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Franichise Killers: Batman and Robin

Superhero movies are dominant at the box office.  But that wasn’t always the case.   In the 90’s, Batman was the only successful superhero franchise.  Just two years prior to the release of the fourth film in the series, Warner Brothers was so confident of the caped crusader, they released a movie titled Batman Forever.  It’s true that the studio will probably continue making Batman movies long after you and I are gone, but the next Batman movie they released derailed not just the series but the entire superhero genre for years to come.

It’s been twenty years since the release of Batman & Robin.  Over the past two decades, the movie has developed a toxic reputation.  It’s frequently cited as the worst superhero movie ever made.  It’s not.  Not by a long shot.  There are some truly wretched movies about superheroes.  But up until recently, B&R was undoubtedly the biggest waste of talent and resources.  Given the budget and the people involved, I think anyone reading this could probably make a better movie than Batman & Robin.  Even if all you did was excise 50% of the ice-related puns, that would be a marked improvement.

The series started in 1989 with Tim Burton’s Joker-centric Batman.  Batman isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s an important one.  Following the success of Superman, Hollywood made a few attempts to duplicate its success with comic strip characters like Popeye and Annie.  When those movies failed and the Man of Steel’s series flamed out, the studios figured people didn’t want to see movies about superheroes.  Throughout the 80’s, there were several movies based on comic book heroes in development, but most of them never saw the light of day.  And the ones that did, mostly weren’t worth seeing.

That changed with Burton’s Batman.  Backed by a clever marketing campaign that highlighted the character’s iconic logo, Batman tapped into the zeitgeist in a big way.  Despite mixed reviews, Batman dominated the box office grossing over $250 million dollars.  To put that in perspective, only eight other movies topped $100 million dollars that year.  Adjusted for inflation, the ’89 Batman is still the second highest-grossing movie in the series behind The Dark Knight.  (In case you are curious, Batman V. Superman trails in sixth place.)

Naturally, Warner Brothers wanted a sequel as soon as possible.  Burton was given more creative control over Batman Returns and the end result was a movie that alienated a lot of people.  The movie’s marketing push included a deal with McDonalds, but Batman Returns was a little too twisted for Happy Meal tie-ins.  While still successful, Batman Returns grossed around $100 million dollars less than the original.  Not surprisingly, the studio decided to make some changes.

Burton was given an executive producer credit and shown the door.  Star Michael Keaton followed suit after a combination of creative differences and a salary dispute.  In a lot of ways, Batman Forever was a reboot, but the inclusion of supporting actors Michael Gough and Pat Hingle made it clear the movie was intended as a continuation of the Burton series.

The new director, Joel Schumacher, brought with him a new Batman and a different aesthetic.  Burton’s movies were gothic and moody.  That was arguably their greatest strength.  Schumacher’s were gaudy and bathed in neon lights.  The first two movies distanced themselves from the campy image of the TV show from the sixties.  But Schumacher brought back the camp.  According to Stephen Goldblatt, the cinematographer on Batman Forever:

Joel wanted to literally make it comic book looking. He was very happy as soon as he saw bright colors and homoerotic posing and all of that stuff. He was as happy as the day was long.

After the disappointment of Batman Returns, the success of the third movie came as a surprise to many.  Not only was Batman Forever the second highest-grossing movie of 1995, it sold a lot of merchandise.  Seeing dollar signs, Warner Brothers gave Schumacher two years to turn out another Batman movie.  Their intent was clear.  Sell as many toys, T-shirts and Taco Bell soft drinks as possible.

The studio told Schumacher they wanted the next Batman movie to be “toyetic.”  That meant stuffing the movie with even more villains and sidekicks who could be immortalized in plastic.  Batman Returns and Forever juggled two villains each, but B&R would add a third to the mix.  And Batman’s extended family grew with the addition of Batgirl.  It didn’t matter that the movie was over-stuffed as long as there were lots of merchandising opportunities to exploit.

When it came time to assemble his cast, Schumacher took the “bigger is better” approach.  Arnold Schwarzenegger was offered a ridiculous sum of money to play Mr. Freeze because he was at the time one of the biggest stars in the world.  As it turns out, his career was already showing signs of declining.  Batman & Robin would only contribute to that.

Having butted heads with Val Kilmer while making Forever, Schumacher was all too happy to recast the title role.  The studio looked to George Clooney who was still primarily known as a TV star at the time.  Eager to land a big budget movie, Clooney was willing to work relatively cheap.  He’s spent the last twenty years apologizing to fans for ruining Batman.  But the truth is, he did as well as could be expected with the material he was given.

Chris O’Donnell was one of the few holdovers from the previous movie.  Uma Thurman, hot off Pulp Fiction, was cast as femme fatale Poison Ivy.  For Batgirl, Schumacher wanted Alicia Silverstone who had just risen to star-status thanks to the comedy Clueless.

The end result was a cast of hot actors who weren’t necessarily all that well suited to the parts they were playing.  If you’re looking at it from the point of view of a Batman fan, you would happily trade a big name like Schwarzenegger for someone like Patrick Stewart as Mr Freeze.  By casting names like Schwarzenegger and Silverstone, Warner Brothers thought they were stacking the deck in their favor.  Instead, they were running up their production costs with movie star-level salaries in a movie that didn’t need big name stars.  Two decades later, everyone knows that the characters are the stars of these movies.

What went wrong on Batman and Robin?  It’s almost easier to ask what didn’t.  Warner Brothers practically guaranteed a bad movie with a shortened production schedule and a focus on merchandising.  Joel Schumacher, while more talented than his post-Batman filmography may suggest, was never the right guy to helm these movies.  He simply didn’t get the character.  The script was overstuffed with too many characters for the sole purpose of turning them into action figures and many of the parts were miscast with an eye towards star power.

Reviews for the Batman movies were never stellar.  And honestly, even the best pre-Nolan Batman movies aren’t very good.  They get by primarily on style, but they lack substance.  For the most part, audiences were willing to overlook these flaws for the opportunity to see a comic book character brought to life.  Despite the success of the first Batman movie, big budget superhero movies remained relatively rare through the nineties.

When Batman & Robin opened, audiences ignored the bad reviews.  It opened in first place.  But toxic word of mouth caused it to quickly fall from the top ten.  The movie limped past the $100 million dollar mark to become the twelfth highest-grossing movie of 1997 barely beating out 13th place finisher George of the Jungle.

The failure of Batman & Robin didn’t just kill the Batman franchise, it put the superhero genre on ice for a couple of years.  Studio heads decided that if audiences wouldn’t buy a ticket to a Batman sequel, there was no way they would go see movies starring lesser-known comic book characters.  It would take the success of several Marvel movies to bring superheroes back in vogue.  It wasn’t until after Marvel properties like X-Men and Spider-man that Warner Brothers returned to the genre.  When they did, it was to reboot Batman in a stripped-down movie that stood in stark contrast to the campy neon-soaked Batman & Robin.

Let’s break this down:

How many movies in the series? 4

How many of them were good? 1.5 – The first one is fun and Returns has its moments.

