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Batman & Robin - Wham! Boffo!

a film review by Joe Parra

Rating: 3.5 out of a possible 4

All is not well in Gotham City. There is a terrible new villain on the scene - Mr. Freeze. This incredible monster’s body temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit. In order to maintain this bizarre condition, he must contain his body in a specially-designed suit that makes him look like some futuristic version of a medieval black knight. The suit requires diamonds to function, not unlike a laser. To secure said jewels, Mr. Freeze and his bilious cohorts rob them from the very wealthy residents of Gotham. Batman and Robin encounter this dastardly foe (and company) and have quite a difficult time with him and his arsenal of ice-related weaponry.

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, environmentally-concerned scientist Dr. Venus is trying to produce a hybrid between plant and animal, so that fauna/flora can defend itself against voracious mankind. Ah, but her fellow scientist (even madder than she), has opted to find a formula to turn 98-pound simple serial killers into fantastic Frankenstein-like monsters; he plans to sell this recipe (and a prototype creature, known as Bane) to the foreign government that bids highest. While Dr. Venus may not be wrapped too tightly, she is not evil. This presents a problem, so her colleague does her in with a bunch of chemicals... Not a good idea, for Dr. Venus soon resurrects herself and is now the very hybrid she wishes to create. Chlorophyl has replaced her blood; and, worst of all, her kiss is deadly - filled with venom from the mambas used in her “creation.” After thanking the evil doctor in her own inimitable fashion, she and her new “pet” set out for Gotham City. To make a long story short, she has fallen in love - no, not with handsome, wealthy Bruce Wayne or studly Dick Grayson, but with the strange Mr. Freeze.
 
Ah, the world is a funny place. The antagonists meet and become allies; but alas, poor Poison Ivy (as Dr. Venus is now called) can never become the plant of Mr. Freeze’s frozen dreams - for there is a wife involved. It seems that the Missus suffers from some incurable malady that her husband was hoping to cure when a lab accident caused the both of them to enter into a cryogenic state: hers catatonic, his horribly awake and forever altered into his new, nightmarish form.

Batman and Robin haven’t been sleeping all this time. Home life is becoming stressful. Master Grayson feels that “The Bat” does not have enough confidence in “The Bird” to make decisions in the heat of battle. To complicate matters, Poison Ivy has schpritzed them both with a pheromone invention that also causes jealousy, particularly on the part of the young, unwitting Master Grayson. To add to this pile, Alfred’s niece, Barbara, has come for an extended stay. This wouldn’t be a problem; but Barbara has a habit of going out at night (unbeknownst to the household) on one of Dick’s precious motorcycles. There is yet another difficulty - Alfred is dying. After a disastrous trap disables the boys, Barbara (with the help of her uncle via computer) dons the wings and is now (ta! da!) Batgirl!!

So, to summarize: Mr. Freeze is loved by Poison Ivy, who is loved by Dick/Robin, who is cared for by Bruce/Batman, who is watched over the by admirable Alfred, who is adored by his acrobatic niece Barbara/Batgirl; and they are all involved in the looting or defending of Gotham City. Whew!!!

Joel Schumacher helmed this latest opus of the Caped Crusader and company; and he did quite a nice job, giving weight where needed and levity to counter-balance. Special effects by John Dykstra (of Star Wars fame) are fabulous - with Mr. Freeze’s frost-ray gun a stand-out. Performances are marvelously melodramatic, in true comic book form. George Clooney was born for this portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Chris O’Donnell once again scores as Robin/Dick - as does Alicia Silverstone as Barbara/Batgirl - and, of  course, Michael Gough is that best of menservants, Alfred Pennyworth.  It is, however, the villains’ show. Arnold Schwarzenegger is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek as Mr. Freeze, stepping ably into the shoes formerly filled by George Sanders, Eli Wallach, and Otto Preminger (all TV Mr. Freezes). Uma Thurman is utterly delightful as Poison Ivy, adding a dimension of humor that the character did not have in the comics. Jeep Swenson and John Glover (as Bane and his creator) also add nicely to this stew. Warner Brothers’ largest franchise is in good hands; and Gotham City’s future is certainly assured for now.

Did you know that Mr. Freeze was originally called “Mr. Zero” in the comics? The name change was a good idea from the TV series. This is especially true in this film - because there is no “zero” in this production. Enjoy!!

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