had difficulty working with Kilmer on Forever. "He sort of quit," Schumacher said, "and we sort of fired him."[3] Kilmer said he was not aware of the fast track production and was already committed to The Saint (1997).[4] Schumacher cast Clooney in the role because he felt the actor could act less serious from the previous portrayals of Michael Keaton (in Batman and Batman Returns) and Kilmer.[4] The shooting schedule allowed Clooney to simultaneously work on ER without any scheduling conflicts.[5]
  • Chris O'Donnell as Dick Grayson / Robin: The sidekick to Batman and ward to Bruce Wayne. He disagrees with some of Batman's tactics and considers having a solo crime fighting career.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze: A molecular biologist who suffers a terrible accident while trying to cryogenically preserve his ill wife. As a result, he is transformed into a deranged criminal forced to live in a sub-zero suit powered by diamonds. Patrick Stewart was considered for the role,[6] before the script was rewritten to accommodate Schwarzenegger's casting.[7] Schumacher decided that Mr. Freeze must be "big and strong like he was chiseled out of a glacier".[4] Schwarzenegger was paid a $25 million salary for the role,[8][9] while his prosthetic makeup and wardrobe took six hours to apply each day.[10]
  • Uma Thurman as Dr. Pamela Isley / Poison Ivy: A crazed botanist who after being pushed into vials of chemicals, poisons, and toxins becomes the beautiful, but deadly Poison Ivy, the ultimate eco- terrorist. Demi Moore was considered for the role.[6] Thurman took the role because she liked the femme fatale characterization of Poison Ivy.[4]
  • 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.[6]
  • Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth: The trusted butler for Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Alfred is struggling with a rare disease that Mr. Freeze's wife also has.
  • 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 "Bane supersoldiers". He is responsible for the creation of both Bane and Poison Ivy, the latter of whom kills him in revenge.
  • 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 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.
  • Jeep Swenson as Bane: Poison Ivy's bodyguard and muscle, relies on the drug Venom as the source of his strength and is ultimately defeated by Robin and Batgirl when he is drained of his Venom. Swenson died of an heart attack shortly after the film's release.

ProductionEdit

With the box office success of Batman Forever in June 1995, Warner Bros. instantly commissioned a sequel.[11] They hired director Joel Schumacher and writer Akiva Goldsman to reprise their duties the following August,[4] and decided it was best to fast track production for a June 1997 target release date.[11] Schumacher wanted to homage both the broad camp style of the 1960s television series and the work of Dick Sprang.[5] The storyline of Batman & Robin was conceived by Schumacher and Goldsman during pre-production on A Time to Kill.[12] Portions of Mr. Freeze's back-story were based on the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Heart of Ice", written by Paul Dini.[13] The original start date was August 1996,[3] but principal photography did not begin until September 12, 1996.[14] Batman & Robin finished filming in late-January 1997,[15] two weeks ahead of the shooting schedule.[5] The film was mostly shot at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.[4]

When comparing work on Batman Forever, Chris O'Donnell, who portrayed Robin, 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."[4] 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."[4] 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."[16] Rhythm and Hues and Pacific Data Images created the visual effects sequences, with John Dykstra and Andrew Adamson credited as the visual effects supervisors.[17]

ReleaseEdit

MarketingEdit

The Batman & Robin film trailer debuted on the February 19, 1997 episode of Entertainment Tonight.[18] Warner Bros. spent $15 million to market and promote the film, bringing the total budget from $125 million to $140 million.[19] The studio also brought in toy companies to be involved with pre-production, including the design of concept art and character illustrations. Director Joel Schumacher criticized Warner Bros.'s 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.[4]

Box officeEdit

Batman & Robin was released on June 20, 1997 in North America, earning $42,872,605 in its opening weekend,[20] making it the third-highest opening weekend of 1997.[21] However, the film rapidly declined with a 63% second week plunge.[22] Many observers based the second week drop on negative word of mouth. In addition, Batman & Robin faced early competition with Face/Off and Hercules.[19] Schumacher blamed it on yellow journalism started by Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News and other film websites such as Dark Horizons.[23] 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.[20] Warner Bros. declared Batman & Robin a financial success, but not on the scale they were hoping for.[19]

