No matter what you feel about “Batman and Robin,” you can’t deny that it almost killed the comic book movie as a sub-genre. It also about killed the careers of Alicia Silverstone, Chris O’Donnell, and Uma Thurman, all of whom took years to recover. Even today with so much nostalgia and looking back on classically bad movies, “Batman and Robin” is still just bad. I understand Warner wanted kid friendly, and Joel Schumacher delivered on kid friendly, but in the process he also delivered a nigh unwatchable sequel that also killed Batman on film for years until Christopher Nolan swooped in to reboot the whole kit and caboodle.
Following “Batman Forever,” Bruce and Dick are now working together as Batman and Robin and spend a lot of their time bickering in their cave. After failing to stop the madman known as Mr. Freeze, Robin is anxious to carve out his own niche with his partnership with Batman. Batman, for whatever reason, is unwilling to rely on him. Just then Alfred’s niece Barbara arrives from school, ready to spend time at Bruce’s house and garners a bit of a rebellious streak. Meanwhile an experimental botanist is murdered by her boss and re-emerges as the seductive Poison Ivy. Now with her henchman Bane, she teams with Mr. Freeze to turn Gotham in to a frozen—uh—garden… or something. I know. That plot description made almost no sense.
“Batman and Robin” is basically a big budget version of the Adam West television series, fully embracing the camp without apology. When we meet Batman and Robin they come equipped with ice skis attached to their boots, and trounce around with Mr. Freeze’s army of bad guys like the Icescapades. “Batman and Robin” is a muddled mess with a narrative that never makes a lick of sense that introduces Batgirl mainly to undercut the homoerotic tension between Bruce and Dick. Along the way there’s lip service paid to Superman and Robin’s superhero Nightwing, as well as a huge plot contrivance involving Mr. Freeze who spends most of his time watching old home movies of his comatose wife, and leading sing alongs with his henchmen.
I always found it unfair that Bruce won’t let Robin be Bat Boy, but he lets Barbara be Batgirl. And she basically arrives with the Bat cowl, and inexplicably tears it off to reveal a stock domino mask like Robin. You know what? Don’t get me started. In either case, you can argue that “Batman and Robin” really shouldn’t be taken seriously, but with the first two entries in the series, this final sequel is almost unwatchable. This is a film I see in collections of strict completists, only.
The new release from Warner comes with a 4K UHD with only a legacy commentary track with director Joel Schumacher. The remastered Blu-Ray features the aforementioned track, and the same features from the previously released Anthology set. Featured is the audio commentary with Schumacher who seems reluctant, anxious, and doesn’t even stick around to finish the film. He does, however, offer thoughts on the casting, the new characters, and the villains he added to an already crowded movie. “Shadows of the Bat, Part 6” is a twenty seven minute to-the-point look at the movie with the cast and crew sharing their honest feelings about Batman & Robin, describing what they enjoyed about their work, and discussing why the film failed so miserably.
Even if you don’t finish the movie, check this out. “Beyond Batman” is a fifty one minute group of featurettes covering Batman & Robin’s aesthetics, costumes, special effects, vehicles, and characters. “The Heroes and the Villains” is the final series of video profiles for Batman, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Robin, Batgirl, and Bane. There is a deleted scene that is basically the extended take of Batgirl’s goofy arrival, there are a slew of music videos for the “Batman and Robin” soundtrack including The Smashing Pumpkins’ The End is the Beginning, Bone Thug ‘n Harmony’s Look Into My Eyes, R. Kelly’s Gotham City, and Jewel’s Foolish Games. Finally, there’s the original theatrical trailer.