Saturday, April 13, 2013

Batman Unbound

This is apparently taken from the Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight documentary included as a special feature in the 2005 Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology, 1989-1997 DVD set.

Mostly, it's the cast and crew apologizing, making excuses, and shifting blame for how Batman & Robin (1997) turned out. A lot of the footage looks not too far removed from the time of the movie's theatrical release (Alicia Silverstone especially looks to be speaking from a different decade of her life from the wife and mother now known as everybody's favorite vegan author), while some of it looks more recent. Clearly, Chris O'Donnell was the only one of the actors who could be bothered to come back to record new interview footage, both because, I mean, what else has he had going on since, and because he seems to have had a lot he wanted to get off his chest about the production. His comments are especially amusing because of how surprisingly frank and openly scathing they are. Meanwhile, director Joel Schumacher comes off as an incredibly sweet guy, who just tried to make a fun movie under studio pressure, but who is sincerely sorry that the end result disappointed some fans.

Watching the movie in theaters as a thirteen-year-old, I certainly counted myself among those disappointed. I had loved the Tim Burton films, of course, but I had come out of Batman Forever thinking it was maybe the most satisfying superhero movie I had ever seen. Batman & Robin, on the other hand—even as a teenage casual moviegoer, I knew I had seen something bad. There was no dramatic tension, no weight to any of the action. It was little more than a bunch of really bad ice-based puns delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a performance that I, as the viewer, was embarrassed just to watch.

When you consider it from the perspective that it was intended to be a kids' movie, it kind of starts to make sense. For a much younger viewer, it probably wouldn't have seemed much dumber than a lot of the action cartoons/toy commercials on TV. Except that, actually, it was significantly dumber than Batman: The Animated Series, which was on the air around the same time (in fact, Mr. Freeze's story in the movie was actually based on the cartoon and not the comics). Also, it seems strange that the studio was so insistent on going in a kiddier direction, considering that this was technically part of the same series as the Tim Burton films. Didn't anybody stop to consider that probably a lot of kids would have seen those movies first, in which case they'd have been, as I was, actually older and ready for even darker stuff? Or I guess they just didn't care about returning fans (we had "aged out" of the target demographic, so to speak), so long as they could get new young ones?

And yet, for all the hate that the movie gets, it occurs to me now that I've probably viewed Batman & Robin more times than all the other Batman movies combined, owing entirely to TNT airing it relentlessly over the years (well, and I suppose to me so often not having anything better to do than watch TNT in the middle of the day). And, y'know, the more times I watched it—sometimes twice in a single day, for some reason—the more strangely endearing it became, as the ice puns, in all their naked stupidity, grew on me, and I also started to appreciate just how lastingly memorable Uma Thurman's scene-chewing line deliveries were, and how consequently quotable some of the dialogue became (well, it probably helped a lot that the movie itself repeated the clip). I suppose I learned to enjoy it partly on its own terms and partly ironically. Meanwhile, Batman Forever—that movie I thought was so great back in the day? I don't think I've seen it more than once more since, and that was probably before Batman & Robin came out. But just what I remember of Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face makes me cringe. Could that really have been any less bad a movie than Batman & Robin, that the latter had to be regarded as such a singular low point?

Source: StandUpComicBooks on YouTube (via (via io9))

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