Health of the franchise before it died? Strong

Careers Ruined: 3 – Joel Schumacher, Chirs O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone.

Likelihood of a reboot? Batman came back in the Nolan trilogy and is a central figure in the DC Cinematic Universe

Any redeeming value? Maybe if you really like ice puns or Mae West impressions

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Posted on June 28, 2017, in Franchise Killers, Movies, Super Heroes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. The Nolan films were dark and broody, and became huge successes, but there was a evolution of taste of the movie audience when those films came out. It sounds like to me Batman Returns was ahead of its time back in 1992, hence how off-putting it was back then. It probably would have fared better if it came out around the time the Nolan films did

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    • I suppose “Batman Returns” was a little ahead of its time, and probably would be more retrospective acknowledgement if the narrative would’ve been a little bit more. I think it had something there though.

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      • I meant to write that the “Batman Returns” narrative needed to be a little bit more steady. the art style and tone were clear for that picture, but i believe the storyline really lacked focus.

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        • Batman Returns suffered from too many rewrites. There were several uncredited screenwriters who kept changing the plot. As a result, Penguin’s motivations change about every 20 minutes.

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        • Yeah, that’s true; it seemed everybody except Kim Basinger & Carrie Fisher had a hand in rewriting “Batman Returns”.

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        • Right off the top of my head Penguin’s motivations involve running for mayor of Gotham City, framing Batman for murder, kidnapping the first born children of Gotham, and sending an army of mind controlled little penguins to blow up the Gotham with missiles strapped on their backs. And at least half of those plot points get dropped or are resolved rather quickly.

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        • Indeed they are, although the more I think about it I guess the main point of this film was about not having any resolutions. As for the baby kidnapping scene, I wonder if Christopher Walken had flashbacks to the scene in “The Dead Zone”, when Martin Sheen’s Greg Stillson character uses an infant as a shield.

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    • One key problem with “Batman Returns” is that when compared to the 1989 one, it’s quite apparent that Tim Burton was reigned in for the better on the first one. On “Returns”, it just felt like Burton was making a bitter, moody and downright bizarre arthouse movie (or if you want to call it this, a modern German expressionism movie that just happened to feature Batman) disguised as a Summer blockbuster.

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    • http://forums.superherohype.com/showpost.php?p=34560803&postcount=537

      The emphasis on Burton Goth and freakish characters aren’t true to their origins of the source material. And only share vague similarities with the characters from the mythos it’s based on.

      While visibly darker. And a film without any true heroes. That ends on a depressing note. The film is actually more cartoony and camp here than the original. With no sense of real threat.

      Penguin driving a giant duck mobile. Penguin just coming up with the schematics to control the Batmobile. Little penguins that follow orders and have missiles on their backs. And Batman with a giant ice mobile designed specifically to drive in the sewers is all over the top camp akin to the 60’s series. Straight up cheese and goofiness.

      It’s a visibly beautiful movie. Albeit overdesigned and unrealistic. A total goth fantasy that focuses on being a freak rather than a dark, complex and complicated yet tortured hero. It’s a depressing experience that I want to enjoy but just can’t.

      This was Tim Burton saying Eff You to studios, commercialism and the comic book mythos itself.

      Just because it’s dark doesn’t make it Batman.

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    • To put things in its proper perspective, in the first movie from 1989 ended in a very triumphant note with Batman having defeated Joker, watching the Bat-signal in the sky (with the great Danny Elfman music swelling for good measure). “Batman Returns” on the other hand, ends on a rather bittersweet note, with Batman failing to save Catwoman and having to go back to his life alone. What makes matters even worse is that this would be the last time that we would see Michael Keaton’s take on Bruce Wayne/Batman.

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    • I think that the comparison between the Nolan Batman films and the Tim Burton Batman films are quite superficial at the most. The Christopher Nolan films beginning with “Batman Begins” pretty much had the concept of “What if Batman could plausibly exist in the supposed real world”. “The Dark Knight” in particular could be considered the Batman version of a heist movie like “Heat” or in one review that I heard, “If Sidney Lumet directed a superhero movie.”

      Tim Burton’s movies especially “Batman Returns”, were more or less macabre fantasies, surreal odes to German expressionism, and/or Gothic fairy tales with superheroes. The 1989 movie had a somewhat “heightened reality” that was more of a noirish gangster movie disguised as a late ’80s big budgeted urban action-adventure movie.

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  2. jeffthewildman

    One thing I’ve noticed. While Batman And Robin is widely regarded as a bomb, it seems to be remembered more than Batman Forever. I see it pop up on TV quite a bit. I can’t recall the last time I happened across Batman Forever. That’s probably because Batman And Robin has its reputation, while Forever is more or less a mediocre movie and in some ways, a purely bad movie can be more entertaining than a purely mediocre one.

    At the time, this went into production, the main movie success Clooney had had was with From Dusk Till Dawn. Once he got this and One Fine Day out of his system, he was on a winning streak. Starting with Out Of Sight in 1998, he’s rarely stepped wrong.

    I agree with a comment I saw elsewhere on here, that in the long run, it was a combination of the failure of this, Excess Baggage and Blast From The Past that knocked Alicia Silverstone off the a-list. I’d say that the latter two did more damage overall as they were headlining vehicles for her. This one had her as a supporting player.

    As for Arnold, in some ways the under-performance of Eraser the previous year had started to offer hints that his time had passed. By the late 90s, Arnold and the action movie tropes associated with him were seeming passe to a significant portion of the public. Mr. Freeze definitely had the worst dialogue. When you think of bad dialogue in this movie, usually the ice puns are the first thing to come to mind.

    This isn’t the worst movie ever nor is it the worst superhero movie ever. I can think of a few superhero movies that are far more painful to watch than this and that’s without doing nay research.

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    • That’s sad to me if “Batman and Robin” is remembered more than “Batman Forever. Looking back, I can see the quality taking a turn for the worse in the Forever film, yet I think it escapes with some decency & respectability. “Batman & Robin”, on the other hand, other than the affecting portion of the story about Nora Fries, seems to me like it never stood a chance of being any good (and that’s why Superman works alone).

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      • “Batman & Robin’s” biggest problem is that it seemed to have no idea whom it was marketed towards. On one end, it seems to want to be a ’90s homage of sorts to the campy 1960s incarnation of Batman with Adam West yet at the same time, it has stuff that we’re supposed to take very seriously like the Nora Fries (as well as the “Alfred is dying”) subplot from the animated series.

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        • I also think that “Batman & Robin” gets deservedly dumped on because it’s simply put, the epitome of a lazy (the filmmakers pretty much took the basic formula of “Batman Forever” and dumbed it down even further), soul-less, and most importantly, cynical cash-grab. I think that Chris O’Donnell said it best when he said that when he made “Batman Forever” it felt like he was actually making a movie. Whereas on “Batman & Robin”, it just felt like that he was making a two hour two commercial.

