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Batman And Robin

Batman & Robin

Today, I’m going to dive into the infamously terrible 1997 superhero movie, Batman & Robin.

The plot of Batman & Robin is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Batman and Robin try to keep their relationship together even as they must stop Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy from freezing Gotham City.

Batman & Robin is, of course, based on the DC comics characters of Batman and Robin. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in March of 1939, created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Robin came along the following year, in Detective Comics #38, and is credited to the same duo. The two have appeared in numerous television shows, video games, movies, and other mediums over the years, and are almost certainly the most iconic superhero duo.

The writer for the screenplay of Batman & Robin was Akiva Goldsman, who also penned screenplays for Winter’s Tale, I Am Legend, I Robot, A Beautiful Mind, Lost In Space, and Batman Forever.

Batman & Robin was directed by Joel Schumacher, whose other credits include Phone Booth, The Number 23, 8MM, Batman Forever, Falling Down, Flatliners, and The Lost Boys, among others.

The cast for the film is headlined by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator, Last Action Hero, The Terminator, Commando, Hercules In New York), George Clooney (Michael Clayton, Solaris, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Burn After Reading, Intolerable Cruelty, Syriana, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), Chris O’Donnell (Batman Forever, NCIS: Los Angeles, Scent of a Woman), Uma Thurman (Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, The Producers, Gattaca), Alicia Silverstone (Clueless), Michael Gough (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever), and John Glover (Gremlins 2, Smallville, In The Mouth of Madness).

The cinematographer for Batman & Robin was Stephen Goldblatt, who shot The Help, The Hunger, Charlie Wilson’s War, Striptease, Batman Forever, The Pelican Brief, Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, and The Cotton Club, among others.

Batman & Robin had two credited editors: Dennis Virkler (Daredevil, Under Siege, Xanadu, Freejack, Collateral Damage, Independence Day, Only The Strong, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Hunt For Red October) and Mark Stevens (Phone Booth, The Number 23, Freddy vs. Jason, Batman Forever, The Final Destination).

The musical score for the film was composed by Elliot Goldenthal, who is known for providing music for movies like Heat, Public Enemies, Sphere, Alien 3, Batman Forever, Pet Sematary, Titus, Frida, and Across The Universe.

Among the team of effects workers for Batman & Robin was John Dykstra, a legendary, award-winning effects guru is is known for being an original founder of Industrial Light and Magic, coming up with the visuals used for the space battles and light sabers in Star Wars, and working on films like The Hateful Eight, Spider-Man, Lifeforce, and Django: Unchained.

Batman & Robin was the fourth and final installment in the initial Warner Brothers Batman film franchise, which began with Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.

According to Joel Schumacher, previous Batman actor Val Kilmer left to do The Saint, so the role was recast to George Clooney. However, rumors have swirled that Val Kilmer was growing increasingly difficult to work with, such as was the case with The Island of Doctor Moreau, and wasn’t asked to return.

Joel Schumacher claims that the production of Batman & Robin was under immense pressure from the studio and producers to be “toyetic”: essentially, they were mandated to come up with devices that could be sold as merchandise and toys, because of how much money they add to the overhead profits.

Likewise, Schumacher says that they were under similar pressure to “make as kid-friendly a Batman as possible,” because parents complained that Burton’s Batman films were too scary for kids. So, they made it “lighter, brighter, [and] more family-friendly.” However, Schumacher claims that he wanted to do a darker film based on the comic story Batman: Year One, which he attempted to pitch after the failure of Batman & Robin. Likewise, Darren Aronofsky and Frank Miller joined forces to try to make an iteration Batman: Year One as well, but were unsuccessful.

Robin’s costume and logo used in the movie were modeled after the character of Nightwing, which is a later alias of Dick Grayson in the comics after he retires the moniker of Robin.

Even before the film was released, plans were in motion for a sequel to Batman & Robin, to be titled Batman Unchained. However, the overwhelmingly negative reception to the film tanked the plans, and the Batman property sat dormant until Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005.

The Smashing Pumpkins’s song  The End is The Beginning is The End was created specifically for the film, and ultimately won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Jeep Swenson, who portrayed Bane, unexpectedly died two months after the film’s release at the age of 40, due to heart failure. He was a known professional wrestler for WCW, who also appeared in the Hulk Hogan movie No Holds Barred.

Batman & Robin was made on a production budget of $125 million, on which it took in a lifetime box office total of $238.2 million between international and domestic markets.

Despite the profits, the movie was a huge critical failure, and is often cited as one of the worst movies ever made. It currently holds a 3.7/10 IMDb user rating, alongside scores of 11% from critics and 16% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

Batman & Robin is a rare case where a movie was a failure, in spite of succeeding in what it sought to do. Technically, Batman & Robin is a successful execution of a vision: a heavily-stylized, cartoony family movie. However, that successfully-executed vision was roundly rejected by audiences and critics. It wasn’t short on talent, or money, or anything else: the product just wasn’t what people wanted.

