Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Arnie the Panto Dame

The world's annoying bank.

 Batman Forever had been a commercial success and with it a superhero franchise was consolidated.  Joel Schumacher's hands were viewed as more than capable and Warner Bros eagerly filled them with $125 million.  Batman and Robin was to be pressed into production as soon as possible.  It was going a little too well.  Bring back the age old problem of superhero casting!  Luckily, tensions between Val Kilmer and Joel Schumacher that bubbled under the surface of Batman Forever came to the surface.  Did he jump?  Was he pushed?  Do we really care?  Kilmer had already signed up for a new project: The Saint, not the live action Pinocchio which would suit his talents down to the ground. Casting directors looked no further than television's newest heartthrob, George Clooney.  Presumably David Duchovny was seen as a little dour.  Clooney's 'charm' would be tasked with balancing the escalating acid trip of Schumacher's Gotham.  If only they could have found him a jacket that fit properly over those turtlenecks.  O'Donnell would reprise Robin and Uma Thurman, inexplicably, chose to be Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy.  Despite some casting continuity and a Pulp Fiction hangover the cast looked a little light.  A big gun was needed.  A big gun with a shitload of bad puns.

In 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger was deployed as the practically mute Terminator.  It was a stroke of genius to take Conan and put him leather and flick the switch to 'relentless.'  The years came and went and Arnie's star grew with them; The Running Man, Predator and Total Recall gave Arnie a special place in most of our hearts.  Then Arnie decided that he needed a touch of reinvention and, disregarding Stallone's abject attempts, decided to try a bit of comedy.  In truth, it was patchy.  Sure, there was Twins and Kindergarten Cop sprinkled amongst the action films, then there was True Lies  and as much as I can't abide the film at least Arnie was funny in it.  You'd really expect the nadir to be Jingle All The Way.  It's the hope that kills you, it really is.  Twenty five million reasons saw Arnie accept Joel Schumacher's phone call and top billing for Batman and Robin.  To be honest, if I'd been asked to get covered in silver body paint and wear fluffy slippers I'd want a big bag of Warner's swag too.

Now there's a man who's just seen Admiral Adama

It's not as if Arnie's costume was the main problem.  As if switching between a shivery and slightly noncey uncle to a cheap imitation of a Cylon wasn't enough the metallic body paint makes it look like a bad attempt at blacking up.  The whole visual concept of Mr Freeze is simply dreadful.  A somewhat tragic character resurrected in comics was belittled by poorly CGI'd weaponry and an unhealthy homage to the 60s series.  Anyone would think that Batman and Robin was being produced solely to sell toys......

It's been well documented that Schumacher wanted a 'toyetic' cartoon of a film and what better way of solidifying a marketing opportunity than introducing a new hero?  A substandard sub plot allows for the introduction of Barbara Wilson/Batgirl.  Hang on, shouldn't that be Barbara Gordon?  Well, yes, but then why let years of comic book history and a potential future storyline involving Batgirl and Oracle get in the way of a new action figure with poseable limbs and detachable cape?  Is Batgirl supposed to be an opposite for Poison Ivy?  Is she a love interest for Robin?  Is she there to gently give dear old Alfred more of a role?  Is she there to necessitate a cameo for Coolio?  Quite frankly the only thing that makes Batgirl interesting is Alicia Silverstone, her burgeoning film career about to be dashed by thi shideous mess of a film.  Clueless 2 would have been a better career move.

Batman and Robin is a struggle to watch.  Pre Matrix wire fighting and bizarre use of vehicles take place in the ever more confusing Gotham City.  The city's pink is pierced by Mr Freeze's blue and Ivy's green and yet it's hard to even maintain interest.  The comical inclusion of Bane further pollutes a story of ice and something to do with diamonds and satellites.  I'm sure a Saturday morning cartoon audience would keep up but they'd be secretly longing for  Thundercats to start.
The real legacy of Batman and Robin

Schumacher wanted one more crack at completely dispelling the memory of Burton's Batman in the form of Batman Triumphant. Thankfully Triumphant went the way of Superman V as nails were rapidly hammered into the camp coffin that Batman now inhabited. Clooney himself called the film a 'waste of money' and Schumacher later apologised for the tone. The damage was so great that Batman wouldn't be seen on the big screen for nearly ten years and when he eventually made it back in Batman Begins it was seen as a bit of a gamble.

The only real positive gleaned form Batman Forever and Batman and Robin is that they reinforced the idea of Batman should be: dark, brooding and flawed.

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