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Starring: George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Chris O'Donnell, and Alicia Silverstone

Directed by Joel Schumacher

After the expected success of 1995's BATMAN FOREVER, Warner Bros wasn't going to let a large amount of time pass before they churned out another Cape Crusader adventure. Everything that was going on behind the scenes was widely reported on, from Val Kilmer's refusal to reprise the role (which was given to Clooney), to big name actresses such as Julia Roberts and Demi Moore being considered for the villainous part of Poison Ivy (Thurman snagged the role, without reading a script). The anticipation was building, and when the first glimpses of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze outfit where released, the hysteria over the bat once again went into gear. Like the previous three movies, it would open in June and unquestionably slaughter the competition for at least a solid two weeks before it would begin to slide into the back of people's memory. The promotional campaign for the film would be fierce, with fast food toy tie-ins and Clooney's mug on cereal boxes. And on June 20th, 1997, I was one of the many people in line to see what wonders would await me in Gotham City. Well, I got my answer...

I'm not going to bother writing up a synopsis for the film since it can be summed up in a few words. Bad guy Mr. Freeze unleashes a frozen hell on the city, and is aided by sultry Poison Ivy, who wants to take over the planet and destroy mankind. Batman and Robin must save the day, but tempers flair when Robin gets the hots for Ivy. Batgirl is introduced and helps the dynamic duo save the day. And there it all is in a nutshell.

Now, in the past four years the movie has been a prime target for some extremely harsh words, and chances are I'd agree with a large portion of complaints made against it. But though I see it as a disaster, I see more of a tragedy in the fact the film was attempting to put in some pretty sensible themes about family into it. Through all the wacky costume designs and horrendous one-liners, I do think something more was trying to thrive here and it was essentially trying to be a family oriented film. After BATMAN RETURNS sent kids out of the theatre crying, Warner's decided to tone things down with the next installment. They unfortunately turned BATMAN FOREVER into a relentless parade of eye candy and incoherent jungle of nonsense. They hit pay dirt with that film, and since it out grossed the second film by a few million bucks, the thought that the fourth film would do even bigger business probably popped into the studios mind. But their biggest flub was allowing Joel Schumacher to return as director, since he was more interested in designing colorful set pieces then zeroing on the characters. Here he makes the same fatal mistake, and that it glamorize Gotham and then have the characters jumping up and down hoping to be noticed. The next flaw was that, and another unfortunately applies here, we do notice the characters and they are pathetically drawn out. Mr. Freeze isn't a villain, he is merely a misguided soul who turns into the hero at the end. Thurman would have made a delightful villain, but is forced to perform a Mae West imitation that butchers the characters appeal and her character has loads of potential but everything about her is wasted. Silverstone embarrasses herself as Batgirl, a character which wasn't needed (as the series went on, more characters where added on, which left little to no room for any actual development). O'Donnell returns to the role as Robin, and though he does a fair job (for this sort of thing), he really possesses to real presence and like his co-stars, is reduced to say some pretty moronic things that should never have been considered when the script was being written (then again, Akiva Goldsman wrote the script, and his resume might as well be considered a joke). But the movie is nothing but a machine that must have looked even worst written down (why doesn't Batman just scream Yabba-Dabba Do! when sliding down a dinosaur as he hurdles towards Mr. Freeze?), and considering that most of the cast weren't permitted to read the script before they signed on, chances are they where smacking themselves in the head during the shoot. I do think Clooney was a superior Batman then the invisible and arrogant Val Kilmer, but in all honesty none of the actors who donned the mask ever looked to comfortable doing it. I would vote Michael Keaton to be the best Batman, but by the time the first sequel came along he was merely a supporting player in his own show.

And through all of the verbal beatings the film endured, it grossed over $40 million its first weekend and then disappeared as quickly as it arrived. The movie, along with many others, proved that it is hype that people crave on, not the actual movie experience. Before the movie hit theatres, there was much more joy in discussing its possible greatness and the chance it may be the worst thing to hit theatres. I've seen it twice since it opened, both times in theatres and though I do consider it a terrible, terrible, terrible movie, under all the useless clutter and corny atmosphere, I think a better movie was screaming to be made.

My Grade: D-