Personally, I kind of enjoy the movie. Yeah, the terrible cartoon sound effects and horrendous dialogue are painful to sit through, but I can definitely appreciate some over-the-top acting. Likewise, this is one of the most uniquely designed movies I can think of. It doesn’t really look like anything else, and it contributes a lot to the hyper-reality of the content of the story and the characters. The vision here was to create a live-action cartoon, and the designs go a long way towards making that possible. I also kind of appreciate the extremely vivid color palette, and would generally take that over the sepia-drenched Batman Begins any day.

Looking back now, in a word inflicted with Zack Snyder’s melodramatic DCEU, which avoids fun and vibrancy like the plague, you can sort of see the weird charm hidden inside of Batman & Robin. Likewise, the humor, style, and even dialogue on display here are far superior to that displayed in Suicide Squad, which is strung together with string and bubble gum. Say what you will about the product, but Batman & Robin is a complete movie: an executed vision with a coherent story behind. It may be a soulless capitalistic endeavor seeking to leech off of children, but it is at least a structured narrative. It may also be a goofy, anachronistic cartoon that is edited like a panic attack, but it has some tangible vitality to it.

People know what this movie is by now. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard about it, or seen clips. You know what you are getting into if you are sitting down with it. Personally, I go back to this movie more often than most of the Batman flicks. It is genuinely, entertainingly terrible, but is also more visually interesting than a lot of similar bad movies. Not only that, but Joel Schumacher’s commentary track, which is available on some DVD releases of the movie, is both insightful and hilarious, and adds a lot to a rewatch. For bad movie fans, this is mandatory viewing. For casual movie fans or folks looking for a laugh, this is a good option to take out. For all of the screenplay’s issues, pacing is not one, and that is the most painful aspect of most bad movies.

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Worst Movies of 2016

Howdy loyal followers! We’ve had quite a year, haven’t we? With 2016 coming to a welcome close, I wanted to appropriately slam the door in its back with a quick rundown of the publicly perceived worst films of the year.

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We all know that opinion is subjective, so I want to re-emphasize that this is a list I generated based on public perception. Basically, I took 14 currently published year-end “Worst of 2016” lists, then tallied up how often each film was listed. I thought that would be pretty simple and data-driven way to make my list. Unfortunately, I was very, very wrong about that first part. Between the handful of lists I initially pulled, I wound up with nearly 100 films, which included some obviously contentious, contrarian picks like Hell or High Water, Rogue One, and Captain Fantastic. For the sake of brevity, I’m only listing out movies here that appeared on more than 2 lists, but if you want to see the final version of my working document with all of the tallies and the sources used, you can find it here.

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Interestingly, there was far from a consensus pick for the worst picture of 2016: the most consistently reviled movie was only on 10/14 rankings. For the fraction-impaired, that means that just under 72% of the lists I pulled had it present at all, let alone at #1.

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Without further ado, here are the publicly perceived worst movies of 2016:

  1. Independence Day: Resurgence
  2. Mother’s Day
  3. (Tie) Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice / Suicide Squad / Warcraft
  4. (Tie) Gods of Egypt / Alice Through The Looking Glass
  5. (Tie) Dirty Grandpa / London Has Fallen / The Divergent Series: Allegiant
  6. (Tie) Yoga Hosers / Nine Lives / Zoolander 2 / X-Men: Apocalypse
  7. (Tie) Hillary’s America / Sea of Trees / Man Down / Inferno / Collateral Beauty / My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Are there any movies that you expected to see that didn’t make the cut?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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With the release of Suicide Squad this past weekend, I figured it was about time to take a look at DC’s previous critical bomb. And so, today’s feature is the much-hyped and highly divisive DC cinematic grudge match, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Dawn of Justice was written by Chris Terrio, most notably of Argo, and David S. Goyer, whose previous credits include Dark City, Batman Begins, Blade II, Demonic Toys, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, among others.

The movie was directed by the ever-divisive Zack Snyder, whose previous films include 300, Watchmen, Man of Steel, and Sucker Punch. Snyder has already been attached to direct the Dawn of Justice follow-ups, Justice League and Justice League Part Two, and is a listed producer on all upcoming DC cinematic universe features.

The cinematographer for Batman v Superman was Larry Fong, who shot such films as 300, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen, and is working on the upcoming Kong: Skull Island. Before he made the permanent jump to blockbuster films, he worked extensively on the TV show Lost.

The editor for the film was David Brenner, who previously cut flicks like 2012, Wanted, The Day After Tomorrow, The Patriot, Independence Day, The Doors, and World Trade Center.

Dawn of Justice boasts a large cast list that includes Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, and Lawrence Fishburne, among others.

The plot of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.