Critical analysisEdit

Template:Quote box Despite being a box office success, critics considered the film a critical failure. Based on 59 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 12% of the critics gave Batman & Robin positive reviews.[24] The film was more balanced with 15 reviews from Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics" poll, receiving a 20% approval rating.[25] By comparison Metacritic collected an average score of 28/100, based on 21 reviews.[26]

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."[4] Roger Ebert criticized the toyetic approach and Mr. Freeze's one-liner jokes.[27] 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.[28] Desson Thomson of The Washington Post largely disapproved over Schumacher's direction and Akiva Goldsman's script.[29] 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."[30] However, Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave a positive review. She praised Uma Thurman's acting, as well as the production and costume design.[31]

Batman & Robin was nominated the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, as well as categories for Best Make-up and Best Costume.[32] 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), and Billy Corgan (Worst Song for "The End Is the Beginning Is the End"). Batman & Robin received nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Remake or Seque,l and Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property.[33]

Homosexual interpretationEdit

Template:See Many observers accused Schumacher of adding possible homosexual innuendos in the storyline.[4] James Berardinelli questioned the "random amount of rubber nipples and camera angle close-ups of the Dynamic Duo's butts and Bat-crotches."[34] Similar to Batman Forever, this primarily included the decision to add nipples and enlarged codpieces to Batman and Robin suits. 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 erotic."[4] Chris O'Donnell, who portrayed Robin, 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."[4] George Clooney joked, "Joel Schumacher told me we never made another Batman film because Batman was gay".[35] The film embarrassed him; Clooney said "I think we might have killed the franchise",[36] and called it "a waste of money".[37]

LegacyEdit

During the filming of Batman & Robin, Warner Bros. was impressed with the dailies. This prompted them to immediately hire Joel Schumacher to return as director for a sequel, but writer Akiva Goldsman, who worked on Batman Forever and Batman & Robin with Schumacher, turned down the chance to write the script.[5] 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.[38] Titled Batman Triumphant, Protosevich's script had the Scarecrow as the main villain and had Steve Buscemi intended to play him. Through the use of his fear toxin, he resurrects the Joker. Harley Quinn appeared as a supporting character, written as the Joker's daughter.[39] George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell were set to reprise the roles of Batman and Robin.[40]

Nevertheless, when Batman & Robin received negative reviews and failed to outgross any of its predecessors, Warner Bros. was unsure of their plans for Batman Triumphant. The studio decided it was best to consider a live-action Batman Beyond film and an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. Warners would then greenlight whichever idea suited them the most.[41] Schumacher felt he "owe[d] the Batman culture a real Batman movie. I would go back to the basics and make a dark portrayal of the Dark Knight."[42] He approached Warner Bros. of doing Batman: Year One in mid-1998,[42] but they were more interested in hiring Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky and Frank Miller developed a Year One script with Aronofsky to direct, but it was ultimately canceled. Christopher Nolan was eventually hired to helm the next Batman film in January 2003, resulting in the rebooted Batman Begins (2005).[41]

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 an effeminate youth called Joel (in front of a shoemaker's shop, no less) whose idea of Batman consists mainly of a fascination with the tight rubber suits and a Batmobile that can drive up walls. The other three kids treat Joel's ideas with utter disdain.[43] In Watchmen, director Zack Snyder and comic book artist Dave Gibbons choose to parody the molded muscle and nipple Batsuit design from Batman & Robin for the Ozymandias costume.[44][45]

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ReferencesEdit

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  13. Paul Dini, Batman & Robin: The Heroes, 2005, Warner Home Video
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  16. Barbara Ling, Bigger, Bolder, Brighter: The Production Design of Batman & Robin, 2005, Warner Home Video
  17. John Dykstra, Andrew Adamson, Freeze Frame: The Visual Effects of Batman & Robin, 2005, Warner Home Video
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  43. "Legends of the Dark Knight". Dan Riba (director), Bruce Timm; Robert Goodman (writers). Batman: The Animated Series. October 10, 1998. No. 19, season 2.
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External linksEdit

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