Continuing with my little soundtrack nugget from the Watchmen trailer, I thought I'd kick off a new column with an apologist theme. My friend Krolik, who used to write Truth in a Bullet Fedora and has since moved on to bigger and better things, frequently uses the word to refer to a person, album, film, television show, or other piece of pop culture that one recognizes is not valuable but still cherishes anyways.
I feel that way about Joel Schumacher's gigantic flop Batman & Robin. Now, Batman is by far my favorite superhero, and even my favorite comic character ever (surpassing Calvin, Hobbes, and Jeremy from Zits). I've seen all the movies, I've read The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween, and The Killing Joke, and I love all the Batman I can get. On a list of the movies from best to worst, this 1997 disaster is a distant last to any other Batman film. That being said, I'm still fascinated by it for a number of reasons, and will watch it whenever it is on television for as long as I can:
1. George Clooney is without a doubt in my mind the best Bruce Wayne the series has ever had. Why? Because he fucking is Bruce Wayne the playboy in real life. He may not have all the inner conflict that Wayne holds inside behind closed doors, but to watch Christian Bale pretend he was trying to catch a red light or pretend to drunkenly harass a party full of his parents old friends is to see how Clooney can just be natural and pull it off while looking as though he's not even trying.
Yes, Clooney was an awful Dark Knight, and those nipples are infamously terrible and are the focal point for the demise of the series in the late 90s, but don't ever try telling me there was no reason to cast George Clooney in that role.
2. Alicia Silverstone is the biggest celebrity to have grown up in my hometown in California, and there is a certain mythos associated with her to all of us. She babysat two of my classmates from middle school when they were infants, and I had teachers that had her in their classes. It's very comforting to me as a film lover to be able to pinpoint the beginning and end of an actress' career, especially one you have a phantom association with, and Alicia Silverstone is just such a star. Her career truly began with Clueless (I'm not counting The Crush or the Aerosmith videos), and it crashed and burned with her turn as Batgirl in this film. She wasn't just bad as Alfred's niece, she was colossally terrible, and her presence shifted the romantic focus away from Bruce Wayne's playboy status to seeing him try and set Robin up with Batgirl, which made absolutely no sense. Even still, I get a kick out of watching that motorcycle race scene through all the day-glo paint, which again makes absolutely no sense. No self respecting graffiti artist would ever do that, nor would any city planner design streets or buildings the way Schumacher's Gotham City is set up, but that's the beauty of this awful movie. It's a fantastic unintentional comedy.
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger was not meant to play serious dramatic roles. Hell, he wasn't meant to have roles with speaking parts. It's a little weird that he was cast considering the other actors in the running in Schumacher's mind: Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart, and the not so odd Hulk Hogan and Sylvester Stallone. What failed in this movie wasn't really Schwarzenegger's acting so much as the writing of Mr. Freeze. He has so many terrible ice puns ("Chill out!" and "Ice to meet you!" are horrific examples) in this film I sometimes wonder whether or not he simply got turned into a punning version of the Riddler, which leads me to...
4. Batman & Robin is one of the worst scripts I've ever seen. It's chock-full of awful jokes, some even in rapid succession one after the other. It doesn't try to hide that Bruce Wayne is Batman, tells everything and forgets to actually show anything, has no compelling villains despite devoting tons of screen time to Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. It kills Bane as a character by making him a meathead instead of the intelligent character he actually is, and just about all around ruins the entire Batman universe in the span of about 100 pages. How then, can I apologize for this abomination? Because of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, that's how.
Goldsman is one of those screenwriters that you think you remember, but you really don't. You think you remember what he's done, but it takes a check on IMDB to really be sure. The single reason I remember Goldsman is because in my mind he is perhaps the best example of a Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde existing in screenwriting. Obviously Batman & Robin is his Mr. Hyde, but what of his Dr. Jekyll? Is it Batman Forever? The Da Vinci Code?I Am Legend?
No, Goldsman is in fact an Oscar winner for his screenplay A Beautiful Mind. That's right, the man who wrote the worst pun-laden comic book movie of all time also wrote John Nash's bioptic for Ron Howard.
Those four reasons are enough pop idiocy to fascinate me while watching this film, and that is why I am a Batman & Robin apologist. Thank you.