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        • Chris O’Donnell was there on set, and many viewers of the film say that same thing, and I’m glad he said that. For many of the performers there, it might have been the worst project they were involved in, especially considering the expectations.

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    • Doug Walker perhaps summed up “Batman Forever” as best as anybody could possibly do in his Nostalgia Critic review of “Batman & Robin”. “Batman Forever” while I to wasn’t exactly good, wasn’t at all terrible either. It was at the end of the day, the Batman film that the studio always wanted, safe and marketable. It’s kind of those, “I saw it once, but I really don’t need to see it again!” type of movies (if that makes sense).

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      • I liked it more when I viewed it at home years later than when I first saw it in the theater, but I do understand that point of view. I don’t think it’s a must-see film; I kind of feel about it how I feel about “Lethal Weapon 3”, which is that although I don’t find it particularly memorable, I may get sucked in if it’s on TV.

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      • 15 ’90s Movies That Have Not Aged Well

        http://screenrant.com/90s-movies-that-have-not-aged-well/

        BATMAN FOREVER

        After Tim Burton’s gothic take on the Caped Crusader, director Joel Schumacher brought the character back to his campy side with 1995’s Batman Forever.

        While it wasn’t quite as cheesy as the 1960’s TV show, Schumacher’s take on the Dark Knight was definitely more day than night than the previous two movies, with bright colors, a light-hearted tone, and actor Jim Carrey hamming it up in green spandex.

        Though moviegoers and critics took it easy on the film’s release, age has not been kind to Batman Forever. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy showed audiences just how grounded a Batman film could be, making Forever look considerably dated by today’s standards for the character. It’s hard not to cringe on a rewatch today, as things like awkward suit-up montages and cackling villains fill up most of the screen time.

        Before any of you get upset that we didn’t include Batman & Robin on this list, it sadly does not qualify. That film didn’t need two decades to age horribly; it was always horrible.

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    • Alicia Silverstone also already had a bulls-eye on her back so to speak by somehow gaining herself a lucrative production deal with Columbia Pictures so soon after “Clueless”. I’m willing to bet that many within the industry felt that it was undeserved for somebody who was still in the early phases of her career. Also, Alicia’s attitude and work ethic like that bratty sounding interview with “Movieline”, her weight gain while making “Batman & Robin”, and her alleged feud with the director of “Excess Baggage” didn’t help her cause.

      You brought up “Eraser”, but funny thing is that “Eraser” by most accounts was a big hit. It grossed worldwide, $242 million against a budget of $100 million and was the tenth highest grossing movie of 1996. It however, is one of those movies that were hits of their day, but don’t seem to be talked about by the general public anymore:
      http://thefreewheeler.proboards.com/thread/16711/forgotbusters-eraser-1996

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      • That’s for sure about Alicia Silverstone; it looked like she was headed down the wrong road anyway, it’s just that along that road she happened to participate in a poor Batman film.

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        • Another thing that perhaps didn’t help Alicia Silverstone’s cause is that during the press junket for “Batman & Robin”, she quite glibly say that even though she did watch the Adam West TV series beforehand, she didn’t know that there was even a Batgirl. I guess Alicia stopped or blocked out Season 3 when Yvonne Craig joined the cast.

          It’s just that the way that Alicia said it, it sounded without the slightest hint of irony or reverence to the source material:

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    • I think the fundamental problem with George Clooney’s interpretation of Batman is that he was simply way too apathetic, detached, ironic, and “too cool for school” (Clooney didn’t even “theatricalize” his performance in the Batsuit by altering his voice like Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer did). I can somewhat understand the logic that Bruce Wayne four movies in would’ve considerably mellowed as he got older, but with Clooney on board, he just makes Batman too much of a generic hero. Completely gone is the sense of intensity and sense of danger from when Michael Keaton originated the role back in ’89. It was as if by “Batman & Robin” just about anybody could’ve played that role.

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      • I think that’s true enough; it seems George Clooney played a laid back Batman, with none of the darkness or pathos the Keaton or even the Kilmer Batman had. I don’t think Clooney was bad, I just don’t think he was Batman (I think he played it more like someone who was dressed up as Batman for Halloween).

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        • I wonder if one small factor for why “Batman & Robin” failed is that audiences were becoming wary of the frequent changes in the lead actors in a short time span. In three succeeding movies, we went from Michael Keaton to Val Kilmer to George Clooney. Not even the James Bond franchise had such a dramatic turn over. At least there, they went back to Sean Connery for one movie after the George Lazenby experiment failed before settling on Roger Moore.

          That’s one of the biggest problems with the Tim Burton-Joel Schumacher era Batman movies. There was never any real sense of continuity either visually or from a storyline/narrative perspective. They really all felt like their own individual episodes (ironically, just like the Bond series) unlike say what you see now with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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        • Maybe that was a factor for some, but then again Superman was played by the same actor, and people grew weary of that franchise due to the decline in quality. For what it’s worth, I preferred Michael Keaton as Batman, I didn’t mind Val Kilmer (at the time, I wasn’t aware that he was difficult to work work for a lot of directors), and I was just getting used to George Clooney, but he didn’t swing the film one way or another for me.
          I agree though Batman ’89-’97 overall really lacked any sort of flow or continuity; it was a continuous franchise, but except for “Batman Returns” (and only a little bit for me), it didn’t feel like it. Superhero franchises surely have come a long way in the last 17 years!

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        • I recall that while doing press for the movie, George Clooney tried to defend or rationalize the more “laid back” approach to Batman. I’m paraphrasing but he said that Bruce Wayne is a 35-ish year old man who lives in the lap of luxury and has excess to all of the coolest toys he got get a hold of. Therefore, by this phase in his life, he shouldn’t go all “Woe is me, my parents are dead!” I kind of get what Clooney is perhaps trying to say in that Bruce Wayne should be Batman for “the greater good” (it kind of goes back to what Michael Keaton told Kim Basinger’s character in the first movie regarding why he has to be Batman, “Because nobody else can!”) a la Superman and not as purely an exercise to cope with his childhood trauma.

          However, this is problematic because Bruce Wayne is for all intents and purposes, at the very least, a borderline sociopath. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to believe that this guy is a tinge bit insane. We’re talking about a man without any superpowers, who dresses up in an elaborate Halloween costume to play nighttime vigilante. It’s almost like a more fantasy version of I don’t know, maybe “Death Wish”. If you take that away, then you’re pretty much taking away the very essence of Batman at his core.

          https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=batman+interview+clooney

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        • Right, other than the Adam West Batman (that series was in a different time and went for fun, like a beach party with Gidget or Frankie & Annette), the man who dons the cape and cowl doesn’t take to crimefighting as a hobby and is working through some serious emotional issues (like the answer Batman gave to Zatanna in the animated series when she asked what happened that made him put a mask on: “A painful memory and a promise”).

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        • The ironic thing is that Adam West should get more credit for his conviction to the role. I would actually compare decidedly “too causal for his own good” George Clooney’s approach to playing Bruce Wayne to Lyle Waggoner’s in the screen tests (he was apparently, the runner up behind Adam West) for the 1966 TV series.

