Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Just to be clear, this is the fourth film in the series, which as such should have been called Batman Forever. Batman Forever, which introduced Robin, should have been called Batman & Robin. Instead, they are the other way around.

Yes, of course that's ridiculous, but then so are the other 124 minutes of this - Joel Schumacher's widely derided live-action cartoon.

Thanks to such silliness, this movie seems to be considered the non-synoptic one of the series, and yet it's really only continuing the trend of previous entries.

Once more, there are plenty of good gags in here - prime examples including Alfred's (Michael Gough) closing punchline, and anything Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) says - however despite these belly-laughs, I actually don't think it's funny enough. I mean it's all very well for Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) to deliver a monologue out loud to herself to telegraph how intentionally campy the whole style is, but that's just not the same thing as including a few actual jokes in there.

Some of the big action sequences, though mightily impressive, fail to carry much tension either. Again, some more of that daftness would have given me a reason to watch, just as stronger characterisation might have made me care more about the outcome.

Speaking of which, Chris O'Donnell returns as Robin, but maybe wishes that he hadn't, as his tortured journey in the last film is replaced here by shallow youthful lust. Eurgh.

Given that hotheaded young Robin is still settling in at Wayne Manor, this film appears to follow straight on from its predecessor, which might be fine, but for the revelation that Bruce Wayne has suddenly been in a steady relationship for over a year. Which means that, in the preceding film, when we saw him getting together with Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), it now turns out that he was actually cheating on poor Julie Madison (Elle Macpherson).

Speaking of the title character, as I suppose we should briefly, George Clooney plays a quite different version of Bruce Wayne to Michael Keaton's earlier take, but effortlessly gets away with it. However neither his employment in the title role, nor his A-list status, proves quite enough to secure him top billing on the film, which once again goes to the guest villain. Still wrong.

The film's triumphs however lie in its ubiquitous one-liners, enormous action sequences, and clever ideas. If Gotham's outrageous architecture doesn't do it for you, then maybe the notion of giant mirrors revolving the planet and lining up with each other will. Sure, someone falls into a vat of chemicals again, and a ridiculous number of people get frozen and thawed out to little ill-effect, but I guess we viewers just have to dumb-down to the film-makers' level on that one.

Batman And Robin is good escapist fun, and when watched as such doesn't disappoint. If you were hoping for another serious entry in this series, then as you know that ship sailed with Batman Returns.

Available here.
(with thanks to Herschel)

Related reviews:
Batman (1989)
Batman Returns
Batman Forever

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