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
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!!