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      • What ‘Batman & Robin’ Can Teach Us on Its 20th Anniversary

        http://www.slashfilm.com/lessons-to-learn-on-the-batman-and-robin-20th-anniversary/

        Instead of focusing on the possibilities of making the character profitable and interesting to families, Nolan developed a Batman that could exist in a post- 9/11 environment. Schumacher’s Gotham is not a believable place, but rather exists more as an overcooked, colorful fantasy. It’s clear this was done to be more inviting to kids, especially since much of the designs (such as the vehicles) came from the many partnering toy companies working with the studio. Nolan, on the other hand, filmed in parts of Chicago – his Gotham was just as real as the cities you see on the news.

        The same can be said of Christian Bale’s take on Bruce Wayne, who couldn’t be more different than the emotionless pretty boy of George Clooney’s performance. In fact, Bale understands the three sides of Batman: the man who the public sees, the one that Alfred knows, and the crime fighter that bad guys fear. Clooney plays the character as if these three elements don’t exist, while Bale makes them all uniquely his own. To best understand (and respect) Batman, we have to witness all those facets of his personality.

        Though there is the myth that kids will buy into anything, there’s a clause in that formula: the fantasy has to be believable and Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is nothing of the sort. Though Batman Begins might not exactly be the best example of something that audiences of all ages adore, if we look at DC’s competition, Marvel is the one that gets this right. Yes, Thor and Loki exist in the same world as Tony Stark and Spider-Man, but audiences buy into this universe because these characters and their world feel organic and their relationships make sense. It might have ridiculous visuals and action sequences, but you never question the legitimacy of what’s in front of you.

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      • Re: More defense of Schumacher’s films (video)

        http://www.batman-online.com/forum/index.php?topic=2462.msg55160#msg55160

        Well said. Yeah, I don’t think this film’s hammy reputation came from the style of acting on Clooney’s part so much as some of the lines he had to deliver in the cowl. I guess if we’re being completely honest, every time we see Clooney he’s playing the straight man throughout. But unlike Adam West who did it purposely against heavy innuendo, here Clooney is probably a bit more lost for motivation since there is no clear direction so much as moment to moment action he reacts to. But I will also add, probably the biggest complaint on Clooney above all else, is just the simple fact that he has no public identity for Batman at all. His voice is identical. His mannerisms are identical. Quite frankly you would have to be deaf, not to know Bruce Wayne was under the mask. And I think that was too far a leap from the other incarnations to just abandon a deep or gravely voice to disguise who he was. With all the customizing people make to movies, I think it would be interesting if someone modified Clooney’s voice to see how different scenes would register. It might be quite surprising. If he had a voice like Kevin Conroy maybe he would have got away with it.

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      • The 10 Worst Casting Decisions in Superhero Movies

        http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2017/the-10-worst-casting-decisions-in-superhero-movies/

        George Clooney: Bruce Wayne/Batman, Batman & Robin

        While Batman & Robin is most famous for staring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a walking ice-pun machine and the travesty of the bat-nipples, it’s important to remember just how God awful Clooney’s turn behind the cowl was. Detached and ill informed are the best words to sum up his performance.

        Val Kilmer was initially slated to return as the dark knight, but he walked away after difficulties with director Joel Schumacher. In his stead, they tapped Clooney, who’s star was very much on the rise in 97. However, maybe they shouldn’t have been blinded by his growing star power, because his performance suggested that his entire knowledge of Batman was based on the 60’s TV show.

        While the whole film was admittedly a victim of an attempt to be more “family friendly” after the darker turn the films had taken under the direction of Tim Burton in the past decade, nobody in the cast took this ethos more to heart than Clooney. His Bruce Wayne was overly sociable and charming, not unlike Clooney’s real life personality, even though Bruce has always been more comfortable doing battle with the forces of evil behind the cowl than rubbing elbows with high society in a tuxedo. And his Batman lacked the conviction and thirst for justice that has come to define the caped crusader.

        Then of course, there’s his chemistry (or lack thereof) with the rest of the bat-family. Batman has had a back-and-forth, tough love dynamic with Robin (played by Chris O’Donnell), but their quarrel in the film was less tough love and more general animosity.

        No matter what happens with the upcoming Justice League film, and the untitled Ben Affleck Batman that seems stuck in development hell for the moment, we can feel secure with the fact that George Clooney’s Batman will remain the worst portrayal of the caped crusader on the big screen for a long time.

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  3. I think Lebeau gave some good stats, but if we’re going to break the number of good films in this franchise into portions, the number I’d give is 2.25: first film gets a 1, second gets a .5, third film gets a .75 (yeah, I actually kind of like it), and I already gave the fourth film money, so it gets no more from me.

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    • To be brutally honest, I never found Uma Thurman to be THAT attractive to the point in which she would be looked at as inherently desirable as Poison Ivy. I wouldn’t exactly put her up there on the list of the “hottest women in a Batman movie” next to Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer, or Nicole Kidman in “Batman Forever”. Hell, I would take Elle Macpherson or Vendela Kirsebom (who had smaller roles in “Batman & Robin” as Julie Madison and Nora Fries respectively) before I would take Uma.

      The thing about Uma Thurman is that she lacked magnificent bone structure and her nose is too long and wide. She is tall and slim but her legs are not that proportioned. In effect, she’s attractive in a decidedly unconventional way. What didn’t help is that she looks like a drag queen in her Poison Ivy get-up.

      If it were up to me, I would’ve gone with somebody like Marcia Cross (you know from “Melrose Place” and later, “Desperate Housewives”) as Pamela Isley. I’m willing to bet that she wouldn’t have imposed upon use a horrific Mae West impersonation like Uma Thurman did.

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      • I never got that riled up about Uma Thurman myself when it came to attractiveness (for example, I preferred Janeane Garofalo in “The Truth About Cats & Dogs”, so I had difficulty in believing the plot there:-).
        Marcia Cross? That could’ve been interesting; plus, she’s a natural redhead.

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  4. From The Dark Tower to Batman & Robin, crappy blockbusters share one guilty party

    http://www.avclub.com/article/dark-tower-batman-robin-crappy-blockbusters-share–259059#comments

    This past weekend greeted eager popcorn-movie fans with a dispiriting barrage of negative reviews for The Dark Tower, the would-be franchise starter of the messy but popular Stephen King book series of the same name. Everything from the lackluster direction by Nikolaj Arcel to poor choices in cutting and pasting different sections of the early books in the story was called out by critics and moviegoers alike, resulting in yet another generic and uninspired wannabe-blockbuster that will doubtless be looked back upon with the same “not even a nice try” attitude that greeted similar franchise also-rans from 2017 like Rings and Transformers: The Last Knight. A common thread between these three films? They were all either written or had stories by Akiva Goldsman.

