I had started out with the intention of simply writing a review of the gobsmackingly bad Batman & Robin but the more I thought about it, the more I kept drawing parallels with Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. So now I’ve decided to pit the two against each other in mortal combat and have a decisive face-off between the two worst from both series of Batman films.
1. The Bat
First up we’ll start with the caped crusader himself. In Batman & Robin, George Clooney dons the tight fitting bat-suit, complete with bat-nipples, and sets the tone of what’s ahead as when he’s tooling up there’s a close up of his bat-rump squeezing nicely into his leather trousers. He then drops a glib quote (“this is why Superman works alone”) in riposte to his sulking sidekick, Robin. This during the opening credits of course. Furthermore, Clooney is impossibly miscast as Wayne/Batman, Clooney can only play himself, not a brooding vigilante psychopath. He smarms about the film either grinning away to Alfred and Robin, sharing dull one-liners with Arnie or flirting with Uma Thurman and he doesn’t even bother with the bat-voice when dressed up which made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I did like his 90s getup though, the slightly baggy roll-neck sweater with jacket combo and holding a rolled up towel around the back of his neck after a fight while shooting the shit with Alfred In the drawing room. These are both good looks.
Over to you Christian Bale. Bale is a deeper actor than Clooney and can easily play a brooding vigilante psychopath which he does well in all three of Nolan’s films but for the integrity of the competition I’m only looking at The Dark Knight Rises. First of all he hardly dresses up as Batman in this film (30 minutes screen time in a 2 hour 45 minute runtime) and he only has one bat-suit whereas Clooney has one for any occasion. He is particularly good at healing though, he’s got a gammy knee but a leg strap sorts that out plus he fixed his broken back by getting Tom Conti to punch it back in. He upsets Alfred but then makes amends by visiting the Italian bistro the butler fantasises about as to tie up all loose ends. In his final hurrah he saves the good people of Gotham by flying a big round ACME bomb out to sea but this is negated by his bland fashion sense.
Winner- 90s Clooney. Batman & Robin
Funnily enough Christian Bale had nearly got the part of Robin in the Schumacher films but narrowly lost out to Chris O’Donnell. Yes, Chris O’Donnell. He’s a whinging man-child who needs a good thump from Batman if you ask me. Does nothing but fuck around, talk back to his superiors and think with his cock.
One of the very few good bits of The Dark Knight Rises is at the end when it’s revealed that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is actually Robin. He’s a good character all the way through and JGL is an infinitely better actor than COD. No further discourse needed.
Winner- JGL. The Dark Knight Rises
3. Sidekick- Catwoman/Batgirl
Alicia Silverstone was surely only cast in Batman & Robin because of the success of Clueless a couple of years earlier. She really is such a nothing character here, just filling up empty time in an already overinflated waste of time. She serves no purpose whatsoever. No further evidence your honour.
I like Anne Hathaway and, like Robin, Catwoman is one of the few shining lights of this film. The dialogue she shares with Wayne is generally pretty solid and she makes a real good go of the character despite being reduced to a mere cameo by the final hour.
Winner- Catwoman. The Dark Knight Rises
4. Baddie- Bane
Jeep Swenson died a couple of months after the theatrical release of Batman & Robin, now I’m not sure if the two events are related but our dearly departed should’ve been proud of his efforts. All Jeep was asked to do was to roar a lot and flex his big muscles which he performed with aplomb. He looks a lot like the comic book character too.
Bane in The Dark Knight Rises starts off full of promise but shrinks as the film progresses and is almost completely ineffective leading up to the big Talia reveal. He sounds like an old English villain who, one might imagine, would wear a scarf and escape peril in a bi-plane. I didn’t like this Bane at all plus it didn’t give Hardy much opportunity to act and that boy’s got chops.
Winner- Jeep. Batman & Robin
5. Other Baddies
By the end of the 1990s Batman series it was all about packing in as many baddies with as many big name actors playing them as possible. This particular Hollywood keys-in-the-bowl party paired up Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman as Victor Fries (Mr. Freeze) and Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy) respectively. Is this Arnie’s worst performance? It’s certainly the worst script he’s had. Every line he says has a ‘cold’ pun shoehorned in; “ice to meet you”, “cool party”, “you’re not sending me to the cooler” and “let’s kick some ice” (ice/arse get it?) are some of the exceptionally mundane things he says with a glint in his eye followed by a nudge-nudge, wink-wink.
Uma Thurman isn’t much better, her lines aren’t anywhere near as forced as Arnie’s or anywhere near as thoughtful either. She mainly thrashes around with fearsome arm movements and blows love dust at people including Robin which turns him into even more of a hump than he was before. She gets Bane to do her horsework while she’s prancing around winking at every man in Gotham.
Talia al Ghul is thoroughly nonsensical in The Dark Knight Rises. Why go to all that trouble with Wayne when she freely admits to not even liking her father. Why not just kill Wayne after they sleep together? Why didn’t Wayne enterprises vet a high level promotion properly? This character development is insulting.
Winner- This would be a dead heat between two awful, poorly developed sets of baddies but, like the early days of the MLS, there’ll be no draws here so I’m giving this one to Batman & Robin for a zany Jason Woodrue. Kudos for having him in the film in the first place and kudos for making him a batshit crazy arms dealer. Batman & Robin
Neither of them make much sense and you get so lost in bad acting and arsehole splittingly bad dialogue or gaping plot holes and offensive pomp that you forget there should be stories involved.
Winner- Actually I’m changing the rules as they’re both equally redundant here. Draw
Clooney has all sorts of fancy, shiny goodies at his disposal; thawing devices, laser beams, the trusty batarang, multiple suits for all weather conditions and ice skates in his bat-shoes.
Bale has a good computer and apparently a program that wipes a person’s identity. Yawn. Not a patch on bat-skates I’m afraid.
Winner- Bat-nipples and bat-skates. Batman & Robin
Batman & Robin is a balls-out drag party with Schumacher letting his inner fabulous out and frittering away his big studio budget on a massive homoerotic mess. Everything is neon, hyper and outrageous plus the fight scenes are choreographed like an episode of Strictly Come Dancing and you always expect someone to break out into song at any point. They didn’t care about writing, plot and acting, they just had fun. They had fun at our expense and at the studio’s expense.
The Dark Knight Rises is wedged so far up its own arse it can taste its last meal. Pompous, snooty and oblivious to its own failings, this is a film that needs a good talking to.
Winner- I’ll go with the gay. Batman & Robin
Well that’s my definitive, watertight, infallible test over and it finished 5-2 in favour of Batman & Robin.
Does this mean I think Batman & Robin is a better film than The Dark Knight Rises? Hell no, they’re both tiresome, forced sequels that nobody needed (especially in the case of Batman & Robin) and they both display the same arrogance that leaves a bad bat-taste in the mouth. One thing is for sure though, a reboot won’t be too far off.
– Greg Foster