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note : some may consider portions of the following text to be spoilers .
be forewarned .
" quick , robin !
the anti-shark repellant ! "
- adam west in the 1966 batman feature film , casually kicking at a pathetic-looking rubber shark attached to his leg
i had never thought that an entry in the modern incarnation of the batman feature film would approach this level of campiness , but in many instances batman and robin nears , and at some point even exceeds this standard .
this is a disasterously bad film , easily the worst in the series to date , and fairly epitomizes a cinematic definition of the word excessive - it's loud , garish , and obnoxious , with pointless , gratuitous action sequences and set pieces which clutter up the screen with elaborate production design to the point of overkill .
batman and robin features the caped crusaders ( george clooney debuting as batman , with chris o'donnell returing as robin ) squaring off against another bevy of chemically-induced villains - the nefarious ice-cold mr . freeze ( arnold schwarzenegger ) , armed with a weapon which freezes everything in its sights , and the slinky poison ivy ( uma thurman ) , who has the ability to blow powerful love dust into the faces of men in order so that they will fall helplessly in love with her ( not that the dust is really necessary to accomplish this result , but whatever ) , and then dispatch them with a poisoned kiss .
by ivy's side is the giant steroid monster bane ( jeep swanson ) , a grunting hulk of a beast .
the villains' goals are noble ones - freeze steals diamonds to power his climate suit ( in order to keep his body temperature at zero degrees ) , so that he can survive in order to devise a cure for his beloved wife ( vendela ) , dying of a degenerative disease and frozen in suspended animation , and ivy's intent is to restore the dominance of plant life on earth , albeit by destroying all human life .
meanwhile , on the homefront , life at wayne manor is thrown into upheaval by the illness of butler alfred pennyworth ( michael gough ) , and the arrival of his niece barbara ( alicia silverstone ) .
akiva goldsman's screenplay for the film is ridiculous and laughably bad , with astonishingly terrible dialogue , lame jokes , and an awful by-the-number plot which simply coasts along and fails to generate any genuine excitement .
it makes goldsman's screenplay of batman forever , which i thought was dreadful , look positively inspired in comparison .
i am still astonished that a cheesy plot device which i'd seen used in - no joke - an episode of gilligan's island somehow make its way into a multimillion dollar blockbuster production .
joel schumacher's direction of batman and robin is horrific , with a terrible balance of flashiness over substance .
there is a clear conceit towards neon in this film , even moreso than with his previous batman forever , with the revamped batcave helpfully sporting gigantic glowing emblems for the dynamic duo ( just in case , i suppose , if they ever happen to forget that the batcave is the headquarters of batman and robin ) , and with neon prominently figuring in an utterly-pointless fight sequence with bane and a street gang over ivy's chosen new abode .
another action sequence which fails to serve any useful point other than to chew up five minutes of screentime involves an incredibly uninvolving late-night motorcycle race with barbara and some gotham goons .
mr . schumacher's focus for batman and robin appears to be to make the film as visually striking as possible , to the detriment of the story - there are drastic shifts in the tone of the film between all-out camp and heartfelt drama , with the latter completely unconvincing and ineffective .
it is perhaps not the most promising of signs when the group i was with burst out laughing within twenty seconds of the film's opening , even before a single line of dialogue had been uttered .
is batman and robin supposed to be campy ?
i think it is - it's hard to imagine that the filmmakers could have intended many parts of the film to be taken at all seriously .
( one of my favourites was when bane helpfully grunted " bomb ! "
each time he laid down an explosive device in the gotham observatory . )
is it supposed to be as overly campy as it turned out to be ?
i somehow doubt it - the subplot involving afred is delivered so solemnly and with such graveness that the impression is made that the film isn't attempting to be the utter farce which it is .
arnold schwarzenegger is top-billed in the film as the villainous mr . freeze , and is bland and uninteresting , perhaps the worst thing that a villain can be .
mr . schwarzenegger's attempts to be menacing are laughable , and his attempts at conveying pathos are laughable ; frankly , everything he does onscreen is laughable .
by the end of the film , i was stifling a chuckle every time he simply appeared onscreen .
the bulk of his performance consists of uttering near-unintelligble puns and one-liners featuring every possible permutation of " cool ! "
in the least inventive way .
george clooney has been given very little to do in batman and robin , being overshadowed by the villains , and consequently he looks rather uncomfortable in the film .
his batman is hardly an imposing figure .
chris o'donnell is unimpressive in a one-note performance , while alicia silverstone lackadasically fails to make any impression at all .
the film's one saving grace ?
undoubtably uma thurman's entertaining performance as sexy villainess poison ivy .
her work in batman and robin is certainly over-the-top , but in a controlled fashion which works splendidly within the tone of the film .
ms . thurman's comic timing is impeccable , and reminds us that it takes skilled performers to make campiness work successfully .
( i'm already starting to positively reassess jim carrey's performance in batman forever . )
her amusing poison ivy is the most entertaining character in the film , and when she's offscreen the film greatly suffers .
i figure that if one has to die , being kissed to death by uma thurman isn't a half-bad way to go .
while batman and robin was hardly a ride of pulse-pounding excitement , i must admit that i was not bored watching it , although i did glance at my watch repeatedly through the screening - my attention was kept through anticipation of the utterance of yet another terrible pun or one-liner , and by awaiting yet another scene to fall flat .
it's been a long time since i've laughed so much at a movie .
" at " , of course , is the operative word .
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