    Actually, it’s not fair to say Goldsman is responsible for writing The Dark Tower. Even whittling down the presumable army of screenwriters who had a hand behind the scenes to the official names, you’re left with five credited writers, including longtime TV writer Jeff Pinkner (with whom Goldsman teamed up for many of his co-writing credits on the TV series Fringe, a show superior in nearly every way to his big-screen work) and Arcel himself. Similarly, Rings has five writing credits, Transformers seven, and multiple other projects awarding Goldsman a writing byline (The 5th Wave, Insurgent, Angels & Demons, to name a few) also spread the credit—or more accurately, blame—among multiple scribes. Still, look at those titles: The one quality they share, besides Goldsman’s name in the credits, is not being very good. Downright bad, would be more accurate. And at a certain point—much like how if someone complains every day that everyone they meet seems to be an asshole, thereby suggesting they themselves are the real asshole—you have to wonder if Goldsman might be the problem.

    Better still, just look to his solo credits, or at least the films that stem largely from his pen. He began in the ’90s with a couple of John Grisham adaptations (The Client and A Time To Kill, the former of which was cowritten by Robert Getchell), which are both serviceable films and among the more respectable projects he’s ever helped write, though no one should consider them great screenplays. But then look at the rest of his output: He penned the execrable big-screen version of Lost In Space single-handedly. The dour and sodden adaptation of The Da Vinci Code? All him. Best of all, the famously franchise-sinking Batman & Robin? Goldsman is the man to thank for all those “freeze” puns and grown adults acting like 7-year-olds.

    What makes Goldsman’s work so poor is just how little soul there seems to be in it. The movies in which he’s had a hand all share a lack of concern for character development outside of screenwriting 101, Save The Cat!-style generalities. He takes whatever genre or format he’s working in and applies the most reductive, easily digestible conflicts and themes, a process film executives may see as making a movie “broadly accessible” but which tends in practice to render them more “toothless and inhuman.” Instead, he ladles on plot contrivances and mythos like they were the main course, rather than seasonings meant to spice up a film’s content. He’s like your uncle who lost his taste buds from smoking, and now ladles too much salt onto everything he eats, rendering each dish weirdly interchangeable and unappetizing by negating any subtleties or distinctions.

    But his claim to fame lies with his Oscar glory. In 2002, A Beautiful Mind crushed at the Oscars, winning Best Picture, Best Director for Ron Howard, Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Connelly, and netting Goldsman the Best Adapted Screenplay award. Based on the overwhelmingly poor quality of nearly every project he’s had a hand in writing since, Goldsman has been dining out on that Oscar for the past 15 years. His name was established as someone who can deliver not just good work, but Academy Award-winning work, and those credentials have seemingly placed blinders over the eyes of everyone who has brought him on board since. He’s been involved with loads of big Hollywood projects, from franchises big and small to further adaptations of popular pre-existing narratives, and not a one has ended up anywhere near even the “good enough” bar set by Beautiful Mind. (Goldsman’s one exception: He re-teamed with Howard for 2004’s Cinderella Man, a movie now generally agreed to be superior to A Beautiful Mind—but also one where Goldsman got help from co-writer Cliff Hollingsworth, who also earned the “story by” credit.)

    Indeed, since his Oscar win, Goldsman has done basically nothing but team up with others, whether as part of a writers room, punching up others’ scripts, or simply collaborating on screenplays for big-budget Hollywood fare. Whether this hints at an inability to pull off a screenplay on his own or a preference for the script doctor lifetstyle remains unknown, much like the possibility of actual personalities for his onscreen creations. There’s only been one project on which Akiva Goldsman has enjoyed sole writing credit since his Oscar win, and it’s the kind of movie that makes other movies want to shove it in a locker and steal its lunch money.

    Winter’s Tale stars Colin Farrell as a seemingly immortal thief raised by a demon (Russell Crowe) who falls in love but the woman dies because they have sex and then Farrell’s winged horse stays with him as he wanders New York for a hundred years, and also, Lucifer is played by Will Smith. That description might sound unfairly dismissive, but if you’ve seen the film, you know it barely begins to do justice to the weird-bad quality of the movie. It’s the kind of bonkers flop that almost seems expressly designed to be covered on the How Did This Get Made? podcast. Goldsman not only wrote it, he directed it as well (it’s his film debut), and it’s almost endearing as a foolhardy passion-project—an inexplicable curio, rather than a straight-up piece of crap

    Goldsman has never written a great film, and more often than not, his work is lazy, uninspired, or just plain bad. Yet time and again, his name turns up on projects, as he cashes his paycheck and puts in the hours to complete yet another derivative offering of slapdash Hollywood product. There’s a name for this kind of writer: a hack—someone who can churn out material that fits a requisite mold with little regard for artistic merit or considerations of quality. There are plenty of hacks capable of doing good work, but Goldsman’s name on a project is practically a guarantee of bloodless moviemaking. His films share a joyless, unimaginative vibe that suggests a film made by someone who doesn’t get much of a charge from making films. He’s the Brett Ratner of screenwriters.

    None of which is to imply there’s not a place for Goldsman in the entertainment business. After all, take a look at his IMDB credits in which he’s listed not as a writer, but a producer. It’s an uneven list to be sure (remember Jonah Hex?) but it suggests someone who excels at the behind-the-scenes work of getting films and TV shows made. Producers need not feel bad when movies they help shepherd aren’t good; if it was on time and under budget, they earned their keep. Like Ratner, Goldsman may want to consider a future in which his contributions are limited to the business side of things. But studios may want to consider taking The Dark Tower as the warning bell they didn’t heed on any of Goldsman’s numerous prior big-budget movies: The guy isn’t helping make your film better. Stop giving him the chance to fail upward yet again.

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    • Who Keeps Hiring Akiva Goldsman To Ruin Movies?

      http://www.pajiba.com/film_reviews/who-keeps-hiring-akiva-goldsman-to-ruin-movies.php

      When you watch as many films as I do, you get used to badness. A truly bad film can be a fascinating viewing experience, like a photo negative that shows everything that can and will go wrong in the very expensive, incredibly time-consuming world of Hollywood and beyond. Every movie requires ridiculous amounts of people working their hardest under smothering circumstances and the expectations of countless fans, scouring the internet for a smidgen of news. That’s partly why it’s so disappointing when you finally see something you’ve waited years for and it barely rises above the level of ‘meh’. At least absolute chaos is entertaining, and the industry seems impossibly dedicated to repeating its mistakes as many times as it can get away with. It may not be great art to keep hiring the same people with proven track records of mediocrity, but as long as the money keeps rolling in, who the hell cares?

      I have a good understanding of how the industry works, and I know that the utopian ideal of a creative meritocracy is complete fantasy, yet I will never get over the crushing reality that is the continuing success of Akiva Goldsman. The mere mention of his name attached to promising projects fills me with the weight of disappointment. When it was announced that he’d be taking over the reins of Star Trek: Discovery from TV idol Bryan Fuller, it felt like a cruel joke, like the worst possible outcome you could imagine for such a show. I will be able to succinctly explain cold fusion before I can ever understand how Goldsman not only gets paid millions of dollars to write movies but convinced his esteemed colleagues in the Academy to award him with a freaking Oscar. The Razzies mount up, the reviews seldom rise above ambivalent, but Goldsman is still there cashing the cheques and dipping his toes into every piece of source material you love. I mean, did you see the reviews for The Dark Tower?

