Christopher Nolan is not the definitive master of all things Batman. That title rightfully goes to the incredible Joel Schumacher. In my humble opinion, he has established the most accurate, most engrossing depiction of Batman we have ever seen and probably ever will see.
Yes, I know I have a highly unpopular opinion, and many of you accuse Schumacher of killing the Batman franchise. But I rightfully have to disagree. I believe all the criticisms against Batman & Robin are simply detracting from the incredible work that rivals even Citizen Kane. Don’t believe me? Read on…
More credit also goes to the remarkable editors, Mark Stevens and Dennis Virkler, who employed some of the most genius techniques I’ve seen. You know that one effect where Robin was trapped in the water in Poison Ivy’s lair and the footage rewinds itself to stimulate him getting pulled back into the water? Pure brilliance! I never would’ve thought of something so simple to stimulate something so abstract! These techniques ought to be taught in more film courses.
But of course, where would a fantastic crew be without its dedicated cast? George Clooney first of all gives undeniably the most exciting performance of his career. I don’t care about Michael Keaton, nor Val Kilmer, nor Christian Bale, and especially not Ben Affleck. The enthusiasm and charisma Clooney adds to Mr. Wayne makes me fall in love with Batman all over again. Likewise, Chris O’Donnell draws you in as Robin. I know everyone says he’s whiny and annoying, but he’s just impossible not to love due to his undeniable persistence to the role! Alicia Silverstone kills it as Batgirl, especially when she shares the screen with O’Donnell. You could almost hear one of them say, “here’s looking at you, kid” in their more intimate moments. As for Pulp Fiction star Uma Thurman, she neither overplays nor underplays the part, adding just the right dose of believability that balances with her sexy screen presence. But by far the most sweeping performance in this movie, or any of the Batman movies, is old Schwarzenegger himself as Victor Fries. No matter how many hilarious puns come out of his mouth, it’s never difficult to take his character seriously. You can truly feel his inner turmoil behind his words.
Then there’s the thoughtful dialogue and story. Gotham’s tone comes rightfully from the constant catchphrases and puns, even during the quiet moments. I couldn’t care less about the Heath Ledger Joker talking about how he got his scars. Mr. Freeze putting the word “ice” in every sentence exemplifies exactly what has made Batman’s foes truly intimidating. Even other lines of dialogue are perfect for world establishing, such as Batman’s comment, “this is why Superman works alone,” reminding us of the expanded universe.
But even better than the creative dialogue is the carefully plotted story structure. Yes, there may be more subplots than we’re used to, but each one plays its own role in crafting a message of partnership between the title characters. Alfred falling ill to the same disease that Freeze’s wife coincidentally has raises questions about the connection between the two. The inclusion of Batgirl also sets some dynamic tension to the character arc of Dick, and how his sex drive causes him to steadily lose his conscience.
Batman & Robin carries so much deeper meaning that I have difficulty in seeing how anyone after all these years could have missed them. There’s the iconic opening of Batman and Robin suiting up, where the tight shots of the bat-glues, bat-crotches, and bat-nipples bring us into the sexual journey these two heroes are preparing themselves for. I especially love when Batgirl later repeats the suit-up sequence; particularly how the tight shot on her breasts paints her as the counteracting sexual force against the temptation these men have set themselves up for. Even Batman’s commonly panned bat credit card carries multiple meanings about the consumerism of our society. I’m not kidding, I was moved by these subtle yet effective images.
Next to The Godfather, I would argue that Batman & Robin deserves the reputation as the all-around perfect film. I don’t think I can recommend Joel Schumacher’s underrated masterpiece enough for how much passion and care went into defining love and materialism in our world. If you’re one of the many pissed off fanboys who still won’t forgive Joel Schumacher for redefining the image of your favorite superhero, maybe it’s time to take a step back and really look from another’s point of view. Seeing how this calls back to the 1960’s Batman says a lot about the nostalgic undertones of our society, and how we are all living in a time of childhood playtime. I hope you can look at Batman & Robin as the masterpiece I saw it as, and eventually give it the credit it rightfully deserves.
Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone.