"Batman & Robin"
Opened: June 20, 1997 | Rated: PG-13
About an hour into "Batman and Robin" one of the bad guys' monosyllabic lackeys is planting explosives in the Gotham Observatory. As he sets each one he mumbles, "Bomb... Bomb... Bomb..."
He must have been reading my mind.
"Batman and Robin" is far and away the most embarrassing sequel this summer. Nothing but a parade of obligatory one-liners and self-imposed cliches (e.g. the Bat-suit butt shot), it is barely strung together with moments of clumsy, expository dialogue that passes for plot.
"A new villain has taken over the museum. He's calling himself Mr. Freeze," says Commissioner Gordon.
Director Joel Schumacher's theory seems to be that if you have a marketable franchise and big name talent, you need not bother with much of a screenplay.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Mr. Freeze, a medical researcher gone bad after mutating in a vat of freezing goo. Now he walks around in a big silver suit powered by diamonds (?) that keeps his body at zero degrees and makes him look like a cylon from "Battlestar Galactica."
This role is the logical culmination of Schwarzenegger's career -- I don't think he has one line in the entire film that isn't a gimmicked catch phrase. "The iceman cometh," he says in his first scene, followed in quick succession by "Tonight, hell freezes over" and "Let's kick some ice."
A 14-year-old working on his first comic book and battling writers block could crank better lines.
Uma Thurman does a pallid Mae West imitation as Poison Ivy, a sexpot with a lethal kiss bent on helping carnivorous plants take over the world. She starts out a mousy environmentalist but also has a run-in with one of those ubiquitous vats of goo.
What little plot there is involves these two teaming up to defeat Batman, played this year like a wet sock by George Clooney. He so pales in comparison to Michael Keaton's and Val Kilmer's Batmen, he's hardly worth mentioning.
Freeze and Ivy spend half the movie setting up their expensive soundstage lairs. Meanwhile Alicia Silverstone shows up at Wayne Manor as butler Alfred's English niece (with a Valley girl accent), subsequently becoming Batgirl.
And that's about as interesting as it gets.
The boring and blatantly choreographed fight scenes are so littered with smart remarks that it's surprising anyone gets a punch in edgewise. In the chase scenes, it's hard to spot the Batmobile amongst Gotham's cluttered and now-tiresome Gothic architecture. And every scene is burdened with more gadgets than camera angles. In stores now, I'm sure, are the Bat Ice Skates and the Bat Zamboni from a third act confrontation with Mr. Freeze.
So sloppy is the storytelling here that Silverstone disappears for 20 minutes in the middle of the movie with no explanation at all.
The only thing resembling linear plot is a secondary story about Alfred dying of some rare disease to which Mr. Freeze holds the cure.
It serves only to provide actor Michael Gough (Alfred) with a little screen time (probably a contractual obligation) to pontificate to Bruce Wayne about the meaning of being Batman.
In fairness, I spent the hour after seeing "Batman & Robin" trying to think of something nice to say about it. This is the best I could muster: Cool make-up on Mr. Freeze.
Three weeks ago, I thought "The Lost World" was about as dull as a sequel could get. I was wrong. "Speed 2" was much, much worse. But it didn't begin to prepare me for this.
There's one more sequel coming out this summer -- "Free Willy 3" -- and after "Batman and Robin," I'm practically looking forward to it.