      Hollywood is saturated with ‘just good enough’ people. It’s an industry where you can go from hairdresser to Oscar winning producer (hi, Jon Peters), and there are plenty of terrible creatives behind the camera spoiling the things you love who you will never hear about. Scripts themselves don’t tend to be one-person shows, and will go through re-writes, punch-ups and doctoring. Carrie Fisher of all people was one of the field’s most wanted script doctors, polishing up everything from The Wedding Singer to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Even picking on a screenwriter feels a tad mean given their place on the movie pecking order, somewhere between key grip and animal trainer.
      Yet even knowing all that, there’s something about Goldsman that cannot help but inspire derision. Few people of his stature have their name attached to so many major projects, have received such critical mauling for their work in them, and still been granted the opportunity to do more damage.

      Much of Goldsman’s career is defined by good connections and even better timing. His first major screenplay credit (shared with Robert Getchell), The Client, was an adaptation of the John Grisham novel, directed by fellow critical punching bag Joel Schumacher. It was generally well received and made over $117m. Granted, this was at a point where Grisham was the biggest writer in the world and adaptations of his work were raking in the dollars. Not even Joel Schumacher could spoil that, and so a partnership was born, as the pair would reunite for the 1996 Grisham movie A Time To Kill, another box office success with respectable reviews.

      Never mind that, in the interim period, Goldsman had his first flop, Silent Fall. It all weighed out evenly enough. Silent Fall is of that unfortunate genre of thriller where autism is used insensitively as a plot device. Nothing about the film worked, much less the script, and it made back around a tenth of its $30m budget. Roger Ebert called the plot ‘tortuously constructed’, which seems to be a common mark of Goldsman’s work: Structuring and plotting that veers between nonsensical and just lazy. Plot holes? Try a veritable highway of bottomless pits.

      The next stop for Goldsman was the golden goose of Batman himself. After Tim Burton had helped to establish the franchise and legitimize comic book movies as a major means of artistic and financial gain, the studio knew that this was a pit they could potentially mine for the rest of our time on earth. Warner Bros. believed that Batman Returns, Burton’s follow-up to the first film, failed to out-gross its predecessor because of its darker, phantasmagorical tone, which put off families and younger children. To ease these fears, Schumacher’s films are more inspired by the 1960s TV series and that era of the comic books – colorful, slyly self-aware, the Batman of the flower power years. That was the intent, anyway. Batman Forever isn’t a great film, but it’s reasonably watchable. It’s broader, brighter and entirely aimed at selling toys to kids. Every performance is amped up to the maximum limit of gurning, and the script (which Goldsman wrote with Lee and Janet Scott Batchler) is like a pun-cannon working on overload.

      Working under the studio mandate of ‘dumb it down and sell it to the dumb kids’ isn’t the best environment for creative flourishment. Then again, many writers have done far better work under far worse circumstances. Giving Goldsman the benefit of the doubt that this was really the best Batman movie he could have made at the time, and given that it did make money and sell a lot of plastic action figures, having him return for Batman and Robin would, in an abstract sense, seem reasonable. Having said that, reason doesn’t enter the equation when it comes to Batman and Robin, a movie that redefined the concept of ‘so bad it’s good.’

      This is no mere pun machine of a movie – this is the Tesseract of puns, each deeper and more mind-boggling than the last. Every Mr Freeze ice pun is exquisite torture, somewhere between bad children’s birthday party entertainer and drag queen revue. Half the time, you can’t believe what you’re hearing and are convinced it’s all some twisted social experiment on the futile exercise of artistic expression in Hollywood. It’s not, of course. It’s just hack work. It killed the Batman franchise on the big screen for several years until Christopher Nolan came along, got Goldsman a Razzie nomination (shockingly his only one, and he didn’t even win it), and sank any hopes of further comic book movies for the time being.

      Goldsman, to his credit, did come to some kind of realization as to why his work on the film was significantly sub-par. “I sort of got lost. I was writing away from what I knew. It’s a little like a cat chasing its tail. Once you start making movies that are less than satisfying, you start to lose your opportunity to make the satisfying ones. People are not serving them up to you, saying, ‘You’re the guy we want for this.’” That seems candid enough, but people were still giving Goldsman work, and major work at that. The next year, Lost in Space was released, meeting a similarly dismissive critical and commercial response. Practical Magic has a nostalgic warmth to it, but doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny (it was also a big flop). Goldsman’s style, if it can be called that, is all over these movies: Perfunctory dialogue, plodding plotting, characters sketched out hazily and with no emotional center, and sometimes just plain lazy writing. There are leaps of logic in Lost in Space that defy human comprehension. It manages to be even cheesier than the TV show it’s based on, but completely lacking the sincerity. Like many of Goldsman’s films, watching it becomes a chore.

      All of this in the context of blockbuster and mainstream crowd-pleasing cinema, which is mostly Goldsman’s domain, is one thing. Now apply that to a concerted effort to garner prestige. Take all of that ineptitude and insert it into a narrative tailor-made to appeal to archaic notions of worthiness. That brings us to A Beautiful Mind, which may be the single-worst Best Picture winning film that isn’t called Crash. Everything about this soulless biopic is engineered to extract tears and awards, but that still does little to explain its baffling success. Every decision it makes is either exhaustingly predictable or incomprehensible in its lack of logic. It’s a story where subtlety does not enter the dictionary. Everything is turned up more and more to the point where you can’t help but look for the bat-nipples. At least that would be fun. A Beautiful Mind is too tedious for fun.

      Bad films win Oscars all the time. Merit only enters the equation of the Academy when it’s convenient to do so. A film made explicitly to get an Oscar for Ron Howard – a man who would aid and abet Goldsman’s continuing domination as much as Joel Schumacher – was always going to appeal to the right voters. Still, in a year where the competition included Ghost World, In The Bedroom, and the first Lord of the Rings movie, Goldsman’s win not only feels baffling; it’s strikingly undeserved. Akiva Goldsman doesn’t have a Razzie, but he does have an Oscar. Oh what a world…

      To be fair to Goldsman – shocking, I know – not everything he has done has been bad. Cinderella Man, another Howard collaboration, works the wheels a little too hard to evoke Frank Capra but it’s otherwise a strong sports biopic; he has several credits as a writer and director on Fringe, including some popular episodes; The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons aren’t good but they’re knowingly cheesy pot boilers that make excruciating source material easy to digest. That doesn’t justify the $3m he got for writing the former, but at least he was fairly compensated for having to repeatedly read renowned author Dan Brown.

      It took until 2014 for Goldsman to make his directorial debut, and he aimed big with his choice of source material: Imagine an epic romantic drama spanning decades and melding with fantasy and an epic battle of heaven and hell; a beloved novel previously set to be filmed by Martin Scorsese, but it proved too tough for the maestro; a story of impeccable earnestness that would offer a misunderstood creator the chance to show just how passionate he was about his craft. Say what you want about Winter’s Tale, but it doesn’t do anything by halves.

      Winter’s Tale is amazing in its sheer strangeness. Nothing works but everything is engrossing as a result. Everyone involved turned up on set each morning and completely committed to this grandiose tale of love, flying horses, and devil Will Smith. It’s super easy to mock, but you never really want to because it’s clear that Goldsman wholeheartedly believes in this story. He loves this circus and is desperately working to ensure you do too, and I must confess, I wanted to believe. There is nothing like Winter’s Tale out there in terms of no-holds-barred earnestness. It’s hilarious but oddly heart-warming as a result. How can you walk away unchanged from a film where Colin Farrell f***s a woman to death?

      Following Winter’s Tale, which spectacularly flopped at the box office, Goldsman returned to writing weak tea mediocrity, bouncing from forgettable YA adaptations (The 5th Wave) and forgotten horror sequels (Rings). At one point, he was attached to a writer’s room intended to continue the depressingly never-ending Transformers series, but he’s since dropped out. Following The Dark Tower and Star Trek: Discovery, Goldsman will return to the director’s chair with Stephanie, a supernatural horror film that will be written by someone else.

      I’m still not entirely sure how he continues to get headlining work with the frequency that he does: I imagine his work ethic is admirable, that he’s adept at working to tight deadlines and studio mandates, that he gets on well with the bigwigs in a tight-knit industry, and maybe he’s just a super nice dude. The truth is, as much as his work is terrible and defies explanation, I’m not even sure he’s the worst screenwriter in Hollywood, especially not when Allan Loeb, the man behind Collateral Beauty and The Dilemma, keeps getting work. Poor Akiva Goldsman – he’s not even good enough to be the worst.

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  5. Warner Bros and The Disastrous Movie Summer of 1997

    http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/summer-movies/256326/warner-bros-and-the-disastrous-movie-summer-of-1997

    Warner Bros has struggled with its blockbusters of late. But back in summer 1997, the year of Batman & Robin, it faced similar problems.

    Last year, Warner Bros. announced that following a string of costly movies that hadn’t hit box office gold (Pan, Jupiter Ascending, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., In The Heart of the Sea) that it was restructuring its blockbuster movie business. Fewer films, fewer risks, more franchises, and more centered around movie universes seems to be the new approach, and the appointment of a new corporate team to oversee the Harry Potter franchise last week was one part of that.

    In some ways, it marks the end of an era. While it retains its relationships with key directing talent (Ben Affleck, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Nolan, for instance), Warner Bros. was the studio that the others were trying to mimic, particularly during the 1990s. It worked with the same stars and filmmakers time and time again, and under then-chiefs Terry Semel and Robert Daly, relationships with key talent were paramount.

    Furthermore, the studio knew when to leave talent to do its job, and was also ahead of the pack in developing franchises that it could rely on to give it a string of hits.

    However, while Warner Bros. is having troubles now, its way of doing business was first seriously challenged by the failure of its slate in the summer of 1997. Once again during that time, it seemed to have a line-up that others could be envious about. But as film by film failed to click, every facet of WB’s blockbuster strategy suddenly came under scrutiny, and would ultimately change, fairly dramatically. Just two summers later, the studio released The Matrix, and blockbuster cinema changed again.

    But come the start of summer 1997? These are the movies that Warner Bros. had lined up, and this is what happened…

    June

    Batman & Robin

    And this is when the alarm bells started to ring very, very loudly. Summer 1997 was supposed to be about a trio of sure-fire hit sequels: Batman 4, Jurassic Park 2, and Speed 2. Only one of those would ultimately bring home the box office bacon, the others being destroyed by critics and ultimately leaving far more empty seats than anticipated in multiplexes.

    Batman & Robin, it’s easy to forget, came off the back of 1995’s Joel Schumacher-steered Batman reboot, Batman Forever (that year’s biggest movie). It had one of the fastest-growing stars in the world in the Batsuit (George Clooney), and the fast food deals were signed even before the script was typed up. You don’t need us to tell you that you could tell there were problems, something of a theme already in WB’s summer of ’97.

    That said, Batman & Robin still gave Warner Bros. a big opening, but in the infancy of the internet as we know it, poisonous word of mouth was already beginning to spread. The film’s production cost Warner Bros. up to $140 million, before marketing and distribution costs, and it opened in the U.S. to a hardly sniffy $42 million of business (although that was down from previous Batman movies).

    But that word of mouth still accelerated its departure from theaters. It was then very rare for a film to make over 40 percent of its U.S. gross in its first weekend. But that’s just what Batman & Robin did, taking $107.3 million in America, part of a worldwide total of $238.2 million. This was the worst return for a Batman movie to date, and Warner Bros. had to swiftly put the brakes on plans to get Batman Triumphant moving.

    It wouldn’t be for eight years until Batman returned to the big screen in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Warner Bros. would undergo big changes in the intervening period.

    As for the immediate aftermath of Batman & Robin? Warner Bros co-chief Robert Daly would note at the end of ’97 that “we’d have been better off with more action in the picture. The movie had to service too many characters.” He also added, “The next Batman we do, in three years – and we have a deal with George Clooney to do it – will have one villain.”

    Fortunately, WB’s one solid hit of the summer was just around the corner…

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  6. Re: 15 years of Batman and Robin

    http://www.batman-online.com/forum/index.php?topic=1825.msg55051#msg55051

    Ironically I think the perception on this film changed around the time I started this thread; at its 15 year mark in 2012

    We can’t blame the bad reception of B+R on the internet or marketing or anything else. 1997 was a time in which people were using the internet but it was still in its infancy and message boards weren’t quite popular yet. The critics didn’t like it even at the time, Siskel and Ebert both went off on their show about it. 1997-2005 remains the longest gap without a bat film since the 23 year gap between 66 and 89 and many people blamed this film for it. After their contractual promotions, it seemed that’s when people from the cast started denouncing the film: Shumacher publicly apologizing and Clooney refunding people’s money for seeing it. During the time of the first two Nolan films, many felt that Nolan was putting Schumacher in his place based on how different his films were.

    To me things changed after the Dark Knight Rises exposed the fact that Nolan and Bale don’t have all the answers either. The gritty and grounded concept became tiresome after three films especially when people were realizing how often these film makers were breaking their own rules. I suspect after seeing Rises, more than a few people went back to watch Batman and Robin just to see a recognizable Batman do his thing and have some fun instead of being ultra serious.