Long before Dawn of Justice hit theaters, it managed to get on the wrong side of many fans of DC comics with the casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman. Many couldn’t separate him from his unsuccessful string of action features, which included a stint as the Marvel superhero Daredevil, prior to his critical rebirth with his acclaimed directing career. Surprisingly, most fans now cite Affleck’s depiction of Batman (“Batfleck”) as one of the few highlights of Dawn of Justice.

batmansuperman3While Dawn of Justice is not the first film installment in the DC Cinematic Universe, as it follows the continuity of Man of Steel, it is undoubtedly the key launching point for DC’s imminent future on screen. It introduces not only Batman, but Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg as potential subjects for connected stories down the line.

Both the plot and aesthetics of Dawn of Justice borrow heavily from two key source materials: “The Death of Superman” and “The Dark Knight Returns.” However, the result manages to defy being faithful to either comic story, and likely wouldn’t please die hard fans of one or the other.

In July of 2016, an expanded cut of Batman v Superman was released on DVD and Blu-ray, which included 30 minutes of cut footage. This director’s cut has been marketed as an Ultimate Edition, and was meant to counter some popular criticisms of the theatrical cut.

The idea of a Batman and Superman team up has a long history, both inside and outside of the pages of DC comics. Series such as World’s Finest have seen the two iconic characters team up with fellow allies and get up to all manner of shenanigans, including occasionally traveling in time. Likewise, the characters have crossed paths many times in animation, such as the Super Friends ad Justice League series.

batmansuperman1Batman v Superman was greeted with a notably mixed reception, particularly online. The Rotten Tomatoes scores currently sit at 27% from critics and 65% from audiences, which is a significant gulf, and has been cause for claims of bias and conspiracy on the parts of some. The IMDb score is no less contentious: it currently sits at a 6.9/10, but that is only after alleged vote brigades inflated the score for weeks after the film’s initial release.

Batman v Superman is a movie that certainly has a fair share of flaws, but I think its biggest failing is the lack of character building in the screenplay. The movie so heavily relies on the audience’s recognition of the characters on screen, that it doesn’t bother building them beyond that. I have never had so much trouble feeling invested in characters in a superhero movie, and I’m including movies like Howard The Duck and Daredevil in there.

On top of the character issues, there is a strange lack of connection between sequences throughout the movie, to the point that long stretches just feel like bloated montages. It is hard to relate to anyone in the story as a result, because you don’t really spend quality time with any of them. Instead of the characters feeling like close friends of the audience via shared experience, they just come off as adjacent acquaintances. There is just no emotional bond built between the characters and the observers.

However, there are a few notable bright spots to the movie. Batman, on all fronts, is actually pretty solid. Jeremy Irons is a spectacular Alfred, and his dialogue with Affleck was the most real and relatable thing in the movie. Personally, I also thought the aesthetics of the Batman suit and paraphernalia were a welcome departure from all of the character’s previous film appearances. The armor and voice modulator were a nice touch, as hokey as they might seem to some, and Affleck absolutely nailed an aged and burnt-out Bruce Wayne. Honestly, I think that Batfleck would have been a better fit for a story like The Dark Knight Rises, in which his methods are either publicly frowned upon or no longer needed, but he is cornered into a return to form.

Likewise, Wonder Woman was definitely cool to see, and looked cool in action on screen. Gal Gadot has gotten a little bit of unmerited criticism for her accent, but I thought it fit the character pretty well, and it wasn’t exactly distracting. However, Wonder Woman’s presence also made the move feel even more bloated than it already was. She (and the rest of the Justice League) felt a little too forced and transparent as mechanisms to build branching paths for a sprawling film franchise. That might have been fine if they were worked in as minor references or as concluding teasers, but they are given a little too much focus, to the detriment of the story and film as a whole. The result is both a muddy story and a poor introduction to some key franchise characters. The Justice League either needed way more attention and a role in the plot, or way less time on screen.

Almost certainly the most mocked aspect of Dawn of Justice is the cause of the two central heroes’ ultimate alliance: the revelation that they both have moms named Martha. I can understand that this was an attempt to emotionally tie the two characters together, and give them common ground to come to terms on. Unfortunately, not only isn’t this commonality built up very well, but it is just too simplistic, and comes off as borderline comedic as a result. It is just too minor of a coincidence to justify burying the hatchet on a pretty serious grudge.

Overall, Batman v Superman isn’t unwatchable by any means, but it is definitely sup-par. Snyder does have a gift for crafting images, but he’s never really gotten a handle on story or characters, which are necessary to give those images genuine gravity. For fans of Snyder’s other works, this is probably a perfectly acceptable flick. Likewise, die-hard Superman and Batman fans may just be pleased to see their idols on screen again. However, in my opinion, this is not just sub-par, but disappointingly forgettable. What of this movie, in 10 years, will be remembered? Martha? Batfleck? The box office number? Almost nothing about the story or the emotion that should have defined this movie will last. As with many Snyder films, this is an exercise in spectacle that is ultimately all flash and no substance.