We here at Panels are taking some much needed time off; in the meantime, we’re revisiting some favorite old posts from the last 6 months! We’ll see you back on January 11 with all new posts for your enjoyment.
This post originally ran on September 20, 2015.
This is going to be such a popular article. I can just tell.
So two days ago, I discovered that the movie Batman & Robin was on Netflix, and I got very excited, because it seemed like an evening of cheesy fun, and because it was the first movie I ever saw in the theaters on my own without my parents, so I have a soft spot for it.
Everyone knows that Batman & Robin is just the worst film. It constantly makes lists of Worst Films, and it put the kaibosh on the Batman franchise until Christopher Nolan came along and revived it. So I wasn’t sitting down expecting anything good, you know?
Imagine my surprise. Batman & Robin is awesome.
Now, notice I say “awesome” and not “good,” because come on, it’s a stupid as hell film. But there’s a lot of really good stuff in there! Everyone only remembers Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s really dorky puns when he played Mister Freeze (“everybody chill!”) but he makes a great super villain beyond that. A cool suit, great booming laugh and lots of evil dialogue and glares. Yeah he’s a bit hammy, but this is the Arnold that was in Total Recall, more than Terminator and he’s great at it.
Bane is in the film and is just a big musclebound oaf (but still more understandable than the Bane in Dark Knight Rises), but more interestingly is coming back to Poison Ivy, played by the brilliant Uma Thurman. What I noticed when I was younger and watched the film was, well, Uma Thurman is really hot. What I noticed this time through is, she’s speaking in a really specific voice all the way through the film. Neither Poison Ivy, nor Uma Thurman, talks the way she does in the film. She’s specifically doing a great femme fatal, Mae West sort of voice. The sort of character and voice that also led to Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That made the character so interesting and cool to me.
But beyond that, what I enjoyed in the film was…it was terrible as being realistic.
This was a film with zero ounces of realism and not one tiny smidge of “gritty” anywhere in its run time. It crystallized something I had thought earlier, when revisiting the finest Batman film to date (Batman Returns). I missed this in superhero films.
Once upon a time, long ago, Hollywood had no real idea what to do with superheroes in films. They seemed like good ideas, and they made money, but Hollywood grappled now and then with how to make superhero films. Mainly everyone wore a lot of leather that they couldn’t actually move in. It’s a drastically different world to now. Possibly an unknown one, to some of our younger readers.
Now, we’re pretty good at superhero films and we make some excellent ones. But we also have made them all more realistic and gritty, where we can. Marvel is better at balancing it all, but DC is atrocious at it. We’ve all seen the trailers for Batman vs Superman (a landmark court case, I assume), and it’s so gritty and dark, it’s like superheroes are going through their adolescent grunge phase.[youtube]https://youtu.be/pqv_LUStxDw[/youtube]
(I will never get tired of that song)
Compared to that, to me, Batman & Robin felt like a breath of fresh air. A big explosive, neon-lit, over-the-top-plotted film set in a Gotham that makes no architectural sense but looks cool. A bunch of puns. Somewhere between a Burton Batman film (the original director who made Batman darker and grittier, although it’s funny to think of his films that way now) and the old Batman TV show.
I would love more of this. Particularly from DC before they suck the life out of themselves, but from anyone really. Occasionally less emphasis on grit and realism and destroying whole CGI-cities and more of an occasional dorky film where someone has to stop a freeze ray. A freeze ray!
It is inexplicable to me that we don’t have some superhero stuff like that these days. In an age when we really enjoy things like Sharknado, one would think a hammy and over the top superhero film would hit pretty well. I have a theory it’s because we are, at the moment, not good at laughing and enjoying these things unless it’s ironic. The closest we’re getting to a funny, goofy film is Deadpool, which looks great, but even there the point is that the humor is ironic and self-aware.
Will it happen? I wish, but I doubt it. The 90s were a magical time when we were making huge blockbusters that were, in hindsight, delightfully cheesy, and kinda dumb. And yet, now and then, they still managed one that was better than the reboots we’ve tried since then (hi, Godzilla).
No nipples on the Batsuit again, though. Even I have my limits.