    Lastly I’ll address the big elephant attached to this film since it’s release- the homosexual undertones. I think we can agree that at least to some extent Schumacher sprinkled some male sexuality into his Bat-films and of course he is openly gay himself. In the past 20 years though, homophobia has become increasingly socially unacceptable and thus the criticisms of the butt shots, nipples, and shape of the Batmobile are far less legitimate in 2017 than they were in 1997. In fact these things may outright be perceived differently now than they were then; Such directorial decisions may not even be considered ‘gay’ by today’s standards, if anything they come off now as an exploration of the male anatomy as opposed to the implication of male-on-male sexuality. Even though this film isn’t known as the grounded one, I think common sense would tell us why Alfred didn’t put nipples on the Batgirl suit for his niece. I definitely don’t think Joel set out to make these films gay. He has been honest about his sexuality for a long time but he’s kept out of the limelight in that respect, he doesn’t seem to advocate gay rights or act flamboyant and hasn’t seemed to incorporate homosexuality into any of his other films.I think Schumacher just got guilty of deciding “hey we have this big budget, might as well use it.” At worst he just might not have understood how male sexuality can make straight men uncomfortable, especially in this days hence the quick label of ‘gay’ on any form of male sexuality.

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    • http://www.batman-online.com/forum/index.php?topic=1825.msg55072#msg55072

      Riddler I think because of the modern day shift in attitudes, the traditional jabs at B&R are bordering on being almost taboo to mention. But while B&R may be enjoying a swing in attitude towards the general tone of the film, I absolutely believe the heyday of it’s supposed “hate” was completely spurred on by the internet. With the advent of fan forums that fed into Youtube channels becoming THE place to vent one’s opinion, it became the “in” thing to rag on this movie.

      Plus there are a couple of things people forget that actually elude to your aforementioned reflection on evolving attitudes. Back in 1997 superhero films were still in their infancy. Superman had collapsed into oblivion ten years earlier with ‘Quest for Peace’ and outside of Batman, the comic industry really had nothing on it’s plate to look forward to. So when these films came out, fans put allot of weight on how they looked because it was a reflection on them and this new attitude about getting away from the loose interpretations from the 60’s and 70’s on television that bothered so many people back then.

      And to be quite honest I was surprised the revolt did not happen with Forever after we had Robin literally saying ” Holy metal Batman!” Keep in mind this was only a few short years after the industry first gave Batman a try with Keaton and kept everyone associated with the ’66 show far away because they wanted no suggestions of camp. The industry was THAT paranoid and THAT aware of the stigma at that time. But a funny thing happen – Batman Returns was TOO DARK. In many circles it was regarded as too adult-like with the dialogue between Penguin and Catwoman. And as much as folks like to talk about B&R “tanking” the franchise, Returns actually took the ship down first. WB was so concerned about the fall off in box office after the initial film, they did not believe they had a viable future left. Keep in mind, this was before superhero films were really even considered a legitimate direction for studios to make money. So seeing Batman drop off so quickly after only one film made studios panic fast. They had gone the opposite direction of the ’66 show and the 70’s attitudes with Superheroes. But people were already complaining and revenues were already well down.

      When Schumacher came onto the scene, he had to sell the project to the studio and to investors to get people back on board. Even Kenner was not big on putting much merchandise out because Returns had been lukewarm. So making Forever was not riding off the grand sails of Returns. It was fighting against the headwinds and pushing a boulder uphill with an industry that didn’t believe these characters deserved to be on the big screen. So as much as I know many love to hate on Schumacher, he actually deserves credit for keeping Batman (and the comic license) on life support when the Industry already felt it was dead. And that was the only reason why the Industry went in this direction because no one thought Batman had a future.

      So when Forever came out and Batman suddenly had a gleam in his eye and a wry smile on his face and oh wow look?! It’s Robin at his side and they’re having fun! That brought audiences back and the toys sold like hotcakes. Everyone in the industry was surprised. The critics liked this movie and the public was once again excited to see Batman on the big screen. There is NO WAY you get that connotation today reading anything online or even seeing reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a living document that reflects the modern day views as well.

      So however we choose to see Batman and Robin, there is one undeniable fact to history. That film DID have the momentum of Forever, but also the fatigue of opening too soon after Forever did so well. The movie stayed in theaters longer, had extended toy lines, and was only out on DVD for a relatively short amount of time before B&R hit the theaters. So while B&R ironically became the film Studios had sworn never to make, the instincts it got from Forever fostered that notion. And while fans might have reviled at what the series became, that distinction was mostly leveled at B&R, not Forever.

      Forever did not remotely start taking on the flack it got at the height of B&R hate until the internet age when the people complaining started comparing notes and decided all things related to Schumacher had to be trashed. And you know that is not a new thing. Attitudes change as new generations see films. Some movies that were critical and commercial failures in the 80’s ( Big Trouble in Little China & the remake of The Thing) are now heralded as classics and loved by all, including the critics that originally trashed them. So there is absolutely a meaningful influence to films and how much the opinions of the public lay weight to them now that we have sites that allow fans to congregate and build support for (and against) films. No one was going to utter one positive word in Schumacher’s defense for anything he did in the Batman universe once the popular narrative became that he “destroyed the franchise”. That’s a complete falsehood. Studios had already considered shuttering the windows after Returns. But once they went the other direction with Forever (and that tone went south after the second entry), they had no idea where to go and quite honestly no confidence in the license. Now tell me… does WB not knowing what to do with their DC license sound like a new idea?

      How many times did they start and stop Superman projects? How many times did they announce a Justice League film? How many times did they mention other characters and mothball those? They did the same with Batman including the idea of moving forward with a third film from Schumacher. Sure B&R under-performed, but the merchandise line sold well and the movie made money after the box office receipts and DVD sales were tallied in. It’s not like the Batman license was not profitable. It was just the standard cold-feet from WB executives upstairs who have never believed much in the license to begin with.

      Batman & Robin carried more heat on itself back in the 1997 because there wasn’t really any other superhero films out there, so every fan had to answer for this movie. These days there are SO MANY hero films , even when they tank (like FF) they are quickly forgotten and people move on to the next offering. B&R didn’t have that luxury of being lost in a crowded industry. It had to carry the disappointment of every single fan and that anger and disappointment took on a life of it’s own once fan forums and the internet became all the rage. People from that era vented and suddenly new generations looked at them and thought, “I guess I have to vent this way too.” So yeah. I absolutely think raging on Schumacher was it’s own thing for a while. But now there is enough water under the bridge and enough time spent with other films being less than completely serious that I believe people are understanding its okay to have movies like this. It’s just a different perspective and it’s okay to enjoy them as they are. Not just the way certain fans (and generations) need them to be.

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  7. Welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. In this episode, Linkara looks at the comic adaptation of the film Batman and Robin!

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  8. Superman 4 vs Batman and Robin

    The battle of the franchise killers. Both were the forth movie of their franchise. Both are regarded as some of the worst movies of all time. Both managed to ruin the two biggest and most iconic superheroes of all time. The cast of each film hate them and wish they were never made. But which was worst? Which was the most disappointing? Which was the biggest insult to the fans and the characters?

    So to evaluate them, lets answer this questions:
    Which had the worst story?

    Worst acting?

    Worst dialogue?

    Worst pacing?

    Worst directing?

    Worst action scenes?

    Worst villains?

    What do you think?

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